A Winter RideJan Heine
January is a great time for riding. A new year is starting, and it’s a time for those long, slow miles that build our distance base. After a month of rest, our minds are eager to get out and start preparing for the adventures that will come later in the year.
It can be hard to get out and ride for 8 hours on a cold January day. That’s what friends are for: The BQ Team headed out last weekend for a 100-mile (160 km) ride. While it’s probably safe to ride in small groups, we decided to split up to reduce our exposure. Steve and I would ride our course clockwise – two abreast, not drafting – while Mark would go in the other direction. (Ryan couldn’t join us last weekend.)
We met at 7 a.m. and headed north on the Burke-Gilman Trail. Steve and I haven’t ridden together in a while, and the miles passed quickly as we rode side-by-side, chatting about this and that. It was a foggy morning, but the forecast predicted a sunny day. We were glad that temperatures were above freezing… until we reached the foothills of the Cascades, where the sky had cleared, and the road was covered with ice. We slithered down a steep descent, rear wheels locked, yet our bikes still were building up speed. Other spots were dry, and we could ride without much worry.
Zooming across the valley near Cottage Lake, we saw the road ahead under water. At first, it didn’t look very deep, but then we realized that the yellow centerline disappeared in the water. And as we stopped, we noticed that the road was covered with a fresh, thin coating of ice. I noticed that my jersey was covered with frost as well.
We gingerly set down foot and assessed the situation. It looked like we could make it across. Steve was wearing booties, so I did what a good friend would do: Send him out first.
Once in the water, at least he didn’t have to worry about ice any longer. The water reached about the depth of his bottom bracket…
… but Steve made it across safely, his feet (almost) dry. Benefiting from his experience, I unclipped one foot and used the other to pedal only at the top of the stroke, ratcheting my way across the water without submerging my feet. It may have looked funny, but it worked. I’ll need to get a thin set of booties, not just for water crossings, but also for mountain descents.
The ground was just as slick on the other side, and with more steep ups and downs ahead, we decided to take a break until the sun melted off the frost and ice. I had brought a thermos of tea. We ate some cookies… and got a bit chilled. We were prepared for cold temperatures – if we kept riding and our blood circulating. I was especially glad I had managed to keep my feet dry during the water crossing.
The sun did its job, and soon we could continue safely. We traversed some secret byways through the suburbs – the entire route is here – and headed into the Snoqualmie Valley. Now we were in fog again, but at least that meant there wasn’t any ice on the steep descent.
Long slow miles leave little time for photography – the whole point is to keep moving, not stop and take photos. I snapped this quick shot as we entered the gravel above Lake Joy. The name is apt – riding through the hills and honing our skills on the loose gravel on the descents is always a joyful experience. We skipped the customary coffee stop in Carnation and headed on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.
And then we saw Mark coming the other way. We stopped for a socially distant picnic.
From there, Steve and I rode upvalley into a headwind. January rides are supposed to build character! Above Snoqualmie, we wanted to take the mountain bike trails that I had discovered by accident last year, but we couldn’t find them. No matter – the descent on the pavement was fun, too.
Another trail following, this one an old logging railroad spur. Where a tall trestle used to cross the valley, the trail drops down the slope in tight switchbacks. We enjoyed the chance to hone our bikehandling skills on the rutted trail. From there, it was downhill for the remaining 30 miles – or at least almost.
Winter rides aren’t big adventures, but they are a great opportunity to get out, enjoy our bikes, meet friends, and recharge for our daily routines.