As roads in the area continue to clear and forecasts indicate even more melting in the coming days, we’re back with another Freezing Saddles talk. Today’s edition features Caleb, a Friday Coffee Club regular who lives in Maryland and rides daily into the District– all year round.
Caleb is a proponent of the Keep It Simple Stupid principle for riding through the winter and, like Carol, includes helpful gear and bike tips for making winter it all work.
Thanks, Caleb, for being part of this series. Could you give us all a little background about you?
I’m a husband, father of two girls, and a United States Coast Guardsman. I come from a famous-in-the-80’s BMX family.
I’ll ride anything that gets me stoked, but practical transportation gets me more and more stoked every year.
Caleb, I know you do a lot of miles doing the week. It’s impressive! How do you manage to fit in this level of daily mileage?
It’s generally just my daily commute during the work week – Silver Spring to Southeast DC and back. I augment it here and there with training/group rides and D.C. Randonneurs brevets. But mainly these are routes I’ve been riding since 2010 when I moved out of D.C.
What kind of riding do you generally do during the winter months?
Winter is a time to take to the trails – gravel, fire trail, single track… hobo trails, etc.
Winter roads are just tedious (until they are terrifying), but of course exceptions can be made for the “epic group ride”.
What inspired you to join Freezing Saddles (Bike Arlington Freezing Saddles, or BAFS)?
Eric Williams, the BAFS 2015 winner, lives down the road from me.
He and our Downtown Silver Spring Coffee Club-ers finally convinced me that I needed to show the community how much riding we do in Silver Spring, Maryland. So, I joined for civic pride, I guess :).
This is my first year doing Freezing Saddles. By now, I’m convinced that it’s a great data point for local bike advocates.
What is your approach to Freezing Saddles?
I have a personal goal based on my available time and fitness level. I don’t really compete with others, but I most certainly track what others do in the mileage and climbing categories.
I find it fascinating to see how my commute stacks up to others. It’s easy to think that you’re the only one out there. But with Freezing Saddles, you get a daily reminder that you are not.
It’s normalizing, really.
As part of Freezing Saddles, you must also be a Strava user. How do you like using Strava?
I started Strava specifically for Freezing Saddles. I didn’t even ride with a cycle computer before this past year.
I like the social aspect of Strava, but I don’t know enough about the many other features to offer an opinion.
Let’s talk winter riding! First, what bikes do you ride during winter months?
My primary winter bike is a 2012 Salsa Fargo. Love it. To. Death.
I really like the tire clearance, the friction bar end shifters, and the Shimano XT components. It’s rock solid, and a true monster cross build I’m proud to call mine.
My daily ride, and my brevet bike, is a 2011 Trek Madone. The Madone harkens back to simpler times when manufacturers could only afford to produce one type of carbon rig.
In the early 2000s, Trek wisely chose to produce a timeless all-arounder – the Madone. I love its handling, light-weight frame, the wheels, and the CALIPER BRAKES.
I rarely ride my 2007 Surly Steamroller since I moved to the burbs. But it happens. Flip/flop hub, fatties fit fine, QBP goodness.
What clothing and cycling gear do you consider essential for riding through the winter?
I believe in the KISS method – Keep It Simple Stupid.
- Solid/dependable winter bike with a capacity for MTB/studded tires. Mine is a Salsa Fargo.
- Winter cycling boots – 45North Japanthers for me please 🙂
- Bar Mitts – warmer hands with lighter weight gloves (under the Bar Mitts) are invaluable across many miles. Buy them.
- Cycling cap and balaclava combo that works for you. I’m a sucker for warm ears, a warm chin, and a brim to shield my glasses and eyes from lights and debris.
- Insulated bib tights that don’t bind the legs – not as easy as it sounds.
- Base layer top that blocks wind in front and vents heat out the back.
- Versatile riding jacket – packability, vents, weather proof (pick two then augment as needed).
What kind of lights and reflective-wear do you use for shorter days.
I am a huge fan of Cygolite front and rear lights. Great design, a mode for every need, USB rechargeable.
I believe in reflecting the “cycling motion” with your gear. In my opinion, this is most easily accomplished in all directions with reflective ankle bands.
What’s so great about riding through the winter?
I’m a natural Clydesdale (+200lbs) and I tend to have a heavy pedal. Winter riding is like riding in an ice bath; my muscles find that rejuvenating.
But there is also a unique beauty to the outdoors in the winter, not to be missed.
Any circumstances in which you will not ride?
Family commitments keep me from riding sometimes. Work commitments, not so much. Riding is very much a part of my daily work routine. This is known.
What question did I forget to ask you that I should have?
Potomac River or Anacostia River? Anacostia FTW!
Okay, now I have to ask why?
It’s a simple question of one’s cycling preferences. The Anacostia, and its tributaries, are meandering and flat, while the Potomac cuts deep with many climbs on either side. I prefer the flats over the climbs.
But I do understand that there is a kind of geo-political context for the question. It just so happens that I, in the non-cycling context, do in fact live off a tributary of the Anacostia – Sligo Creek – and I also work east of the river.
What would you say to somebody who is interested in riding through the winter, but doesn’t know where to start?
“JUST DO IT!” à la Shia LeBeouf and/or Nike.
Love the freezing saddles series! So many great stories out there.
Thanks for sharing these interviews with winter cyclists, Mary! In my local area it is easy to feel alone on the road during the colder months so it makes me smile to know that there are many people like Caleb who also bike through the winter.
This story was pretty neat.
There are quite a few winter riders in my small town. I’m sure it’s because of the connecting bike paths that can let a social rider get up to a 15 mile ride traffic free.