I broke one of my own rules yesterday: I rode a bike with the temperature below 40 degrees. But it was for a good reason. A tradition in my bike club is to ride a night through Silver Lake (an upscale neighborhood near where I live) to view the Christmas lights. As part of the tradition, riders are invited to decorate their bikes or their person accordingly.
In year’s past, this ride has motivated me to consider riding in the frigid temperatures because I love decorating for Christmas and I doubly love viewing Christmas lights. However, the one year that I came closest to actually doing the ride, the temperature was below 0F. That particular day is still regarded as one of those epically awful rides where a few members slipped on ice, another member never completely warmed after the ride, and someone else rode 200 feet before returning to his truck and, according to legend, sleeping until the rest of the riders came back.
In contrast, this winter has been extremely mild. We’ve only had a few light dustings of snow thus far and the temperatures have barely dropped to 25F. Since it was looking as though the day would be dry and in the 30s, I decided I would attempt the ride even though it was still a bit of a colder environment than I usually voluntarily ride in. Having a boyfriend who does not get stopped by colder temperatures (or even a blizzard–he was also at Ludicrously Cold Christmas Lights Ride mentioned above) is also motivation. So there was pretty much no doubt that I would do the ride.
I got especially excited when Crow showed me where I could find battery operated Christmas lights at the local Target. And they were on sale, even better! I bought two 9 foot strings of LED lights and happily strung them to the top and down tubes of my trail bike Mike. I have not ridden the Mike bike in quite some time, but I recently had him tuned up at Century Cycles. I’d been dying to take him out for awhile but hadn’t had a good occasion to do so. As added inspiration, I grabbed some scrap garland I had in my Christmas decorations and threaded it about the handlebars.
I was so excited when I saw my bike all decorated like that. Crow also had lights on his bike–some blue LEDs he’d bought the year of the Ludicrously Cold Christmas Lights Ride. I gave him another piece of garland which he also added to his handlebars. We were all set to ride in the spirit of the season.
When I arrived at the ride (which started at Marty’s Bike Shop in Stow), I was happy to see that others had also decorated their bikes. The best, though, was my “surrogate father” (inside joke), Ernie, who had placed a whole mini Christmas tree–complete with lights–on back of the seat on his recumbent. As we rode down the streets of Silver Lake in the dark, I felt like I was chasing a running Christmas tree (which was a funny imagine in and of itself). You couldn’t see Ernie behind the spectacle of the tree.
Quite a good turn out of the ride as well–about 12 people! I think that’s probably a record number of riders to show up for this ride and I am sure it had to do with the mild temperatures.
We did make quite an impression where-ever we went. As we passed one decorated house, we could see a party taking place inside and the guests were peering out the windows at us and pointing. Several people walking dogs or in passing cars shouted, “Merry Christmas!” as we passed. We even shouted it at passers-by, but I admit that I felt a little bad starting it without the spectator saying it first… Is it bad for us all to assume everyone is celebrating Christmas? What if the passers-by were Jewish or Muslim? I felt a little guilty and ethnocentric. I hoped that no one took it the wrong way, like we were some sort of pushy Christian group trying to put the Christ back into Christmas… I can’t help it–I’m a liberal and I’m always worried about offending other people. Even on a small thing like a Christmas ride. But it’s food for thought. I have many friends from many different faiths and lifestyles… So I’m doubly aware of diversity. I wanted to shout a general “Happy Holidays!” but I guess when you’re in a group of people, you hate to be the one dork with sensitivity training ruining the fun for everyone else. I’m really bad at trying to set an example for others. I also do my best to blend into whatever group I’m amongst.
Anyway, the lights were spectacular. Especially in the more affluent sections of town. I admit that I’m not a huge fan of those blow up lawn ornaments–I think they are kind of gaudy–and it seems that most of the affluent members of the community agreed. I have no problem, however, with tons and tons and tons of lights. Such decoration makes the night look enchanting and mysterious. I especially love those soft blue LED lights–they are like starlight sparkling on snow. I would love to decorate my entire house with them because they twinkle in the night air like a pocketful of stars. I could have my own little universe on my own little house!
I have to admit that it just felt so good to be back on a bike after all this time (I think the last time I rode was Thanksgiving weekend when I rode with Crow’s aunt and uncle around their neighborhood). The Mike bike felt so upright and sturdy. I forgot what it feels like to ride such a cushy bike. Since the positioning of the bike puts my back straight and my hands directly forward, that characteristic little ache I get in my shoulder (which is part of the arthritis) was completely absent. My friend Bob W (TDB) smartly suggested that I ride TOSRV on the Mike bike next year. Ha, ha. No way. It would take me all day. (The problem with comfort bikes is that you don’t get anywhere very fast.)
It was a great way to end the weekend, that’s for sure. I guess there’s one good thing about having such a mild winter so far: I can still enjoy a good bike ride here and there. I remember a few years back–2006, I think–when it was so warm (meaning, above 40 degrees) on Christmas Eve that I was able to go out and get in about 15 miles. That’s the latest I’ve ever rode my bike since I started riding obsessively. It’s looking like that might be possible to do this year as well…
I’m really glad I braved (what is to me) the cold to take part in this ride. Perhaps if the weather is agreeable next year, I’ll find myself doing it again. I admit that I really enjoyed riding with Christmas lights on my bike. I wish I could ride with lights on my bike all the time… Perhaps I’ll use the lights again for a night ride on the towpath in the summer with Century Cycles…