After spending the past day and a half repairing my mountain bike after Saturday's muddy race -- new brake pads, new seat, new chain/cassette, replaced broken bolt in rear suspension, lubing and tightening this, and lubing and tightening that -- I almost didn't have the heart to hop right back on for a wet, sloppy ride in the middle of a snowstorm.
But, alas, I didn't want to be a weather wimp, it's bad enough I was called a "weight weenie" the other day (which is hard to argue when one of my bikes is carbon fiber and the other is titanium) so I couldn't really bow out of the weekly ride on account of a little snow. Only a fraction of the number of riders showed up last night and although it was only a slight drizzle in the Redhook Brewery parking lot when we departed at 6pm, it wasn't long before we were in a somewhat blinding snowstorm. The snow makes for a slippery ride, but much worse is the visibility issues. With a bright HID helmet-mounted light, you can't see anything but the snow falling directly in front of you -- it's like driving in fog with your high-beams on. I tried lowering the HID bulb to the lowest setting but that was still too bright, so I switched it off and rode just by the little LED emergency bulbs the helmet-light has. At times, that too was too much direct light and I had to switch the light off entirely and just let my pupils dillate and navigate based on shadows and what little natural light there was. It was nearly 8pm so there wasn't much light.
One of my favorite parts of the ride involves a lengthy dirt-road descent that I can usually hit 40mph on with ease. Last night, however, I was struggling to stay below 15mph intentionally, so as to protect my eyes and face from the biting snow and ice. When I finally did arrive back at my truck, the handlebars and brake levers were covered in snow, as was my jacket and helmet.
I quickly changed in my truck and went into Redhook for a beer (despite the snow, they already have moved on from their Winterhook seasonal to their spring Copperhook Ale... go figure?) and a sandwich. When I came out there was at least another inch or two of snow on my truck -- too much for the wipers to handle. The drive home was fun -- cars were stuck in the snow and slush everywhere. I drove around one or two on the shoulder and on the grass and then hopped out and pushed a lady in a Saturn partly up a hill and onto the shoulder. It felt great to hop back into my Element and cruise right on by without the slightest bit of slippage on the hills. Good snow tires and all-wheel drive should be mandatory equipment if you live in a hilly neighborhood. And I must admit, the five years of living in the south and being heckled for driving an import did make me find some sinister enjoyment out of driving my Honda Element onto the grass and weeds to get around a Chevy Blazer stuck in the snow.