With the words “this will be the death of the hobbits” ringing in my ears, I put on one layer after another, getting ready to test my recently mud-tested Cannondale CAADX in snow. It’s not just any snow out there, it’s bring the mountain down snow. Thick, fluffy and delicious looking, you can bet just about every boarder or skier in Canada would love to be out there too.
Not so sure about every biker, but I have enlisted the help of one of my trusty Montreal adventure seekers to join me on a little ramble around town. The kicker? It’s -15, snowing heavy, 30+cm on the ground already and any sentient being with half an ounce of common sense is snuggled up in bed. I forgot to mention it’s only about 7am and still pitch black.
I have a cage fighter’s relationship with winter in Montreal – I refuse to let it beat me, so facing the elements is my light to keep me sane. I get beat, I get bruised, but at least I don’t go stir crazy, which is a real problem in winter months.
After the obligatory selfies and loving jeers from my wife and daughter, I spin out to Sherbrooke which is as quiet and serene as you can imagine. If you’ve never been in a snowstorm, other than the wind, it’s very quiet. No rain pounding on things, no echoes of anything and the snow dampens down any ambient noise. You can almost hear your heart beating in your throat.
My bike handles surprisingly well in the snow – it thawed a lot the night before, so much of the surface is fresh fall or fresh back on dry roads and pavements. There are some slippy sections, and the bike doesn’t handle well when I get into rutted tracks. But this is expected. I use my butt like a rudder, navigating my little boat through the storm and uphill to meet my friend.
It’s too cold to linger and check my social media, so I patrol up and down the block, like a senseless submarine. It’s fun to see the look on passing driver’s faces. Something between horror and amusement. Most people drive like crap in the snow here, so I give everyone a ride berth.
After meeting up with my friend, we chit very short chat and then get going, basically dumping the idea of a mountain climb for a short “smooth” run downtown. It’s a bit easier on the main roads, and since he’s on a 26er and I’m on a CX bike, there’s only so much terrain we can expect to cover. I think next time will plan to rent a fat bike, but that’s another story.
If you know Montreal and you know Dr Penfield then you can imagine me, on a CX bike, in a January snowstorm, scootering on one pedal clipped in and one foot down on the road, sliding along like an imbecile at 30km/hr. Should I know better? Yes. I should. But it was so much fun, c’est tout.
I cannot say riding in a snowstorm is easy, or enjoyable even. But it was immensely rewarding and satisfying. It’s a primitive feeling of conquest; one where the music swells and rises to heroic levels, and you are caught, in the weak winter morning light, shivering in a moment that you know will never come again.
It reminds you that you are alive.