It’s January in Iowa. Not really bicycling season, but this year has been different. My wife and I went riding on Thanksgiving and this Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon we got on the trail and rode about 10 and 15 miles respectively. Both days the temperature was in the upper 50’s with sun and clear skies.
My wife is really beginning to enjoy cycling. A couple of years ago it would have been hard to get her on the bike at all. This year every time we have a nice day, she wants to go riding.
Tuesday, I called her and took off early from work to go out on the trail. When I pumped up the tires, I blew the rear tire on my wife’s bike so I did a quick inner tube change. We got kind of a late start so as we finished up our ride the sun started to set and it began to get cold. There were lots of cyclists, runners and walkers out enjoying a rare warm Iowa winter day. After riding I took the bike rack off and for about the third time, put it away for the season.
Wednesday, when I drove my kids to school it was cold and we were expecting snow later in the day so I really didn’t even consider biking again. But, when I went to pick up my daughter at noon, it felt even warmer than the day before. It was about 55 degrees with no wind and bright sunshine. I called my wife and told her that we should think about riding. I rushed home and re-attached the bike rack. We loaded up and drove down to Czech Village to park and set out on the trail. It was hard to believe that the weather was even better than the day before.
Now, I knew there was a storm coming and the weather was supposed to change not too long after we got on the trail. We had a great ride, it was absolutely beautiful and since the local school district had a half-day there were lots of people out walking by the river. As we got to the 7 mile mark we considered going on to the end of the trail. We both felt good and the weather was still nice, fortunately we choose to turn around.
Right at 7.5 miles we turned back and we were surprised. Somewhere along the way, the calm day had turned into a pretty strong tailwind and we had not noticed. As soon as we turned around it became a pretty strong headwind. Not only were we now riding into a headwind but there was a significant temperature drop. My wife was wearing my cycling windbreaker over a sweatshirt and fleece vest with biking tights. I had bib shorts on with a turtleneck and a cycling jersey on top. My core was warm enough because the bibs, turtleneck and jersey mad for three layers. My legs don’t typically bother me in the cold so they were fine too. Problem is that with my diabetes my extremities get cold pretty easily. I was wearing Pearl Izimi Cyclone full-fingered gloves. The gloves are perfect to take off the fall or spring chill but by the end of the ride I could barely feel my hands. I used every trick that I ha learned from years of cycling and I could not keep them warm. I tried making a fist on top of the bars, putting one hand behind my back to get it out of the wind or even alternating putting on hand under my thigh to warm it up. The other problem was that I was wearing summer weigh shoes with a mesh top, fortunately the shoes wave a wide toe box so I could wiggle my toes, but boy was it cold.
My wife didn’t do much better, she didn’t have any gloves and her shoes are not designed for winter either. This spring, we are going to take advantage of sales and get some better cold-weather cycling gear. On the way back to the van she even walked for a while because she is not used to riding in headwinds.
Weather or no it was still great to ride and we enjoy riding together more and more. This morning I woke to four inches of blowing snow. As you can see in the picture, what a difference a day makes.