Cold as Hell

When I was in high school I learned a lot about hell. Not in the figurative or romantic sense, like by being tortured by bullies or suffering unrequited love. I mean in the literal sense. We learned about hell through the study of classic literature like Dante’s Inferno (The Divine Comedy) and Milton’s Paradise Lost, each giving vivid and complex (sometimes even funny) depictions of hell and it’s inhabitants. In both, hell is described as a place of terrible extremes: extreme heat, extreme cold, with plagues of blood sucking insects thrown in for good measure. As one particularly astute English teacher pointed out, hell sounded a lot like Winnipeg.

The last week has been, to put it mildly, extremely cold. Right now it is -32 degrees celcius (-25.6 F), with the wind chill it is reading -40C (-40F). At a certain point it really doesn’t matter how much colder it gets. It is just motherfucking cold.

To be fair, there are probably colder places. Like outer space.

The other day as I was running (you do not walk in this weather, since your skin freezes solid in 20 seconds) from my car to a restaurant, I noticed this Cervelo locked to a pole. I lost several fingers taking this picture.

While bikes like this are not necessarily unusual, it still struck me how sad it was that a bike of such pedigree ends up in a state like this. It was sort of like seeing an aging beauty queen turning tricks on a corner. The bike is likely the property of a bike courier and, I’m guessing from all the tape holding it together, is on it’s last legs. I was going to comment that it probably still shifts better than the Giant, but I noticed that it has been converted to a single speed, in fact a fixie I think, since it has no brakes.

It just shows people will ride anything, in any kind of conditions. I suppose it’s good to squeeze every last ounce of life out of a bike, rather than chucking in the landfill for something newer every couple of years. But man, it’s ugly. I’m not sure what the opposite of being pimped is, but this is a fine example. The lock seems unnecessary, if you ask me. Particularly since it was minus 800 degrees that day and anybody crazy and hard enough to ride (or steal) in weather like that could surely gnaw right through that lock with their teeth.

Incredibly there are quite a few people out riding in this. Not for pleasure, I’ll wager, but rather because they have no choice. The bike is either their primary form of transportation, or it is their livelihood. There is of course the exception of the Hardmen of the FGBC who not only ride in these conditions for sport, but also continually find new and creative ways of making it even more difficult for themselves, as evidenced in this week’s Greed Cross, part of the “deadly sins” Nordic Cross series.

Don’t worry. There are no children in the buggy.

Hell means different things to different people. And for some, hell is being trapped inside for half the year, staring at a blank wall cranking out intervals on a trainer. So if you are out there riding in extreme conditions, regardless of what you are riding, and why you are riding, I salute you. Stay warm, stay safe, and keep the rubber side down.