Reflections On Cycling In A Snowstorm
“You didn’t really go cycling, did you?“
We have been asked this about 1,000 times in the last few days. Yes, we did go cycling. No, we didn’t know there was a “code orange” weather alert in Holland (how would we know? we were on our bikes). Yes, there was a lot of snow. You might even call it a storm. Yes, we camped in the storm too. No, we weren’t cold. Yes, it was fun! Would we do it again? Heck, yes.
Most people avoid the cold as they get older. We crave it, or perhaps we simply crave the adventure that cycling in the snow and cold brings. Take a country like Holland, where we live. It’s nice but, well, a bit predictable on a bicycle. Tulips, windmills, canals. All lovely, but if you’ve been cycling around the country for a while you start looking for something different. A snowstorm. Now that adds a whole new dimension to things!
Snow covers the landscape and makes it beautiful in a way that you’ve rarely experienced before. More than that, it scares off most of the cars and deadens the sound of your own bike on the road. Even normally bustling towns and busy roads become beautifully silent places. Only your bike tracks through the snow prove that you were ever there at all and even they will soon be dusted away by the flakes that are constantly falling from the sky.
Cycling in the snow also pushes you to your limits. You work harder than normal to push the bike forward, and marvel at just how much slush can gather on those spokes and under that mudguard.
And you relish the little treats in life, like the companionship of friends and hot tea out of the thermos – things that are too easily taken for granted in warmer weather.
Oh sure, you have to be prepared for winter cycling. We layered up heavily. We packed sleeping mats and sleeping bags both rated for temperatures well below freezing. And we went with the “this might not always be easy” attitude that is necessary for cycling in such fickle weather. We pampered ourselves with frequent stops in cafes, multiple cups of hot chocolate and a huge piece of cake and then used this stored energy to get through the difficult end of the day when the storm reached its peak. Daylight ran out and we still had to pedal 10km through deep snow to the campground, with barely a scrap of energy to spare.
It was tough. Those last few kilometers were beyond tough actually, slipping and sliding on uncleared paths in the dark, discovering that the cold weather had given Andrew his first nosebleed in years and being just plain tired. But would we have traded this day in the snow for the world? Not a chance. In fact, when spring comes, the tulips pop up and the bike paths are bustling, we might even wish more days on the bike were like this one. Magical.