Tired of the bike trainer yet? Itching to get back out on the road?
Spin classes and trainer sessions can keep your fitness up, but for me they are no substitute for the pure joy of riding outside in the fresh air. I’ve been working on my winter riding game and looking for advice and company. How do you keep it fun when it’s freezing out?
There’s nothing like a group ride to get me out the door. Most local shop rides and groups take a break in the winter, but here are four road cycling groups in the St. Louis area that keep it rolling. All are eager to welcome new riders and have good advice for dealing with the elements.
Despite their name, Los Gobos (Grumpy Old Bikers on Sundays) are friendly folks. Their year-round Sunday morning ride from St. Luke’s Hospital in Chesterfield is a social pedal with stops along the way to regroup. “We keep the pace easy,” said Cathy Tyson. “If you ride hard on a Saturday, this is your recovery day.”
Los Gobos stop at the St. Louis Bread Company in Clayton for coffee, pastries and news of what is going on in everybody’s life before heading back. “It is always easier to get out and ride when you have a commitment to folks you like,” said Ken Wilson.
Pro tips from the group: try battery-powered heated socks and wear wicking layers on top with zippers you can open to keep from overheating and sweating.
They don’t go out in extreme weather, but if it’s in the 30s and dry you can usually count on this group to ride. They use a group email list to stay in touch. Send an email to LosGOBOSfirstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join in.
The Monthly Cycle
I was greeted warmly at the February Monthly Cycle ride, held the first Monday night of every month. Starting from the Gelateria on Grand, we pedaled downtown to Kiener Plaza and on through Lafayette Park and Tower Grove Park, stopping a few times to check in. The route varies each month, and the pace is conversational.
“We make sure people always have someone to ride with and nobody is left behind,” said Aubrey Byron. “We keep the pace easy and have a sweeper at the end.” The group works to foster an inclusive bicycling community for women and gender non-binary St. Louisans.
The ride wraps up at Tower Pub on Morganford, where the beer is cheap and the popcorn free.
Kathy Lovett, leader for the night, described some of the other fun rides planned this year, like the Diva Cup in October, “a city-wide team scavenger hunt and party on wheels.”
The group posts their events on a Facebook page, and riders offer great tips in their Facebook community on how to stay warm. Wool is popular for base layers, socks, balaclavas, even bras. Other suggestions include windproof jackets and tights, ski mittens and goggles, bar mitts and toe covers.
“The gear doesn’t have to be expensive,” said Byron. “Using grocery bags in your shoes can get you through a cold ride. Simple things like Hot Hands go a long way. The camaraderie helps too. You’ll hear, ‘Your toes are frozen? My toes are frozen. But we’re doing this!’”
Maryland Plaza Tuesday Night Riders
If it’s Tuesday night, you’ll find this group at the fountain on Maryland Plaza in the Central West End. They haven’t missed a week since the inaugural ride on the first Tuesday in January three years ago.
“We went out in a blizzard when we couldn’t see anything and made it four blocks before we stopped for a bite to eat and then headed back, but we counted it,” said Karen Karabell. She started the group to have fun and share safe cycling practices that she has learned as a CyclingSavvy instructor.
Karabell and her fellow leaders welcome riders and explain the L-O-V-E acronym for staying safe and having fun. L is for Lights on the front and back of every bike, and Leaders at the front and rear of the pack. O means Obey all traffic signals. V is for Vantage point and Visibility to be sure you can see and be seen. And E is for Enjoy. “This is the most fun you’ll have with your clothes on,” Karabell said.
“There are so many marvelous neighborhoods in our city. We’ll go up to 8 miles out to stop at a different restaurant every week.” Leaders post their destinations on the group’s Facebook page.
Karabell layers up for the cold and swears by her down coat. “There are no bad rides, only bad clothing.”
St. Louis Recreational Cyclists
If it’s not too cold or snowy, this group goes out on Saturday mornings from the Market Place in Columbia, Illinois. Rick Schuchet leads with a pace that’s a bit faster than the other groups.
“There’s very little traffic, and we can get up to 17 or 18 mph on the flats if there’s no wind.”
Schuchet bundles up with three layers on top, ski pants, hand warmers on his socks, shoe covers and a heavy buff around his face and neck. Pro tip: try surgical gloves under your bike gloves.
It’s been a tough winter for Saturday rides. Many have been cancelled due to bad weather, but if it’s decent out, they’ll go.
Wayne Marsh joined the group on the first Saturday in January. “We came to blow out the cobwebs that were clouding our minds and breathe the fresh air.”
The club’s website at www.stlrc.org has the latest on their schedule and a great library of cue sheets for routes in the area. Weekday rides will start in the spring, with a pace that varies from a slow to fast. A lunch or coffee stop is often part of the plan. “We always look to see who is new and make them feel welcome,” Marsh said.
More groups and shop rides will gear up in the spring, and Trailnet’s Dust-off Series is just around the corner starting March 9. In the meantime, these adventurous cyclists are helping to lower my standards for acceptable weather. Once you get past the first 10 minutes, you’re on your way.
Author: Janice Branham is a contributor to Terrain Magazine