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Differences of Opinion

The riding in New England this weekend was variable, but any riding in early March in this region is appreciated, and Sunday proved to be banner. We left Boston and headed out west as a group of six. And while the temperature was relatively balmy for the season, the wind was fierce, so we set out on a course that would be somewhat protected. As such we rode on backroads, some of which were sheltered by overhanging trees, and consequently covered in packed snow and ice in varying degrees of melt.

The first sector of this nature that we encountered shattered the peloton of six into differing degrees of gusto. It took a bit of figuring out, but essentially you just point the wheel and keep the cadence steady. You do what you can, but there where at least a couple of sections which I figured to be binary, either up or down, 0 or 1. In these situations you can just tack straight and hope to hit a sun-softened patch that will give you some purchase. At one point an oncoming Volvo flew through and I think we all appreciated the extra effort those Swedes put into safety and traction control as the car hugged their side of the road to avoid the riders that were spread across.

Regrouping after the first section, we pressed on towards another covered backroad where we paused again to discuss whether we should proceed over the snow or take an alternate route involving a more trafficked secondary road. To my surprise, some were not keen on riding another snow-covered road. With the promise of the halcyon summer days of riding and racing ahead, there was some concern over the possibility of a broken collarbone. A fair concern indeed, as a pedal stroke on the trainer in January made obsolete due to a broken bone in early March is a tragedy beyond thinking. But fretting aside, riding a road bike in dilapidating conditions is one of the great thrills in life. Maybe it’s because it channels the hardmen of the cobbled classics, cyclocross, or a time in which bikes were routinely used on rough rodes out of necessity. In any case, I had a blast on the previous section and was eager to hit another one. So I tried to sell this and the whole of the group begrudgingly obliged.

This section was curvy, hilly and more affected by the sun and was akin to spring skiing. We passed some cross-country skiers crossing the road and they tipped their hats, one more surprised than the other to see cyclists descending a snow and slush covered road. We cleared this sector and moved onto drier roads for the return trip home.

A couple of us later convened at All Asia in Cambridge to watch others spin-it-to-win-it at the Boldsprint roller races. Sipping beers and sitting on the excuse of a 4 hour ride* earlier in the day as a reason not to participate, we rehashed the ride. I froze mid-sip when my good friend was saying what a great ride it was in spite of the snow sections, the very sections that I felt made it great. He cited a break in pace and unnecessary lowering of the heart rate to adapt to and deal with the sketchy conditions, let alone risk trashing the whole season that lies ahead. Touché. I just find it interesting that two enthusiasts can react so differently to an aspect of a sport they love.

"You can put road tires on a cyclocross bike, but you can't put cyclocross tires on a road bike."

*This excuse was obliterated by the WC, who won the event after a partaking in a 6 hour ride earlier in the day. Nice one!
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