Cycling in the dark and cold: Can’t bring myself to do it anymore

This is what it looks like to a bicyclist at 5:30 a.m. in February. Wanna go for a ride  tomorrow morning?

I think I’m becoming a workout wuss.

I used to be a runner — until my knee crumped and I had to have surgery. I still run a few miles a couple of times a week, but my favored exercise now is bicycling.

The problem with cycling is that it’s not the most pleasant thing to do in the winter. It’s cold. It’s windy. You start to sweat and the wind chill sends frozen jolts through your body.

The other problem for me is that my exercise time is in the early morning hours, before work. If I don’t do it then, I won’t do it because in the evening I’m busy with family and other activities. For the last 25 years, I’ve made it a habit to exercise at least 45 minutes five or six days a week.

But you know what it is at 5:30 a.m. in January and February?

Dark.

So … dark + cold + bicycle = wuss.

It didn’t used to be like that. I would get up, put on winter gear (that nauseating, neon, construction-worker green), turn on my lights (one on the front, one on the back, a flashing LED on top my helmet – what a dork) and pedal off into the gloom.

Pretty stupid, right? York County drivers don’t seem too inclined to share the road with cyclists even in the best of conditions. In the morning, in the dark, in the winter mists and fog, it’s like a suicide mission.

But for years I did it — even if I can’t say I really enjoyed it. I would much rather be out biking around 9 or 10 a.m. on a sunny spring morning. In those conditions, I can go miles and miles.

This winter, I haven’t ridden my bike before work even once. My last pre-sunrise ride was back in, oh, November.

I still ride on weekends — after the sun comes up. But weekday mornings you can find me in the basement on a yard sale exercise bike, watching old movies on VHS (I don’t have cable hooked up in the basement — tip: you can buy bags and bags of VHS tapes at Megatronix out near Thomasville for cents a piece).

The tension adjustment on the machine is stuck on a high setting, so it’s a challenge – and I use hand weights to alter the exertion level, pumping them in various ways to simulate uphill climbs.

I’ve developed it into a pretty good workout. After 45 to 50 minutes on my stupid-looking exercycle, I’m drenched with sweat. Still, it feels kind of lame, pedaling away in the basement watching a jittery old tape of “Network” (it still holds up!). Maybe if I bought one of those $2,000 spinning cycles … (I can hear my wife screaming “Don’t you dare!”)

I’ll be 50 soon, so maybe it’s age that keeps me off the dark February roads. Or maybe I’ve just acquired some wisdom.

Anyway, I can’t wait for spring, with the sun cresting the horizon as I set off, the smell of the earth coming back to life, the chain humming and the sounds of peepers in the marsh down around the bend — and, of course, the guy in the 10-ton Chevy Monstrosity nearly running me off the road for the 500th time. 

About Scott Fisher

I'm opinion page editor and blogging coordinator for the York Daily Record/Sunday News and Yorkblog.com. Phone: 717-771-2049. Email: sfisher@ydr.com. Twitter: twitter.com/YDReditpage.
This entry was posted in Biking, Fitness, Running and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cycling in the dark and cold: Can’t bring myself to do it anymore

  1. Bonnie says:

    Hey Scott, I’m a blogger here on No Sweat, York and I work at Unique Physique Fitness Center. I noticed your post about biking at 5:30 a.m. or rather NOT biking (outside) at that time. We offer a 5:30 a.m. RPM (spin) class every Monday & Wednesday and sometimes we throw in a Friday morning class, also. If you’re interested in more information, please do not hesitate to email me.

  2. Dawn Cutaia says:

    Even I don’t bike in the dark – and you know how obsessed I am about cycling. I also don’t spin in my basement in the dark. That’s brutal.

    You need to come to spin class during the winter so you can suffer in a group. That makes it better.

    I can’t wait for spring – we should ride together. :) It’s only a few weeks away.

  3. Scott Fisher says:

    Bonnie, thanks for the heads-up on the spinning classes. I’ve never done one but would like to sometime. Time is my main issue with going places in the morning to exercise. I like to be able to get up, do it, and then move on with my day. That’s why I’ve always (or mostly) worked out at or close to home.

    Dawn, sure let’s go for a ride when the weather improves!

    • Dawn Cutaia says:

      I lead a social, no drop ride on Mondays out in Dover. We usually do about 20 miles but once the days get longer we ride further. You should join us. It is a lot of fun and I know where all the hills are. So we don’t have to go up them!

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