For thirty years I’ve been extremely fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where, thanks to the mild weather, I could bike year round.
That ended, like almost everything in this currently crazy world, in 2020. I’m now a full time resident of Truckee, up in the Sierra mountains of Northern California.
It was a fabulous Summer of riding up here — road, gravel and mountain bike — but once November rolled around the handwriting was on the wall. I’ve come to the stark and obvious realization that year-round riding is finished. My last ride was the first week of November and my hands were so frozen I couldn’t unzip my jacket or unbuckle my helmet.
This is a trade-off I will happily make for a whole Winter of downhill skiing, should Covid permit. However, we are now back in the restrictive “purple” zone — my gym has re-closed and I fear for another cancelled ski season.
There are of course some workarounds if I absolutely insist on riding into the Winter. And should the ski resorts shut down yet again, you can bet I will buy cross county skis and scheme my way to riding.
First, I could step up my apparel game. I’ve got the thermal Fall gear but I need warmer gloves, a more insulated jacket and some serious booties. I have a midnight baclava and a aero cover for my helmet to close up the vents so I’m warmer. All that merino wool base-layer stuff for skiing can do double duty.
Second, this is yet another argument for a gravel bike. The trails are covered in snow but after the plows do their road work my gravel bike with WTB 40mm Nano tires will feel nice and stable. There will be snow piled up on the edge of the road so I will skip the pure road bike with skinnier tires.
Then there’s the big work-around: drive South. I’m at roughly 6600 feet in altitude but within an hour’s drive I can drop to 1000 feet at Auburn, California, way below the snow. Sure, that’s a down and back two hour drive but a man’s got to make sacrifices.
Depending on how severe or mild the weather, I could also head to Reno, dropping a thousand feet and looking for clear roads. It’s high desert and I’ll bet there will be plenty of days where the riding is cold but great.
There are two other options but I’m not particularly thrilled. Snow bikes are becoming popular but that just doesn’t feel right to me. If there’s snow, I want to be skiing on it, not pedaling through it. And buying a fifth bike will not endear me to my wife.
I could also buy an indoor trainer but that’s a form of torture that I can barely tolerate. There’s no room in our small house so the set-up would be out in a freezing garage. Sure, I could crank some tunes and crank for 45 minutes but it’s just not my thing. I’d have to be very desperate — say, if I put on ten extra pounds.
Right now I can’t say for sure what’s going to happen with riding or skiing. As with everything during the pandemic, the answer is always the same: nobody knows. It will be a Winter of discovery and perhaps with adjustments, I can keep the rides going.