I reached a breaking point on Tuesday. I think everyone (in the Northeast) feels a mild sort of depression some time between mid-January through the end of February. The endless winter drags on and the itching desire for warmer days is unbearable. It is dark when you wake up and the sunshine you get to enjoy on your commute to work is squandered by the freezing cold. Then you leave work only to be shrouded in darkness. The motivation to be outside is hindered by the temperature, lack of sunshine and overall mid winter depression.
While winter in the Northeast has been very mild compared to the last two, I was hit with this depression earlier than years past. The hankering to get outside for a bike ride could not be tamed any longer. On Tuesday, I geared up and went for a ride down the Westside Greenway Path along the Hudson River. With the few feet of snow Manhattan received from mega-storm Jonas, I knew I would be in for a wet ride.
Not having any fenders on my bike, I knew the tires would spray ground water filled with grit from the ground, saturating my bike, legs and virtually entire body. I considered buying fenders before the ride, but installation time alone would have caused me to miss the precious light that was already dwindling at 5pm. (Note: sunset was actually 5:03, but I still had twilight.)
The first puddle of water sprayed on my lower back and was uncomfortable to say the least. Even wearing my rain jacket, the water leaked down my jacket onto my lower back and down my ass crack. It was cold, as expected...but still, the splatter of the icy water was a shocking sensation. As I made my way across town to the west side, I was full of energy and ecstatic just to be outside. The roads weren't as bad as I anticipated. I even found some dry pavement to ride on.
I entered the Westside Greenway only to find that most of the path was part snow, part slush, mostly puddles and not a dry path in sight. It was far worse than the roads. The occasional spray from the road was now going to become a constant shower on my bike and me. Since I was already cold and wet from the ride over, I figured the harder I pedaled, the warmer I would get. This only caused more ground water to splash up from the front tire to my legs and from the back tire reaching my helmet.
It was a slow moving ride in an effort to avoid other cyclists, pedestrians and the larger puddles. I made it 30 minutes down the Hudson until I reached a road block. It was a giant snow bank piled high by a plow. To continue, I would have had to dismount my bike and walk through a muddy clearing on the grass made by pedestrians more eager to continue than me. Instead, I thought it was a good time to turn around. On the way back, I hit a few of those big puddles I avoided on the way out. The freezing, ice cold water started to saturate my shoes and my toes started going numb.
You know when you really have to pee and you are able to compose yourself all the way to the bathroom? Then you get inside the bathroom and all hell breaks loose. You start to do the pee dance while desperately trying to find and pull down your zipper. That is how I felt on the way back home as I veered off the greenway and made my way back across town. The cold started to overtake me. Knowing I was so close to home, my composed mindset started to unravel. But... In a moment of clarity I thought of Dory from Finding Nemo, "Just keep swimming pedaling."
When I finally made it home I undressed quickly and wiped down my bike as best I could. It was after that when I noticed how dirty I was. Then I realized how fucking gross this dirt was. Would you lick a NYC sidewalk? What about roll around on it and rub the dirt on your body. Yeah I didn't think so... I jumped in the shower as fast as I could. See my Instagram @MSquaredVelo to get a better idea of the grime collected on my leg.
This journey made it clear. I needed fenders. I bought and installed them the next day. Now that I took the plunge into the wet winter rides and am now more prepared, I look forward to avoiding the oppressive winter months with more outdoor rides.