At the encouragement of my randonneur and real life spouse, I signed up for a D.C.-area winter cycling challenge called Freezing Saddles. Now in its fourth or fifth year, Freezing Saddles has woven itself into the fabric of the local cycling community, such that it feels like it has always been here.
The challenge began on January 1 and runs until the first day of spring on March 20– one of my favorite days! All participants are divided into teams of around 10 or so people. The full set of rules is here, and a shorter summary follows below:
1) Scoring: You earn 10 points each day that you ride (one mile minimum per day to count for your daily points). You earn an additional one point for every mile.
The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
2) Game runs 00:00:01am January 1 through 23:59:59 pm March 19.
3) Trainer rides don’t count. Take your bike outside and ride it some distance across the surface of the earth in order to earn points.
4) Rides made while travelling out of the area do count. On vacation somewhere warm? Lucky you! Find a bike and ride it for some points.
5) Rides made on E-assist (but not solely electric/motor powered) bikes do count. Also rides made on vaguely bike-like human-powered vehicles.
Felkerino recently wrote a post about “Kicking that Rut Right in the Butt” in the new year, and I am following suit in my own small ways, including joining the Freezing Saddles fray earlier this month.
As the facilitator of challenges like the Errandonnee (coming in March!) and Coffeeneuring, Freezing Saddles was a great opportunity to give another cycling-oriented game with a strong social element a try.
While similar in the social aspect and a general set of rules (though not nearly as many rules as a proper Chasing Mailboxes challenge), Freezing Saddles is distinct to my challenges in many ways. It covers a longer timeframe; requires tracking of rides and miles on Strava; takes less paperwork (!); and all members must also be part of teams.
I thought the challenge would encourage me to pedal more miles during the winter months. Last year I rode 300 miles per month from January through March. Part of the reason for this low monthly mileage was due to circumstances that necessitated time off the bike, but some of it was because I just wasn’t feeling the whole cycling thing.
So to give the rut a kick, I made a last-minute appeal to join Freezing Saddles. I was a little late to the Freezing Saddles party (joining on January 8, compared to the official January 1 start), and the volunteers graciously made space for me one of the 21 teams. You can find me on Team 4: The Fourth Awakens.
Freezing Saddles posts a regularly updated leaderboard where teams can see their rankings in the overall standings. The Freezing Saddles Strava group also allows participants to see how they stack up against others in terms of weekly and overall miles.
As a Freezing Saddles and Strava noob, I’m intrigued to see how the team and the leaderboard elements play out. So far, Freezing Saddles hasn’t made me want to tear around town collecting extra miles and climbing all the nearby hills, but I have managed to eek out the minimum one-mile ride for all days I have participated in the challenge.
I feel I owe at least a minimum daily ride to my team, whenever I can. Why do I feel I owe them? Because I’m part of the team, and riding a mile each day is something I can usually do. If it wasn’t for my team, though, I don’t know that I would attempt to ride every day.
As for the individual Freezing Saddles leaderboard on Strava, I haven’t been too sucked in. I’m intrigued to see how much some people ride on a daily basis, especially those who commute in from outside the District, but I haven’t ridden any more miles in response to their relatively high totals.
Generally speaking I’m a short-distance D.C. transportation cyclist during the week and I like it that way. If the spirit moves me, you might find me on Hains Point for an evening lap – looking for the fox, admiring the moon, and running from the raccoons – but it’s only ever an option.
Freezing Saddles and the new year inspired me to establish weekly mileage goals for cycling and running, and my aim is to use Freezing Saddles to increase accountability for my personal riding goals. As Felkerino says, the brevets are won in the winter, and I’d like to be stronger for them this year than I was in 2015. Maybe you’ll see me on Hains Point more often now, working in an extra mile or three. Maybe.
New year, new you. I don’t buy that crap. In the new year, I’m still the same me, and certain parts of my day-to-day must continue as before. But activities like goal-setting and Freezing Saddles can refresh the everyday, and who knows where these little changes will take me.