The last leaf on the tree

If we had a pumpkin, there'd be frost on it.

If we had a pumpkin, there’d be frost on it.

Those first few cold days sure get a fella’s attention, and not just due to shrinkage, either.

A spate of subfreezing temps pretty much wrote finis to our fall foliage display, carpeting the sidewalk with defunct leaves, reminding me of a Tom Waits song, and inspiring Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) to take up winter quarters in a subordinate’s lap. Miss Mia Sopaipilla likewise reopened her seasonal penthouse atop the fridge.

Unlike the cats, Mister Boo adores chilly weather. It makes a peppy puppy of the little one-eyed stinkbug, who in the heat of summertime is about as frisky as a union ditch-digger being paid by the hour.

Me, I stand firmly with the cats. I got my fill of cold-weather cycling during 10 years of racing cyclo-cross, and once I abandoned that foolishness I usually did without the pedaling on damp, cold days but kept the running bits. Turns out they’re easier without a bike. Who knew?

Alas, since my knees began grousing, the running is out, so it’s either ride the trainer (barf), go back to swimming (puke) or ride the damn’ bike regardless of the temperature. It’s what you call your basic “First World problem,” for sure.

The leaves dropped like flies, and walking the Boo made a fine rustling sound.

The leaves dropped like flies, and walking the Boo made a fine rustling sound.

And y’know what? It’s not so bad, riding on a cold day, a lesson I relearn every fall.

Yesterday I chose medium-heavy kit — wool socks, leg warmers, long-sleeved jersey and henley, long-fingered gloves and tuque — and spent a pleasant 90 minutes riding the Voodoo Nakisi in Palmer Park, inspecting a few trails I haven’t visited since monsoon season began. Some are in pretty poor repair, though the city and volunteers have been doing what they can to put them back in order.

Last night’s light rain probably helped make them a bit more rideable — it left a crust of ice on our deck but likely tamped down the loose sand that blankets the trails after every heavy storm.

I might just have to get back in there today. The best thing about a brisk fall Monday is that most of the other sluggardly fat bastards are either at work or sleeping off a 24-hour case of Bronco fever.

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26 Responses to “The last leaf on the tree”

  1. Steve O Says:

    First rule of Army field traing is, you can always get warm, but you can’t get cold.

  2. Downhill Bill Says:

    The only thing worse than riding in winter is NOT riding in winter.

    BTW, I wear heavy wool socks all year long now. Better than the synthetics in really hot weather and rain. No wool shorts with actual leather chamois though, never making that mistake again.

  3. TominAlbany Says:

    Weather dopes are predicting 30F tomorrow night here in Albany, NY. Maybe then I can finish the raking – finally. Any more and my back may not let me back on the bike.

    So, my toes are what stop me riding in winter. Can’t find a way to keep them warm. Any ideas?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Tom, we have a drier winter than you folks, and less of it, too. I can generally get by with wool socks and fabric toe covers. Occasionally I have to reach for the neoprene toe covers, and sometimes either fabric or neoprene full booties.

      I’ve tried winter cycling shoes, but never found a pair that fit my feet properly.

      Some wizards say to make certain your feet are toasty warm before you begin a cold-weather ride. Others advise adding a thin polypro sock liner under your wool socks to wick moisture. Still others suggest ensuring that your head and torso are properly insulated, which keeps the body from drawing blood from the extremities to keep organs warm.

      And finally, a few folks I found online recommend powered heaters (more common among skiers) or chemical warmers (popular with hunters). I’d be wary of burning my tootsies with those bad boys, though.

    • weaksides (@weaksides) Says:

      Two pairs of socks instead of one is a start. Also wrapping your shoes with grocery bags under your shoe covers is another thing to try. If you really want to get crazy, get some of those disposable pocket warmer packets and put one on top of each shoe under the bags and shoe covers.

      One other option- although not for everyone of course- is to carry a flask of whisky, whiskey, or some other strong drink of choice and apply medicinally to ward of the chill, fear, etc.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Extremities were my cycling bane when I lived in NYS. I tried neoprene shoe covers and wool socks, but part of my problem was using my single pair of summer bike shoes, which were never meant to have thick socks in them, so they compressed my feet cutting down on circulation.

      My preference nowdays, when I don’t have to choose between bike shoes and Long Island’s legendary high utility prices (at least for a grad student), would be a half size large pair of cycling shoes that one could fit a thin inner sock and a wool sock, and for good measure it is is really cold, shoe covers. Especially as I recall Albany winters are a bitch compared to the more moderated climate out on eastern Lawn Guyland.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Sidi cyclo-cross shoes.Another possibility is doing without a clipless pedal/shoe combo. I’ve heard that a metal cleat, as in the Shimano SPD or Time ATAC, can funnel the cold from the outside world through the pedals and into your puppies.

