Merry Christmas Mr. Grinch! (part 1)

Most folks are put off by the cold.  They shiver and cower against its wicked bite.   Not for the heartiest of bicycle riders in Metro-Detroit!  No no, we relish in the freedom of riding through the cold and enjoy the expressions of surprise and joy; nay — the respect we get from motorists with whom we share the streets.


The Cold-Grinch don’t exist in The D!

Yesterday we celebrated our monthly Suburban Critical-Mass, an event which encourages rides for bicycle fun and awareness in the suburbs outside of the city.

There’s lots to be said about Detroit and why there’s a need for a Suburban Mass, but that’s a different topic which can be covered in a post at a later time.

While the official ride started at 6 pm, our pre-ride celebrations began earlier in the day, at 1:00 pm.  The ride started at The Emory, a gourmet burger joint, which caters to the unique tastes of “upscale pallets” in Ferndale, just north of 8 Mile Road.


Our mission was locked in, we were to ride approximately 15 miles to the Bake Station Bakery in pursuit of Jewish Donuts, a delicacy served exclusively at this location. There were lots of other options to choose from, and everyone but the Jewish person our group got a Jewish Donut; she opted for a chocolate brownie instead.

Layering up is a good idea when riding in extreme weather conditions. The challenge is that sometimes layers aren’t enough.  To get the bodys engine to release heat to the extremities, you need a little kick and these sugary treats did the trick … at least for a short while.

There are other philosophies, which include varying physical exercise (jumping jacks and pushups, for instance), adding wind-proof clothing and consuming alcohol (frequently referred to as ‘fire water’ on cold days).  This merry band of people did all three.

Of course we spent ample time discussing clothing choices and options, and even shared extras with others who were under-equipped for the weather.

Wool has consistently been the champion fabric.


Rivendell does a great job describing why “All You Need is Wool”

If the charming, gnome-like folks who live on the edge of black holes in outer space came here today and studied hikers, climbers, outdoor magazine cover models, or cyclists, they would get a false idea of the clothing and equipment required to survive&enjoy life outdoors. Most of today’s “outdoor” fabrics were born inside a lab, and relentless promotional campaigns can make the ultra-sane wonder: Do natural materials even work?

We wouldn’t be here now if they didn’t, and neither would sheep. Wool has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in the snowy slopes of the Andes, the oven-like wastelands of Afghanistan, and the bitter cold deserts of Afghanistan. It will keep you comfortable in suburbia, the woods, the mountains, and the coast.

Wool regulates body heat much better than polyanything does, so you’re more comfortable in a wider range of temperatures. A wool fiber is far more complex than a synthetic one, and its complication evolved to protect sheep roaming the icy crags of Scotland or the blistering hot ranges a half a world away in Australia. There may be extremes of climate where you live that now and then call out for something other than wool, but day in and day out, when you’re outside, the best thing to wear is wool.

Besides all that, wool just feels better. Compared to the scientifically produced consistency and freaky weightlessness of polar fleece and despite modern wool science’s attempt to soften it beyond reason, wool has texture you can feel and see, and once you become familiar with it, you’ll insist on it.

And then there’s the stink factor. Unlike synthetics, which stink when they’re dirty with sweat, wool doesn’t stink after you’ve sweated in it, so you can wear it many times before you need to wash it. Once you collect a few sleeveless t’s, short-sleeved t’s, long-sleeved t’s of various weights, and a few jerseys and heavier sweaters, you’re loaded for bear and won’t have more than a couple of wool loads a month, if you wear it and sweat in it every day.

The clothing you wrap yourself in becomes your immediate environment, and plays a huge role in your outdoor experience. How it looks, feels, sounds when it flaps in the wind, and smells after the third day without washing depends on what it’s made of. Wear synthetics at the mall and disco. Out in the world, wear wool!

So we choose wool, and it works.

Following the sugary treats and on the way back to the ride-location we stopped by the coffee shop for a quick warm-up.  This was a necessary move – half the group took their shoes off to rub the cold out of their toes.  It also helped to “break the ice” as it provided the opportunity for new friends to get to know one another.


And as is familiar with many of our readers, any time there is a group ride someone will be showing off a new cycle-related gadget, article of clothing, or other doodad.  This ride it was Doug who took the victory with his new iPhone case, showing his handlebars wrapped in new-old stock carpet from the 1960’s, a lugged Nitto stem and an Ortlieb handlebar bag.

How cool is that?!