Today’s blog comes from Salsa Team rider Tim Ek. -Kid
The White Factor
Seven or eight years ago my training consisted of rides to work and some recreational trail rides. Well, as I continually got smoked at races and seemed to reside in the ‘red zone’ whenever I was faced with the slightest of climbs I decided the concept of training should be introduced. I began asking questions of other riders regarding their regimens and their answers blew my mind. How would I ever be able to log enough hours throughout the week to even come close to their fitness? One day I asked my local shop mechanic, ‘Do these guys ride in the winter?’, without hesitation, ‘Yep’ was the reply. So it began…
I decided riding throughout the winter could be a reality after I talked with what seemed to be a small contingent of riders in the Duluth area. The biggest challenge would of course be how to stay warm. To this day I’ll find myself daydreaming on a long ride after I’d lost all feeling in my toes, ‘Why do I really need toes? I could have them amputated saving some serious grams.’ Sure cutting off all my toes would cause some balance issues, but they would no longer freeze, which at the time seems all that matters. The battle to keep the feet warm in the winter rages on as it did in the beginning. Lots of dollars later and even with the latest high tech footwear (which are probably designed somewhere in California where cold is considered to be 40 degrees Fahrenheit), the frozen toes still feel like they could drive a man to institutionalization. In fact, it was just last winter that I stood in the shower after a lengthy ride and consciously focused on not weeping as my digits hit the thawing zone.
Despite the sometimes horrifying conditions that come with winter riding one must train during these months in order to be prepared come May. Now, it should be noted that not all winter riding is a suffer fest. There are times when a few phones in Northern Minnesota begin to ring off the hooks as conditions in the woods reach ideal proportions. These conditions are typically followed by a warming spell (think 33-35 degrees), when the thermometer dips back to it’s normal hover of 5 degrees. The snow mobile trails change into a sidewalk-like status and riding a singlespeed becomes a thing of beauty. Imagine a crisp morning with bright sunshine and a rolling ribbon of rock hard 36-inch wide trail in front of you for miles…bliss. It’s these rides that cause one to quickly forget the pain that sometimes goes hand in hand with the winter training months.
‘You’re crazy!’ I get this a lot and as I’m thinking of a terse response I usually just smile and nod as I hold my little secret that comes with riding the ‘white factor’ to myself and the select few who have experienced it for themselves.
So, get out there and feel it, you won’t regret it, not for long anyway.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.