With the weather supposedly turning cold late Saturday/early Sunday, I wanted to get my ride in Saturday (As I type this Sunday morning, the feels like temperature is 9 degrees! I am so happy that I rode yesterday.). I decided to join my team ride from the Marshall Park & Ride in Marshall, VA for a 29 mile route through Marshall and Markham. With I-66 running right through the area, I had driven through many, many times, but had never taken the time to stop and certainly had never biked in the area. As usual, I didn’t check out the route map or elevation before heading out.
I’ve only done one other “cold” weather ride, which I was under-dressed for, so I spent a little more time planning my clothing for this ride. I decided on wearing my lined running pants over biking shorts; a base layer top with a lined long sleeve shirt over that and then my riding jacket to top it off. I had running gloves for my hands and an insulated skull cap to keep my head warm and cover my ears. But, I didn’t count on the temperatures beginning to drop so early in the day. I When I left my house at 7:15, the temperature was 45 degrees, but by the time I arrived at the meet-up spot the temperature had already dropped five degrees. I made a last minute decision to add another layer of clothes – the warm post-ride clothes that I had brought. I’m glad I threw put them on. I am still having problems figuring out how to dress for cold weather cycling.
I froze on the first ten or so miles. My hands were blocks of ice (I wore my running gloves which had minimal wind protection) and shifting was a challenge. The roads were quite narrow and there was actually a decent amount of traffic. It was a bit unnerving to climb a hill on a narrow road with a large, rumbling truck idling behind me.
Once I hit the turn spot at 10 miles (we could go straight through the intersection for a 50+ mile route, left for 24 miles or right for 29 miles), I turned north on my route and became even colder. Wind, which had not been much of a challenge, became my biggest nemesis on this stretch of road. Miles 10 – 20 featured some of the strongest wind – both headwinds and large, unexpected cross wind gusts – that I had ever ridden in. My average speed for those miles reflects that wind, too.
I don’t have a lot of experience for riding in windy conditions so I tried to use common sense:
- Get down. I tried to get down into as low an aero position with my head tucked and elbows in as was possible. Considering how many layers I had on, this was a challenge!
- Gear down. I geared down to try to maintain a normal cadence while reducing discomfort on my knees. Pushing into the wind was making my knees hurt so this seemed to make sense.
- Pedal downhill. My instinct was to ride the brakes going down the hills because the unpredictable crosswinds were freaking me out, but I also knew that I needed to apply some power to my read wheel so that the wind didn’t push me further off my line.
- Be positive. I tried not to focus on how miserable the wind was and instead remind myself that riding in strong headwinds was actually helping to improve my overall fitness.
Even with all of that, I still came off my bike once and had a couple instances that made me think I could do without EVER riding in wind again. When that thought when through my head, I thought of Cozumel and reminded myself that I could learn to ride better in the wind. I had to laugh at one point – I came upon a sign that indicated the area I was in at that time was referred to as “Windy Knolls.”
Once I finally turned west for the final 8 miles back to Marshall, the wind was no longer an issue. I enjoyed the ride that snaked along the interstate and took me by some vineyards and wineries that I had previously only ever seen from my car. I made it back into Marshall 2 hours and 9 minutes after I set out. The ride certainly took longer than I expected, but I hadn’t counted on the headwind and the hills. I did almost 2400 feet of climbing – it’s not a lot, but because I hadn’t checked any maps before heading out I had no idea to expect it.
Overall, it was a good ride – I’m always glad that I go. It was a great way to kick off my weekend AND it meant that I didn’t have to ride Sunday.