New England winters are tough: freezing temperatures, multiple feet of snow just piled high on the ground at all times, bitter winds that rip through your down jacket like you weren’t even wearing one. What really makes it tough though is how hard it is to be active. I do my fair share of playing in the snow and sledding and can sneak in a run every now and then, but what I miss the most is being able to going out on bike rides. When the temperatures are consistently in the teens or lower it’s just too cold to go out on the road.
For around 3 months my bike, my beautiful white, red, and black Fuji cross bike, sat in the bunkhouse next to my bed. For 3 months it sat motionless, practically untouched. Just as much as I wanted to be out on a ride I felt that my bike wanted to be out on the road too. I tried rigging up a way a could pedal my bike indoors by using a complicated system of strings attached to a metal rail above a doorway but sadly that did not work out. My relationship with my bike reached a low point when I began using the handle bars and frame to dry wet socks overnight. It hurt just to put them on my bike but I justified it by telling myself that at least this way my bike was being productive. This occurred so much that I didn’t even think about it anymore when I placed a sweaty sock on top of the shifters at the end of a long day at school.
During the first week of March there was a breakthrough. The sun came out for what felt like the first time in months and believe it or not the temperature was more than 15 degrees. It was still cold, but with the sun out and it not totally freezing it was my chance to escape on a bike ride. Around midday on Saturday I began putting on my gear: long johns, riding shorts, two layers of socks, long sleeve under armor shirt, yellow wind resistant jacket, two pairs of gloves, balaclava to keep my ears and head warm, sun glasses, clipless bike shoes, and finally my helmet. While I’m putting on all my clothes I think about the upcoming spring and summer and how nice it will be just to decide on a whim to go for a ride and not have to bundle up so much and wait for the weather to be a smidge above bearable temperatures.
I wheel my bike out of the bunkhouse, stop by the kitchen to fill up my water bottle, and then make my way to the lower parking lot outside of the wooden cabin that acts as an office/hangout spot/internet land. After that I clip my left foot into the pedal, swing my right foot over the top tube and all of a sudden I’m riding my bike. It’s actually happening. I’m going out the driveway and onto the road and I’m not in a car. Despite starting in the middle of a hill I speed up the incline, my legs excited to be turning the pedals.
At the stop sign I take a right and ride past the beaver pond and then past Plainfield pond a little bit farther up the road. While riding past the snow banks almost at high as me on the side of the road and past the snow laden trees and the frozen ponds I feel alive and free. I whoop and shout aloud several times during my ride, so happy to be out again, connected with myself and with my bike.