Winter ride. Catch the soul of riding through the bush in this
sunny, icy wilderness.
am the Walrus...
My sister Jenn had wanted to go for a ride. So did her husband, Sean. But it was Boxing Day. I usually never feel like doing anything at all that day. Really, I felt like a giant obese walrus or sea lion; I just wanted to sleep off the entire sick consumeristic binge we had all just gone through. "At least 16 hours," I thought, "just give me 16 hours with maybe an extra week thrown in". Just then Sean bounded into the den, already partly suited up. I was watching TV, lounging comfortably. "Dennis! Want to go for a ride now?" said Sean. As Brother in Laws go, Sean is the best. Plus I just couldn't help but get inspired at the sight of his cycling jersey which had emblazoned upon it a large snorting bull. Well, that settled that.
We all grabbed a quick breakfast and suited up for the weather. It was -4C outside but with little wind. There wasn't too much snow on the ground so the conditions would be ideal for a brisk winter ride. Sean took my GT hardtail and Jennifer had to settle for my old Specialized Hardrock as she had decided not to bring her own Peugot down from Ottawa. I got the Specialized Enduro FSR of course. (Yes, I have three bikes now). After everyone bolted on their own clipless pedals and set up their respective saddle heights, we were off.
We all had on our cold weather riding gear and heavy cycling gloves. So no problem there. The icy streets on the way to the first section of local trails were, however, treacherous. We took it easy at first until we all reached the trailhead. On the first short section the previous night's light snowfall provided excellent traction for all of our bikes.
I led the way into the bush until we reached a great stretch of long singletrack. I was glad to be with Jenn and Sean because they're both experienced riders. So we set a vigorous pace through a silent forest. Soon we began to heat up and our excitable chattering was quickly replaced with the sound of tires crunching into snow interspersed with our breathing. That was when we started getting into the "zone". We rode for
kilometer after kilometer, breathing hard, working to maintain our balance and forward momentum in the snow. That was when I saw the world fall away. I felt like I was floating. All fear and anxiety fell away, shedding off like an old adder skin. The crows smiled, and the deer, deep in the bush laughed. The sky turned bright and the illimitable Canadian winter sun screamed at us through the trees, urging us to go faster and faster. At last when I thought I couldn't hold the pace much longer we saw a fox, bounding out of the trees onto the trail ahead, racing us like a dolphin races ships in a far, far ocean.
We finally stopped, gasping and exhausted. The fox snorted. Disappointed, she bounded off into the shadows of the trail. This is where we took our first set of pictures, with my glasses all steaming. Jennifer kept telling me to smile at the camera. That wasn't hard. Then we all laughed. We grabbed a drink from our bottles and knocked some of the snow and ice from our shoes and pedals. Jenn stripped off her heavy gloves because she was so warm. It's tough to dress in winter. You always overdo it. But better to be too warm than to start getting cold.
As we set off for the next stretch in the bush, I couldn't help but think that this is where it all comes together: the hours of maintenance, the fretting over parts and suspension set-up, worrying over which bike to get, making the effort to become one with your rig. Nothing went wrong. Except for the ice and snow jamming our clipless pedals. But you know, that's an occupational hazard, it comes with the territory of winter riding.
The next stretch of bush presented us with some problems. A lot of half frozen mud and puddles covered in a sheen of thin ice. The new Enduro's full suspension was amazing here. For a full on trail bike, there's nothing like an active travel set up in the rear.
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