Although I assume I learned to ride a bike at the usual age of 6 or so, I don't remember pedaling much after Middle School. (Who knows, maybe I outgrew my first 2-wheeler...or got lazy--I'll admit that either one is possible. I wasn't always such a devotedly active chick, believe it or not...) That is, until I met and started dating the guy-who-would-later-become-Husband. You see, he was an avid cyclist, and it seemed to be something we might want to do together. So I bought my first "grown-up bike" and we began taking long jaunts together on weekends.
This reminded me of how much I enjoyed gliding along--feeling the rays of the sun warming my body, and the tendrils of the breeze, which you create from your efforts, cooling it off--and reawakened my enthusiasm for the pastime. Now, you'll notice I mentioned weather that seems characteristic of a certain season...namely Summer. I have to say that there's pretty much no level of heat or even humidity that deters me from getting on my bike, because the air flowing past you always feels a bit cooler and helps moderate the situation...at least somewhat. (Well, also I don't live in, for example, Arizona where it's 120 degrees in July. "Dry heat", my patootie...that's just crazy conditions...um, "in my humble opinion", of course...)
Anyway, my point is this: in Maryland, I was always a May-ish-to-around-September rider, because as soon as the mercury dropped below (and I'm almost ashamed to confess this) about...70...I switched to the indoor exer-cycle until the following Spring. I know, totally wimpy, right? But I believe we have already established quite firmly that I do NOT possess the constitution...or even mental toughness...required for dealing with cold. So for years I just shrugged, told myself "it is what it is" and didn't attempt to do anything about it.
Then we moved 300 miles south, to a place where you see people on bicycles All. Year. Long. I'm not kidding, nothing stops them--not freezing temperatures, or unpleasant precipitation, or gusty winds. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I do look at these folks and think "What are you, NUTS?" But suddenly, for reasons unknown, this Fall for the first time a little voice piped up in my brain and suggested, "Hey...why not at least try to expand your comfort zone...a little bit?" After all, we do live in a region where you can pretty much commune with the Great Outdoors in all 4 seasons, so maybe I'm not going to go all crazy and commit to pushing the pedals in the dead of Winter...but let's start small, shall we? Say...on a 55 degree day?
That seemed reasonable enough--and not too scary--so the day before Thanksgiving I hopped on my bike to tool around the neighborhoods near my house for a while. Aaaannnd I can state with a whole lotta conviction: WOW, was I miserable! The very light breeze cut right through my jacket, chilling me to the bone...and since I don't own anything besides "fashionable gloves", my hands felt like blocks of ice when I was done. Oh, and it took 3 hours before I could even feel them again. Yikes...sooooo NOT a successful experiment.
Except...it provided me a clear idea of what needed to happen, should I wish to give this another shot. Namely, I would have to obtain some appropriate gear to keep myself protected from the elements (because I'm here to tell ya that hypothermia...and nearly-frostbitten fingers...are NO FUN, y'all). Therefore I made a foray to Dick's Sporting Goods for gloves...lightweight, wind-and-rain repellent material, fleecy inside, grippy palms...with the super-special bonus feature of a terrycloth panel on the thumb...for snot or sweat-wiping. (Hmm...functional...yet hilarious. Also...ewwww! I'll just continue to carry tissues, as has been my habit since High School, thanks anyway...)
Next, the all-important outerwear to shield my torso. For this I had to venture online--and do quite a bit of searching. I mean, do you have any idea what they charge for cycling jackets? Suffice it to say: too freakin' much. Given my ingrained tendency toward frugality when it comes to apparel purchases (Let's put it this way: I'm basically a "Kohl's shopper", not a "Lord & Taylor" kind of girl), I was unwilling to shell out $100 or more for one article of clothing. Finally, after a great deal of clicking and rejecting, I stumbled upon one that was not only on sale, but offered an additional coupon code that brought it down to less than half-price. (Who knows why--maybe it's considered "last year's model"? Don't care...SCORE!) Zips all the way up to the chin if you want; insulating, weatherproof construction; extra length in the sleeves to pull down over your hands...in short, exactly what was required.
Okay, now equipped with the right accessories I had no excuse for putting it off any longer. Another day in the low 50s, a wide-open American Tobacco Trail, and away we go! And you know what? It was awesome! I could tell that there was a light wind, but it wasn't penetrating my jacket to make me shiver. And I actually didn't need the full gloves (although I brought them along, securely stowed in my zippered pockets...with my tissues...just in case) but I made good use of the jacket's hand-warming capabilities to cover all but my fingers, which was enough in this situation.
That's right, there I was, sailing down the path, properly dressed...toasty...and pretty doggone pleased with myself, to tell you the truth. I'm almost 100% sure that this marked the first time in my personal history that I've managed a bike ride...in December. So, realistically I know that--regardless of my newfound resolve--50 is probably going to be my firm break point for how chilly it can be for me to get out there and cycle. But here in North Carolina, 50-degree days generally happen here and there all through the Winter, so I may just be achieve that "year-round-rider" goal after all. And if I do end up frosty and numb on occasion? Well, there's always hot chocolate when I get back into the cozy house...as a reward for my hard work and suffering. Whoo hoo!