Posted by: Jennifer Sage | April 14, 2009

I’m not as big a wimp as I make myself out to be!

When it comes to riding my bike, my favorite activity, I am a fair-weather athlete. I hate, hate, hate being cold, so I tend to avoid any situation on a bike that might cause me to get cold. (I also hate excessive heat – but that’s another post).

Here’s why. As long as I can remember, I get colder than almost anyone I’m with – whether skiing, hiking, cycling, camping, standing around at an outdoor concert, or even in bed! My husband Jeff kicks off the covers and begs me to allow him to open a window while I’m shivering under the down comforter. When I get chilled, I start shivering and cannot stop until I really load on the warmth. That can mean hours in some cases.

There’s something called Raynaud’s (funny they call it a “disease” – it’s really just an annoying condition) and I’m sure I have it. They call it “allergic to coldness” – which is a perfect description of me! The coldest I’ve ever been has been riding my bike – after getting chilled from rain or wind, and/or sweating on a climb then having to descend in the cold, my fingers will get so cold they no longer work and I cannot brake effectively. Two fingers on each hand turn a gross, yellow-ish white (as in the photos on the Wikipedia link for Raynauds). Jeff says it looks like a corpse’s hand!  On top of that I shiver and shake so much while trying to descend, that seriously, I cannot hold a straight line. My jaw hurts from chattering, my neck hurts from tensing, even my back is shivering. Ugh – not a fun experience!

Even when I’ve dressed for the occasion, or so I thought. The first time I did the Triple Bypass it was great weather (only a few sprinkles of rain). The second time a few years later, we were caught in a torrential downpour in Keystone after 80-miles with Vail pass still ahead. I had to abandon when I could barely hold the handlebars (and I had full raingear too). I wasn’t sad about it either.

That is why I rarely venture out if it threatens to rain or sleet or be super windy with temps in the 40’s or 50’s – because it can quickly drop to 30’s here in the Rocky Mountains. It’s not just about adding more layers – for me it’s a very thin line. I also have to watch out for overdressing, because I sweat easily and then freeze even more.

So when yesterday’s weather report called for increasing cold and possible rain, I first resigned myself to having to Spin indoors again. But by late afternoon, it warmed up and was sunny and beautiful. Jeff and I were at the tile store finalizing our tile selection for the new house, and when it got to 5 pm I said, “Are we done yet? Because I’m going to go for a ride! It’s gorgeous outside and I’m burning daylight!” 

Hey, one must have one’s priorities!

So I ran home, geared up, and jumped on my bike and rode from 5:30 – 7:36 pm. My  bike computer wasn’t working, so I don’t know the distance, but I felt FANTASTIC. The last half hour I pushed it hard into a headwind to make it back before dark.

Pardon the poor quality photos – they’re from my iPhone. Below is the climb to Cordillera, which finishes on the top right of the hill in the distance. Not too long (maybe 4 miles total), and very gradual where I was taking the photo, but steep for that last mile. I was quite happy with how strong I felt on this climb – my first outdoor climb of the season.


In the photo below is the 9% section. Descending here in the shade was the only time I was cold.


And here is my view from the top. I’m so proud of myself for actually riding with snow around me!


Most of the rest of the ride was flat, heading east to Eagle-Vail and back to Edwards.

I came back so thrilled that I was able to ride AND able to stay warm. Temps were in the mid-40’s when I got home, but by that time my internal engine kept me warm. Jeff came home and I was smiling ear to ear and bragged, “See! I am not as big a wimp as I make myself out to be!”

What did I wear? I have to admit, most of the cyclists I saw were wearing far less than me. I had booties on which really helped (no other cyclist I saw had booties). I had leg-warmers of course, and on top, had a first layer polypro liner tank-top, then a regular jersey, then a thicker long-sleeved cycling jersey (over arm-warmers of course) PLUS my windbreaker. But I think the biggest difference was a recent purchase of Cannondale gloves that have a removable lobster-claw “windbreaker” that goes over the long-fingered padded gloves. For the first time ever, my fingers did not get cold. I’ve had many long-fingered gloves, but none have worked this well.

I even brought a neck gaitor for descents just in case, but didn’t need it.

So laugh at me if you want, but now I realize I can ride in the “sorta cold” weather. I am sooo proud of myself for this first little step. 😉  I’ve raised my cold threshold (or rather, lowered the temps I can ride in) but where that line is exactly, I don’t know. Yesterday that threshold was 45 degrees and sunny…but if it threatens to rain/snow, I’m a little worried.

Warm rain I can handle, but the cold Rocky Mountain rain, we’ll have to see about that! But next month we’ll be climbing in the Italian Dolomites for stages 4 and 5 of the Giro (during our Giretto), and it could potentially be quite cold, so I’ve got to get this riding-in-the-cold-thing down.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: