Life In A Small Town

Its 6 AM, -12 degrees F with 17-25 mph wind, feels like -35 degrees, and the sun won’t rise for another two hours. I walk out to the garage and let the dogs out to run around as I ready the bike for a morning adventure. The air is crisp, clean, and fresh, nothing is moving, and the only sound to be heard is the wind in the trees as I throw my leg over my trusty steed, a Salsa Beargrease, and push off into the darkness. 

The plan today is a short ride in the cold and dark to test some of my equipment and clothing in VERY cold conditions. For this ride of 50 miles my bike is loaded light but carries everything I need; it feels like home and life is simple. Even though I have logged hundreds of miles on the Lake Wobegone trail, this morning, in the still cold darkness with only 30 feet of light shining ahead of me, it seems like a new adventure.

I have often struggled in extreme conditions trying to manage moisture. The moisture in my breath and the sweat from my body needs escape from my clothing without freezing solid. It needs to escape. More than one extreme cold ride for me has left me with an outside clothing layer frozen into a solid block.

This year I made the decision to take as much weight out of my ride as possible. Fully loaded this morning, the bike, poagies, and custom frame bags are just under 25 pounds.

My plan was to ride from Avon Minnesota to Freeport. Charlie’s Cafe, made world famous by Garrison Keiller and National Geographic, was about the right distance to ride, refresh myself with a greasy spoon breakfast, and ride back home. The trail was fast with little snow, but the stiff headwind was brutal and killing me. Finally I saw the town’s lights off in the distance. It’s surprising how the thought of eggs and bacon can keep you going.

Rolling up to this local gathering spot, I saw a few locals sitting having coffee through the window in front. It is safe to say that the sight of a bicycle rolling up was not what they expected. I walked through the door and every eye in the place was looking at me. There were no conversations happening, no dishes clattering - time had stopped. All eyes focused on me as if they expected two heads to pop out from under my helmet as I peeled off a few layers. Not until I take a seat at the coffee counter does some brave soul at a table in the back start a conversation again. 

As a very friendly waitress approached, the gentleman next to me asked if I was from town. “No. Just rode two hours in from Avon.” He leans to the man next to him to repeat the message,  “He rode two hours from Avon”, which then repeats its way all down the counter. The silence returns. 

”Is someone coming to pick you up?” he asked next. “Nope, just getting some breakfast and riding back”, I reply. “He is riding back.” “He is riding back.” The message again traveled down the counter.

He finally turns back to me and asks, “Do you have a mental illness?” I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond in-between bites of egg and hashbrowns but I knew whatever my answer was it would travel to the end of the counter one person at a time. I also knew that they wouldn’t understand why someone would willingly go for a bike ride on one of the coldest days of the year. I tried to explain my passion for cycling and how I ride most days but I’m not sure I was able to sway any opinions. 

While paying for my meal my waitress told me “You will be the talk of the town for weeks” and I remembered what it’s like to live in a small town. She went on to say “People will think I’m a celebrity, because I got to serve you.” I paid the bill, redressed for the ride home, and nodded to the room full of people watching as I left the restaurant.

It was a great morning ride.



Dave is an enthusiastic cyclist, paddler, climber, and high liner. Always looking for the thrill of a challenge, he has paddled through the Arctic Circle and biked across the Rockies.

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Rich Adams | January 19th, 2015

Awesome story - thanks for sharing Must have been some tasty eggs! Bacon is a great motivator!!

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Jarett | January 19th, 2015

Great read!  Stories like this are great to hear, they give me a little extra motivation, even if the temperature was nasty.

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Jon Grinder | January 21st, 2015

I often get the, “Do you have a mental illness?” question (or some derivative thereof).

My answer is always the same:  Yep.

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Rick F | January 21st, 2015

I couldn’t help but hear Garrison Keiller’s voice narrating this story as I read it.

- “Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

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chach | January 21st, 2015

So what was your gear?