      Thus, for truly evil weather, I still have an old pair of Sidi cyclo-cross shoes, with the wooden insole and thick rubber soles, and always have a couple old bear-trap pedals with toeclips and straps lying around. Or you could go with flat pedals and reg’lar shoes. But that might entail adjusting your saddle height a tad.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I would have thought toe straps would be problematic in cold as they further compress one’s feet, i.e., blood flow. Man, my last pair of shoes with actual old fashioned cleats on them met the waste bin when we moved from Honolulu.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Naw, we old-school ‘crossers keep them dudes loose, ’cause we’re eventually gonna be pulling both feet free for a run.

      • Dale Says:

        Old school clips & straps (loose) and the warmest shoes that will fit in them for me. I probably look like the younger brother in the movie “A Christmas Story”. but if I am warm I don’t care.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        Looking at those Sidis makes me kick myself for not saving those old Detto Pietros.

  4. John Dallager Says:

    OG: Which trails at Palmer Park do you ride? Some are pretty techy/gnarly and I agree with the post-flood RRR (Roots, Rocks, and Ruts).

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      John, I’m a sissy. I pretty much stick to Grandview, Palmer Point, Mesa, Yucca, Cheyenne, and all them little weirdo trails up top in the dog-walking area.

      Occasionally I’ll venture onto Kinnickinnick, and rarely onto selected sections of Templeton. But most of those two are too technical for a cyclo-cross bike. If I’m riding it, anyway.

      I never was much of a mountain biker, and ‘cross made me worse, not better, because it taught me that I could get off and run the scary bits. And the older I get, the scarier those bits get.

  5. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    Man, I love those De Feet Blaze wool socks. They feel so good. But, I started riding at 1300 today, and it was 78 degrees, so no need for anything but the standard summer dress. But, sooner or later, even us desert rats must layer up, especially for morning rides.

  6. Larry T. Says:

    DeFeet Woolie Boolies and winter cycling shoes for me! Still using an ancient pair from a brand who shall remain nameless (though they are ITALIAN of course) rather than booties and the like. Went out on the MTB on Saturday when it was not yet cold enough for all that stuff – but it IS now! Just like POG, I’ll grumble and put off getting out there for a bit, then consider those same choices and get my fat a__ out there sooner rather than later.

    • Patrick O'Brien Says:

      Hey Larry T. I just finished cleaning up after cooking lunch, and the house still smells like olive oil, garlic, basil, and romano cheese. Is this a bad thing?

      • khal spencer Says:

        What’s your address?

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        Hey Khal. I had never made an olive oil and garlic past sauce before. I have read this is a common sauce in Italy. I also added some chopped red bell pepper, chopped Vidalia onions, chopped roma tomatoes along with chopped basil, parsley and some of the pasta water. Then I tossed it all with the spaghetti, shredded romano and mozarella cheese. Add a boston lettuce and fresh kale salad, kalamata olive bread, and a cold Peroni, and you have lunch. If you are ever in Sierra Vista, you and yours are welcome.

      • Larry T. Says:

        Not as long as you didn’t burn the garlic! There’s nothing that says “bad-Italian-food” as much as the stench of burnt garlic. Too many cooks let it get past the sizzle in the pan with the oil……..and there’s NO going back. All you can do is start over.
        I still believe the best simple-to-make Italian recipe book is NIck Stellino’s original Cucina Amore.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        Hey Larry. No bitter garlic for us. I was warned by a number of recipes I read. I will check out that book.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Agree on the burnt garlic. Never a good idea to go do something else while sauteeing the garlic.

      • Larry T. Says:

        My friend Serafino Tomi of Viterbo, where we spent the winter a few years ago, used to tell me he enjoyed the classic pasta aglio, olio & pepperoncino as part of his dinner two nights each week. Some mornings when I’d stop by he’d still be fuming about the previous night when his wife somehow burnt the garlic. Despite his protests she’d refuse to throw it away and start over.
        I laughed when I thought of this old guy who was almost as snotty as I was when it came to this. No matter where I might be, if I’m outside an eating place and can smell that awful stench, I’m not going inside, as the folks in the kitchen either don’t know or don’t care about what they’re doing in there.

  7. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    Hey there. They have a pigeon named Lance in Belgium. Wonder if Johan is in pigeon racing now?

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