Ready for Spring, But In the Meantime: A Freezing Saddles Chat With Lisa S.

Snow falls outside my window, coinciding perfectly with another Freezing Saddles & Winter Cycling talk with my friend Lisa S.

I met Lisa many years ago now, through randonneuring. We also used to be neighbors in the city for a time, but Lisa relocated so that she could have a longer commute. Okay, not for that, but as a result of moving, her commute IS longer!

Thanks so much, Lisa, for talking Freezing Saddles and winter cycling with me today. Tell me a little about your riding.

I moved to D.C. about 6 1/2 years ago, and started doing a lot of biking a year later. I commute by bike daily, mostly as part of a multi-modal commute that also includes walking and taking the Metro.

I have participated in several organized (and unorganized) group rides and a few randonneuring brevets.

Lisa's Specialized. All photos courtesy of Lisa S.
Lisa’s Specialized. All photos courtesy of Lisa S.
What kind of riding do you generally do during the winter months?

I primarily do commuting rides during the winter.

What inspired you to join Freezing Saddles the first time?

I kept hearing about Freezing Saddles from my BikeDC friends, and didn’t know what they were talking about. It sounded like some kind of elite club or something. I joined to see what all the fuss was.

How many times have you done the challenge and what’s your approach to it?

This is my second year. I’m riding in the winter anyway, so I figured it was a good way to pass the time.

My current approach is to ride when I feel like it and see what happens. It’s a very laid back approach, and consequently I don’t earn very many points to really help out the team.

I mostly compete against myself (as I do with other things) to see what I’m able to accomplish, but I find myself looking at the individual scoreboard to see how I rank. As long as I’m not at the very bottom, I feel like I’m doing okay.

What do you enjoy most about Freezing Saddles?

Last year, I really enjoyed the camaraderie of our team. I had joined a team where my teammates and I lived not too far from each other, so we got together for beer and dinners occasionally, which was fun. This year, I’m enjoying playing bicycle tag.

As part of Freezing Saddles, you must also be a Strava user. How do you like using Strava?

I like using Strava in order to keep track of my bike riding and running. (I also use another site to keep stats as well.) I like that my BikeDC friends are on it so that I can see what they’re up to.

What’s so great about riding through the winter?

I work in an office without windows. I need some time to be outside every day, even in the winter, or I go nuts.

Studded tires.
Studded tires.
Let’s talk winter riding! What bike do you use for winter riding?

I have a Specialized Tricross. It’s been my go-to commuting bike, all year round. I like it because it’s sturdy yet nimble, and customizable. I have fenders and a rear rack on it.

I also just installed some studded tires. They have not yet been tested. I’ll have to report back and let you know how they’re working.

What clothing and cycling gear do you consider essential for riding through the winter?

In the winter, I tend to wear regular clothes on my rides because they’re warm, and because I hate changing clothes at work anyway. Some things that I wear particularly for the cold are:

  • 3-in-1 jacket (REI)
  • long underwear (silk or midweight synthetic top, midweight leggings)
  • wool socks
  • boots (regular boots with grippy soles)
  • lobster gloves (Pearl Izumi)
  • fleece neckwarmer that a friend made for me
  • wool hat that goes over my ears (Ibex)
  • biking fleece-lined pants that I wear over my regular pants when it gets down to single-digit temperatures (Pearl Izumi)

I’m waiting for a mask to come by mail. I had a lot of respiratory problems last year, I think caused by inhaling ice crystals and salt, so I’m hoping this will help.

Lisa's winter gear
Lisa’s winter gear
What kind of lights and reflective-wear do you use for shorter days?

What I use:

I was thinking of buying some Monkey Lights because I think they’re fun.

Reflective gear.
Lisa’s reflective gear.
Is there a threshold below which you will not ride? 

I have ridden in single digit temperatures (for a short distance), so temperature is not an issue for me. (I’ve won a Pointless Prize for this. Info on Pointless Prizes here)

Thanks for mentioning the Pointless Prizes, Lisa! I hadn’t known about these fun challenges within the Freezing Saddles challenge. Some creative ways to connect with other riders and make Freezing Saddles even more interesting!

I have more problems with ice, and will not bike if my route is very icy. My street and those nearby are not always plowed, so they get iced over after a fair amount of use.

The trails I use also do not get plowed. I slipped and fell on a ride last year, so I have in the past avoided the trails until they are free of ice. I’m not confident the studded tires will be sufficient– we shall see.

What would you say to somebody who is interested in riding through the winter, but doesn’t know where to start?

The things that are important for winter riding (which you’ve alluded to in your questions) are wearing the right amount of clothing (for you) to stay comfortable in colder temperatures, being visible when it gets darker, and being safe on snowy/icy roads and trails.

I did a lot of reading suggestions online and talking to folks on what to do. It ultimately depends on your comfort level– don’t be afraid to experiment, but there’s no shame at all in being cautious.

What question did I forget to ask you that I should have?

Are you ready for spring? Why yes, yes I am.

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