As I write this, it’s Sunday the 21st of January. After some arctic cold that has made it hard to get outside this month, the weather finally changed. This week I could barely contain my excitement at having a weekend with riding conditions warm and dry enough to get outdoors. I decided to ride in the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve near Poolesville, MD. Then I sent out an invitation to a big group of riders to join me. Now not everyone could make it – some were traveling, some had transportation issues, some were dealing with injuries, and some had other plans, but 6 of us rode together Saturday morning. The temperatures reached into the 50s by the end of the ride, and we took advantage of the break in the weather to take a conditioning ride. The plan was to stay together, pick a direction, and ride without a set plan or a cue sheet. We call it “cueless and clueless”. That means we make adjustments to the ride as we go. The goal was 30-40 miles of riding to stretch out our legs.
I’ve ridden in the Ag Reserve many times, but I’ve spent less time there in winter than any other season. The muted colors, and the lines of sight past bare trees and across fields usually obscured from view were a welcome experience. The sense of distance was welcome, and birds that winter in the area were active at the edges of the fields. We chose a direction and changed our minds when it suited us, and we enjoyed the day as we got our miles in. In the end, it was only a little over 37 miles, and that isn’t much by the standard of later in the year, but for January, it’s a good distance. What was great was our comraderie as we rode. Since I wanted this to be a “no drop” ride, we stayed together for the most part, and the social part of the ride was terrific. We spent some time afterward talking and celebrating a fun and successful ride.
Today I rode from home. I didn’t go quite as far as I did on Saturday, but I managed to work my legs a little more, and I needed to get another ride in to work the legs more. Riding alone isn’t quite as fun as riding with friends, but in the end its important to get out and get your legs used to the work. The only drawback to winter rides is dealing with road salt. I found quite a bit of it on the down tube of my bike, among other places. You have to take the time to clean the bike carefully in the winter. In my estimation, the state of Maryland dumps enough salt on the roadways in the winter to thoroughly poison the Chesapeake Bay every year with the salty road runoff. Then they spend the other 9 months of the year trying to keep the Bay clean. It makes no sense to me, but with any luck, the state will cut back on its road salting habit. In the meantime I hope the weather will continue to be moderate enough to allow me to ride outside. I prefer riding outside to an indoor workout every time!