Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Regionalisms, folks. Regionalisms

I've gotten a lot of flack from some of my friends (who apparently DO actually read the blog, but are too wussy to comment here. Humph!), who like to poke the fun at me about my weather pouting. I know, I know...there are many websites and blogs out there stuffed to the gills with pictures and stories about riding and training in cold weather. MTBR has a fantastic Winter Passion picture thread going over at, for example. BKW has a whole cultural overtone to their blog that almost, almost, makes me feel like a complete wimp, what with their ingrained cultural promotion of the northern European cyclists and their winter training regimens. Still...there is a difference...and I'm not just saying this because I'm a wimp (although Admittedly, I may be...)

I live in FLORIDA people! As my brother so eloquently pointed out a little while ago when I whined about the weather earlier, temperature is all relative. I live in an area where the average daily temperature is nearly 70 degrees! I challenge any cyclists who gives me the razz about my lack of temperature tolerance to acclimate to a 70 degree yearly average and then ride on a frosty 39 degree morning. Yeah I though so. You either haven't tried it, or you haven't tried it. Period.

When I moved to Colorado (for all of a year and a winter was enough, thanks), I remember the first summer when I worked at the Sports Garage in Boulder, the owners at the time, Frank and Thom, were complaining about the heat wave they were having. In the afternoons in July, the temperature would "soar" to about 85...and there would be Frank...sitting on the front steps with a hose over his head in the middle of the day! Now let me explain...Frank was a tough man. Frank was hard as nails. Frank used to split time working in the primary shop and next door assembling X-IT components, or working in the machine shop or whatever, then he'd head on down to the local joint for a tasty beverage, or three, or nine. He'd come back the next day and do it all over again. 6 days a week. His only chair at home if I recall was a dentist's chair. (that's hard as nails). One day he came in to work, very quiet and somber, with his knuckles all busted up. I knew why, and I didn't ask for the story. On top of all this, Frank was a brutal rider. Brutal. The man WAS energy and fierce strength, and yet there he was, in temperatures that had me wearing a fleece vest and calling the weather 'balmy', sitting on the steps to the shop trying to stave off heat stroke!

Similarly, I knew a local rider in college who competed in many road races, although I don't recall his CAT. His Name was Randy, and he was a machine on a road bike. he would commute to the shop every day, rain or shine, on an older Shogun time trial bike. Some days he'd take out his road bike instead, which was a Falcon made Reynolds steel model...none too light as I recall. Anyway, he'd thunder around on rides, jumping into the wake of large vehicles and drafting up to speeds well in excess of 30 mile per hour. Transit Buses were a favorite target to draft behind, and not always with positive results,(e.g. he was a scabby man from his risky riding style). Randy was also hard as nails.

Off road in Florida, I learned to ride on "mountain" trails where the cypress knees reached 2 plus feet tall. We're talking wooden stalagmites here. Intermingled with black muck that would seize your drive train in 100 feet. Wet logs and roots made trail riding akin to ice skating amongst the stalagmites. Bike handling skills came fast in these slippery conditions. In the wet season there would be trails in the local park that would literally be 3 plus feet underwater. I remember doing night rides with our Night Rider lights lighting up the Hillsborough River like a fish tank. Literally fish swimming across the beam of the submerged light. There were trails where you would ride a big long loop, planning on doing a flood gate crossing to complete the loop, only to find that the gates were locked. So, the solution, throw the bikes in the river and swim for it. One of our friends in the group at the time was Canadian, and he'd get all glassy eyed and chant "Gators!" when we'd swim it. Leeches were always a possibility, and Ticks were the norm. There's a reason that two thirds of the Spanish soldiers who "discovered" Florida died of disease.

I tell you that story because Frank would have never tolerated that. Randy once said he hated that "shit" because it wasn't mountain biking it was mountain walking. These were hard guys, and yet their sphere of comfort didn't include things that an old softy like me considered standard fair. Regionalisms apply to cycling as much or more than to other sports. We're not claiming to be Kamloops riders down here, but then again, Kamloops riders posses a different skill set as well, one cultivated over years of taking speed and drops for granted. Cyclists master their local conditions, and deviations produce mediocrity. I'm not making excuses for my overall mediocrity as a cyclists (because I'm pretty damn mediocre), I'm just pointing out the obvious. If it were 10 degrees below zero in North Dakota, probably not many North Dakotan's on a bike. 35 here in Florida yields the same reaction. If I were still in Colorado and acclimated once again to the altitude and temperatures, I'd be on a bike in a heartbeat if it were 35 with no snow on the ground...hell even some snow is a good time. But that summer when I first arrived in Colorado I remember doing trails along the Front Range like Walker Ranch and Sourdough and Miller's Rock, in the heat of the day in July, and those trails were lonely and abandoned, and yet the weather seemed pretty nice to me. The Altitude on the other hand, had me grabbing my chest. Again, regionalisms.

So to those of you suffering in your winter white cycling slumber, just remember that I'm suffering too, just on a sliding scale of pain. And when I complain about weather in the thirties, to many a southern cyclists, that's a very real impediment to a day on the bike.

For example...25 on Saturday in Florida will have me in bed until Monday.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I went rollerblading one morning in Venice when it was 38 degrees, and it almost killed me.

I doubt that I would be riding in snow no matter where I lived. That's what the gym is for. :)