I’m doing double merino, a short and a long, a wind stopper soft shell and a windbreaker and I get a mere dusting of snow, not ice, between the outer and last layer. But I’m not riding like you are, not in the slightest. If I were maybe I’d change the second layer to a long base with a wind front.

What about legs? Feet?

Lol whatever your reasons are, you are a tease!!!!



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Steve | January 22nd, 2015

Nice work!

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Todd Ames | January 23rd, 2015

I loved the story.! Short and sweet. It completely took me back to my home town of
Potosi Wisconsin. Population 700 ish… LOL.
Damn I’m hungry now for some breakfast.!
Thank you.

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Joboo | January 23rd, 2015

Awesome post man!!

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Sean Parchem | January 26th, 2015

Dave, as others here have said here. Great post. If you’re ever in the Big Bend N.P. area you should bring your bike. Amazing terrain and amazing people that won’t think you’re crazy. You’ll feel right at home.

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Jeff | January 27th, 2015

Who makes those pogies?  Not only do they look toasty, they look great on your bike.

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Dave | January 28th, 2015

First I want to thank everyone who commented on this, there’s nothing I enjoy more than putting two wheels between my legs and going out for an adventure.  Chach, when it comes to clothes and gear, I use a wool hat, down filled pogies and mukluks I made to keep my head, hands, and feet very warm. On top I will usually run two-three layers, consisting of a base layer, a warmth layer and sometimes a wind layer(light weight running jacket or wind vest) on the bottom cycling bibs, a warmth layer and cross country ski pants, as they block the wind in front but have a breathable back.  Hope that helps, and keep the cranks turning.

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chach | January 28th, 2015

It’s been fun experimenting with different layers while trying to stay on the not so fun budget.  Some folks seem to like a vapor and/or wind barrier up close, and some would rather it be their last or second last layer,  I like the idea of trying to keep to a 3 layer system or less. I’ve been trying to do that for my legs in extreme cold, so that I’m not crushing my waist or limiting my movement. So, with that in mind I am reminded to focus on having a more versatile mid and outer layer system up top.

Thanks for being a good sport and fielding my question.

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | February 2nd, 2015

Chach - One important note about Vapor Barriers. The true Vapor Barrier is only used close to the skin, sometimes directly against the skin…sometimes with a very thin baselayer beneath it.  The intent of the vapor barrier is to keep that moisture right there against the skin and requires frequent venting to avoid getting too hot and sweating too much.

A vapor barrier should not be used as a wind shell because all that moisture will contaminate and wet out the layers beneath it.

If you look at the folks most experienced with vapor barrier systems, you will see they wear very little and are extremely diligent about venting whenever they start to become too warm. It takes real practice to become good at utilizing a vapor barrier system, and is also best used in truly cold conditions.

Here is an article that might help you with your understanding of Vapor Barriers.

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chach | February 3rd, 2015

Hey thanks, I’ll read this tonight.

Lately I’ve been doing short runs (1.5 hr) in a mixed open and forested area in around zero Fahrenheit. Here’s what I’ve learned so far….

For my first layer I was switching between a sleeveless and a short sleeve merino base, The verdict isn’t out yet, and conditions always change, but I think I’ve found the short sleeve to be a bit better in the colder temperatures, It seems to act as a moisture exit bridge for the pit area. 

My next layer is a 200 or 260 thread merino long sleeve base. 

For my next layer I’ve been testing a couple of long sleeve wind-stopper soft shells, and I found that my arms were getting clammy, and my pits were trapping too much moisture. However one of them does have enough lateral ventilation that I could see myself wearing it in sub -8 F conditions. 

Here’s what surprised me….

The only other available option I had handy was my mid-weight nylon wind-stopper vest, with a mesh backing. Voila! It’s a great marriage with my base layers for the aforementioned 0-F riding conditions, and is leading me to believe that vests are the bread and butter to a great cold weather system.

I still have work to do on testing out a few more technical (outer) pieces, but man is it fun to experiment with this gear!  Other than the $$$$$  :)

Thanks again!

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chach | February 12th, 2015

Good read, Kid. I might have to experiment with sleeping bag systems some time.

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