Monday, February 21, 2011

Cycling in PA in February

I went for a ride this weekend, my first of the new year. It was an altogether awesome experience, but it occurs to me a primer on riding in Pennsylvania might be helpful. Some things to know:

1) The myth of tailwinds. There is a belief that if you ride into a headwind for the first half of your ride, it would necessarily follow that you would have a tailwind for the ride home. That rule applies where the rules of physics have, at the very least, some hold. That being said, this is the state that delivered Rick Santorum to Washington, so if you're thinking the rules of physics, or any form of what might be loosely construed as common sense, applies here, you're clearly mistaken. It was about 65 degrees, but with a front moving in, the winds whipped up to more than 50 miles per hour. At one point I almost got blown off the bike. The ride out was into a headwind. The ride back was spent dealing with a crosswind. The tailwind that should have been blowing me homeward, like a cycling Odysseus, was nowhere to be found. Still, I pedaled onward, clipping out after 20 miles.

2) There are three distinct seasons in Central PA. Summer, which is characterized by 90+ degree heat and 90+ percent humidity. Winter, which would be that season of ice, snow, slush, near Arctic temperatures. It's said if you can survive these two seasons in Pennsylvania, you're pretty much prepared to live anywhere. They neglect to mention the in-between time, known locally as Pothole Season. You'll recognize its beginnings when black ice and permafrost are no longer a daily thing; there is an occasional day where a bright orb, known in America as the Sun, can be seen occasionally in the sky; and people actually go outside for activities other than shoveling snow. This may or may not coincide with advice given by a certain groundhog from Punxatawney, PA which people recognize not so much as a prediction of future weather so much as one more excuse to drink and form a liquid barrier from the cold. We grow potholes in PA, and we grow them both large and plentiful. There are not a lot of advantages to testicular cancer, but one of them is that when you hit a Central PA pothole, you have a 50% better chance of surviving it intact than the average American male. Score one for me and Lance.

3) That first warm day is a lie. We had 65 degrees on Friday. It was 40 degrees on Sunday. Tonight we are looking at another 6 inches of snow. They say if you don't like the weather in Central PA, wait fifteen minutes. I don't think you usually need to wait that long. Honestly. Still, I got my ride in on Friday and a run in today, in anticipation that any semblance of outdoor-friendly weather was just a mirage. Sure enough, the mirage his rapidly disappearing.

So, if you're looking to ride in the area, I'm hoping this helps. And, if you're looking for a riding partner, I'll be the guy in the parka on the blue Cannondale. look for me at the bottom of a pothole.


Slingblade9119 said...

Cycling in Pa in February is not for the faint of heart! Its an activity that is pretty much limited to Irishmen! :)

Now...if you want to MOTORcycle in Pa - may I suggest:

Behr Whitewash said...

"That's first warm day is a lie".. aint that the truth!

Thanks for the primer.. Now if you could come over to my house and pick my lazy butt up and throw it on my bike that would be a big help!

fishmagic said...

I'm not sure I understand the problem, but I will gladly offer you a straw, so you can suck it up.