What should I wear? What route will I take? Which paths are rideable? When will it get dark? Do I need to take a light with me? Are the batteries charged? How long can I handle it in the cold? Do I really have to clean the bike afterwards? It can be exhausting to consider everything when you’re riding gravel in the winter. It can be a love-hate relationship. You want to get out and gravel but at the same time, it is difficult to get off the couch. Especially if you don't have a trainer indoors and don't have the choice between “warm living room” or “cold, wet and gray something.” If I want to get on the bike, I have to get out quickly, before I even have a chance to start second guessing it.
Fill up your bottles, grab an energy bar, double-check your bike, and then the fun really starts. “Layering is the key” as it is so eloquently referenced on Instagram, so I put on my three million layers. 2 pairs of socks - in between a plastic bag so that the feet stay warm longer - then I put on shoes and briefly have a moderate crisis because everything is much too snug and binds a bit.Lastlypull the overshoes on and you're done. 2 pairs of gloves on and off you go!
As I ride, all kinds of thoughts are flying through my head. From “Wow, this is nice!” to “I can't feel my hands anymore” to “Why am I doing this to myself?”. Right now, I don't ride more than 50-60km because anything beyond that is too strenuous for me. Even the breaks are stressful. I force my teeth through the hard energy bar, take a sip of ice-cold water and try to enjoy the beautiful landscape while my fingers keep freezing to death. Take off the glove and put it on again. Oh, I have to check the route again, so I take off my gloves once more. The first kilometers after the break are always tough, because your body always cools down after a 5-minute break, no matter how hard you dance back and forth.
Why, in spite of these little and big challenges, can nothing stop me from winter gravel riding? Easy answer: at the end of the day, the feeling of “wow, that's nice!” clearly outweighs everything else and is why I keep going. I also like the thought of knowing that most people are probably enjoying the warmth inside and that I willingly fight my way through the cold and, in the worst case, through the wind and rain. Every weather has its advantages and with this it is clearly the loneliness on the paths, the chirping of the birds, the wind in the trees, the smell of the coniferous forest ... It means moving out of my comfort zone every time. Meanwhile, I've never regretted it.
Regret usually only comes when I arrive at my warm apartment and see what my bike and I look like. Only then do I wonder if all of this was worth spending a few hours outside in the mud and then spending the same amount of time cleaning. And my answer is always: yes. Definitely.
Cycling means freedom - and I don't want to be deprived of that, even in winter.
Illustration: Jule Kritzelt | jule-kritzelt.de