Sunday, January 3, 2010

Salisbury 200K: The Arctic Edition

The best thing about riding a lot in the cold is that you know how to ride in the cold when it gets really cold. Like Saturday’s 200K out of Salisbury, NC, hosted by RBA Tony Goodnight. Down here in North Carolina, we’re used to 90 degree heat waves with heavy, humid air that puts pressure on your skull bones. Winter time is some of our best riding, when temperatures start in the mid 40s but climb up to the high 50s, low 60s by mid-afternoon. We don’t get much of the Arctic freezes like we’re having this winter, the kind that makes you think twice about walking 25 feet out the front door to pick up the morning newspaper. Hell, you can just read it online.

Now, we don’t pretend to know what the hardy folks from the Snow Belt of Minnesota or New York endure this time of year. Chances are you guys have it way rougher, and our hats are off to you. Still, no matter how you slice it, Saturday’s ride was cold. We had a temperature swing of only 7 degrees, from 26 to 33. The 26 actually came at the end of the day, when an angry northern wind rocked the mercury back on its heels, sometime after three as the sun dropped below the tree line.

The cold considerably thinned the starting line-up. A couple riders bailed publicly on the NC Randon listserve; others had their wives phone it in. So there we were, the Magnificent Seven, cocooned in multiple layers, narrowed, skeptical eyes squinting out from the thin coin slots of balaclavas.

All that cold riding I mentioned? I have a lot of things figured out. How to keep the hands warm, and the arms warm and core warm. I’m still working on the feet. They ached for 30 minutes or so until I fired up the engine room and stoked a little warm blood through them. My threesome – me, Joel and Jerry - actually had it pretty good until the turnaround in Mt. Gilead, at the Food King! (that punctuation is part of the name). The wind was on our backs, so we knew we’d pay dearly – as we motored along at 15 or so, several leaves passed us, surfing the pavement on a cruel northwest wind.

When we turned, so did our fortunes. We battled icy headwinds for the next 60 miles. Joel did the lion’s share of the pulling, and we occasionally lost Jerry, who was riding a single speed and kept his own rhythm through the many hilly portions. The only thing that kept us warm was a back-and-forth about the cinematic merits of the various Scarlett Johansson movies and discussion about the wikipedia listing of an adult movie star named Joel Lawrence.

The unrelenting wind began to angle in from 10 o’clock, numbing the left side of my face and my lips. Twenty miles out and late into the afternoon, the thermometer shed a couple more degrees. Any pretense of fun was gone now. We were just looking to get er done and start an internal combustion motor and fire up the heater. We rolled in at 5:37, just as the sky began to darken.

We had a post-ride barbecue celebration – dark chopped pork edges, red slaw, French fries, hush puppies -- at the former Honey Monks in Lexington (now Lexington Barbecue #1). As I downed a second Styrofoam cup of Cheerwine, I could hear Joel hitting the go button again on the handwarmer in the men’s room.

Another fun day on the bikes. Thanks to Tony for hosting, and to all for the company. Sorry, no pix. The iPhone screen doesn’t work when you’re wearing gloves and it was too cold to take em off. A special congrats to Jerry, who I believe now has R-46, meaning 46 months in a row of a 200k or more.

Post script: Joel sent along this note, posted Saturday, by one of the local clubs:

Due to extreme weather conditions (18 wind chill at 10:00), there will be no ride leader tomorrow. For anyone still interested, it will be show and go on your own.

He also sent along a picture of these two dogs that chased us near the Rowan County line....


bullcitybiker said...

Congratulations on completing such a cold brevet, Mike. One instance where I'm kinda glad to have missed a ride.

Here in the Arctic Circle, aka Maugansville, MD, it reached a breathtaking 23 this afternoon with 40mph gusts. I brought my fixed gear but have yet to try to take it out for a ride.

Happy New Year!

Jerry Phelps said...


You forgot to mention that the sweat in the sleeves on my jacket was frozen when I rolled in at 5:45. That's cold!!


Vance Ricks said...

Hi, Mike, thanks for the writeup -- and I completely understand the absence of photos. (I managed to take only three all day, two of them of the very same bridge.) Good to see you (mostly the back of you) yesterday.
That wind really destroyed and demoralized me. I rolled in at about 7:15. I guess I'm perversely glad to know that it was no picnic for the lead dogs, either!

JoAnn Fafrowicz said...

Good jobe everyone. It was too cold for me, and I am from Minnnesota!

Robert said...

Keith (Doc on a bike) and I rolled in around 7:35 after taking the wrong right turn out of the last control. Cold? You haven't lived until you commute to work at 15 below zero. That was a long time ago when I was 19 and living in Spokane WA. But I used the same down filled mittens from 38 years ago on Saturday's ride and they still work great. This was my inaugural 200K as an official RUSA member (not the first 200K though), and also the longest one day ride for me so far (134 miles). Thanks to Tony G and all the participants.


Jerry Phelps said...


Congrats on your first 'official' 200km ride. Let's hope your first 'R' is also the coldest!


Gunnar Berg said...

A caught your blog in a McLean search. Maybe of interest:

And probably not, my blog:

Gunnar Berg said...

Oh, here in tropical Southern Minnesota, minus(-)27 yesterday. No bicycles sighted.

Gunnar Berg said...

To be filed under "all things are relative":

Mike D said...


1) Thanks for the McLean pix. I love em. You have an incredibly handsome bike there.

2) Nothing wrong with that blog either, with several Townes videos right there at the top.

3) Thanks for weighing in with what a Minnesota winter feels like.

Mike / A relative balmy 29-degree day in the Sunny South.

Doctor on a bike said...

thanks for the report. Once my brain thaws a bit more, I'll post one, too.

Bob, was great riding with you. I'd never have guessed this was just your first (of hopefully many more to come) RUSA brevets.

Vance, wish we'd had more time riding together after Mt. Gilead. I started getting chills at every control beginning there and HAD to get rolling again, pronto.


Mike D said...


I understand completely on the need to keep moving. The risk of getting chilled to the bone at the controls was just too great.

I look forward to your post.