January and February can be hard cycling months in Spokane. While you can still get around in the snow, rain, ice, and muck by bike, the novelty starts to wear off in January. Layering up like that kid in the Christmas Story every time you want to get in a quick ride gets tiring. Heavy, sluggish studded tires get heavier and sluggier. Riding on a trainer in a basement is just depressing. The addition of restrictive New Year’s resolutions makes the gloom of January even worse. What’s a cyclist to do?
Here are some things to get you through the dark months in Spokane.
OVERHAUL YOUR BIKE
Take apart your bike, meticulously clean every part, replace the cables, check the chain for wear, and replace the brake pads. Make it sparkle. Bikes are not hard to fix if you take your time and you have some basic tools. There are plenty of online resources that will walk your through any procedure. If you can’t afford to invest in the tools, or you’re a bit nervous about tackling the job by yourself, go to Pedals2People and rent a stand for $5/hour. (Full disclosure: I am a co-founder of Pedals2People).
RIDE ANYWAY, BUT TRY SOMETHING NEW
If you’re a roadie, come out of the basement, find a cheap mountain bike and try tooling around the park in the snow. You’ll be amazed at the cardio work out. If you are a mountain biker, find a cyclocross bike and cut through some new snow on it. If you’ve never tried a fixed gear bike, winter can be a great time to check them out. Put studs on it and be amazed how much control you have on sheer ice and compact snow.
GO TO VERTICAL EARTH IN COUER D’ALENE AND RENT THEIR PUGSLEYS
A Pugsley is a very special bike that has 4 inch-wide tires. That’s huge: normal mountain bike tires are about 2 inches wide. The Pugsley was created for riding epic winter bike races akin to the Iditarod. Google “Surly Pugsley” to learn more. It’s a marvel of engineering and is really fun to ride. Vertical Earth has two Pugsleys that you can rent by the day. Pack a lunch and a hot thermos of coffee and take the Pugsleys up to 4th of July Pass and ride the groomed trails or follow the snowmobile tracks. This is a great way to play hooky from work for a day.
READ ABOUT CYCLING
The best cycling periodical today is Bicycle Quarterly. Nothing else comes close. Find a copy of BQ and be amazed by how a great bike magazine can be: technical, historical, topical, interesting, smart. Bicycling Life and Momentum are also fun magazines to check out if you’re looking for something different than most mainstream race-based bike magazines.
LEARN TO BUILD WHEELS
Building wheels is for some reason treated as a mystical right-of-passage for cyclists as they become “serious.” The fact is that building wheels is not that hard if you have good instruction. However, building a great set of wheels does take practice. And doing it quickly, takes a lot of practice. But if you give yourself enough time, follow good instructions (my favorite is the Sheldon Brown method), and have the tools, then you can build a good wheel on the first try. After you build a couple wheels, you’ll feel much more capable if you (or a friend) ever break a spoke on a long ride or on tour.
PLAN YOUR SPRING AND SUMMER RIDES
Think about the kind of bike trips you want to take when the weather gets nice again. Maybe this is the year to try a century, or do some overnighters, or even a longer tour. If you are going to attempt longer rides, like a century, figure out how you want to do it. If you like the idea of doing an organized ride, find the perfect ride and draw up a training plan to ensure success. For over-nighter and tour planning, take a trip down to Northwest Maps on Sprague and Howard and pore through the maps. Make lists of the gear you’ll need to beg, borrow, and buy before you can do your trip. Start collecting the gear, remember that eBay can have great deals on slightly used light-weight camping gear.
OTHER PHYSICAL STUFF
Try climbing at Wild Walls; it’s a great place and climbing is really fun and challenging in sort of a similar way that some riding can be mentally challenging. How about snow shoeing? Sounds fun and hard. Same with cross-country skiing; it’s a work out. Sledding can be very similar to mountain bike riding: lots of fast down hills, lots of climbing, you just don’t have the brakes. Or get your riding buddies and try a spinning class together.
Hopefully there’s something new out there that you’ve not thought of. Don’t loose hope, spring is on the way, just another four months if we’re lucky!
John Speare grew up and lives in Spokane. He rides his bike everywhere. Check out his blog at http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com.