Winter Optimism

I like riding with Chris. He’s better than me, patient, shares my nihilistic sense of humor, and he brews damn good beer. Plus, no sunshine patriot or summer soldier, he’s willing to give the trails a try in the winter. Which is what we did the other day. We’d had snow, then rain that washed it away, and then cold air which lured us with the promise of frozen ground. Add in a sunny afternoon with temps in the 20s, which was to be followed by several days of weather best described as “shite”, and we had to give it a go.

We took the back door into the preserves, a trail almost no one except a few mtbers seems to know exists. We encountered a little ice right away, enough maybe to turn less optimistic people back, but not us. It was only a quarter of a mile farther in, and significantly downhill, when I started thinking we were in trouble. Sliding sideways into the weeds along a level, but off-camber section of trail is what clued me in. The further we went, the more ice we found. On the west side of the Shepaug, the rocks at the end of the bridge were covered with ice. That’s hike-a-bike territory in June. Wearing bike shoes with hard plastic soles, we had no hope of safely getting across that 30 feet of ground. We turned back.

Because it had a sunnier exposure, we thought we’d be able to ride more and walk less by taking the regular hiking path out. Nope. We did get to ride down one steep chute, and that was fun, but we had to dismount and clamber down the bottom few feet, counting on hemlock roots sticking half an inch or less above the ice for traction. While holding our bikes. Even though they were ice-covered, we rode the level areas okay, but the two rocky scrambles were sketchy as hell. I wouldn’t have been comfortable on them with hiking boots, never mind cycling shoes and hauling a bike.

But, we made it. At the end, we road across a snow covered field around the pond, and then up the short gravel road to the parking lot. Where, despite our low miles, we celebrated with a beer.

Last night, I rode my trainer for an hour. Our hike-a-bike was much more fun.



About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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