Winter riding to me is one of the best times of year to ride. This may sound crazy to someone who lives in Northern California whose idea of cold is 40 degrees. I spent a few summers in SF and when they would pull out the full North Face parka because it was "cold" I used to just shake my head and laugh inside. Being a fairly crusty New Englander I may have muttered a few less than flattering things under my breath. The point is winter riding doesn't have to be something to be feared or dreaded. And you don't have to sit on a trainer for 3 hours watching episode after episode of Breaking Bad. To me its a Zen like experience. Everything slows down. You have to accept the Buddhist principal that "Life is Suffering." To me the suffering you may endure riding through a New England winter is the "right" type of suffering. The type that reminds you that you are alive. You feel cold. What you do with that feeling is where the Zen comes in. Its easy to retract like a child when they put their finger too close to a fire. Or you can just accept it and say ok I am cold. Then let it pass. What you get for your "suffering" can not be measured. Riding slows down. Some of it may be because of the cold or the roads are icy and there isn't much of a shoulder because of the 3 foot high snow banks. Safety is an issue. So you slow down and ride with a sense of purpose that maybe you don't during summer. The roads are less crowded with other cyclists, joggers, dog walkers and even drivers. During winter in New England people tend to slow down. They cocoon a bit so we get more space on the roads than in summer.
Winter riding has always been a big part of what HUP is all about. Yes we are a cyclocross racing team first and foremost. That will never change but when cross season ends its like a switch flips and we pull our road bikes out or put slicks on the cross bike. We add fenders with mudflaps. We dig out the wool and the layers. So much of winter riding is a sort of DIY affair. I love all the weird homemade mudflaps you see on winter bikes. I love seeing people rocking scarves or modifying wool hats to act as neck muffs. You do what you have to do to ride safe and to be warm. My own kids mock me about how long it takes me to get out the door for a ride in winter. But I love it. It is a self selecting pursuit similar to big wave surfing. That may be a stretch to some but I see it. I have nothing against the droves of cyclists who emerge from their winter hibernation at the first warm spring weekend. And I love how much cycling has grown in the last couple of years. But it can get pretty crazy out there. Casual cyclists do not ride in winter. I hate the whole hardman/hardwoman thing. Its silly. We do this as a hobby and cause we love cycling not because we are tough. I like all the preparation that goes into winter riding. But it takes it toll on the bikes. And a lot of times modifying a cross bike or road bike for dedicated riding is less than optimal. I like clip on fenders but they aren't that nice. And they can slip.
I can't count the amount of times I have had conversations with my friends about how cool it would be to have a winter bike. We go over all that it would be and how it would ride. It would need to be steel. It would need to be able to handle any road or condition. Full fenders with mudflaps are a must. Big gears. Lots of tire clearance. Bomb proof and reasonably light. And then the conversation quickly turns to the types of rides we would take it on. Rapha Gentleman's Rides, D2R2, gravel rides. That is also one of the joys of winter riding. Its very conversational. No one is on a "training" plan the rides are more social. So you have time to talk about the important things in life like winter bikes!
So when Rob Vandermark of Honey asked me what bikes HUP would like for the HUP Honey Project the first bike I asked for was a winter bike. My good friend Roger loves gravel rides and has been focusing a lot on brevet style randos. The description of what we'd like the winter bike to be was basically a dream bike scenario. Winter bike meets do everything bike. We didn't really know what to expect. What is so amazing about working with Rob is you can give him a concept or vision and he just runs with it and produces something way beyond your expectations. Rob asked me some questions over the course of the production cycle but was pretty secretive about what the bike would look like. At the launch party for the bikes at the Ride Studio Cafe the one bike everyone couldn't stop talking about was the Winterando. It really was the embodiment of the bike so many of us have dreamt of.
Roger talked with Rob about the bike and they did a fit. The timing for the "test" ride was perfect. Mo Bruno Roy invited us all on a birthday ride to celebrate her husband Matt's 40th called the Ronde de Roy 40. Most test rides for bikes involve the sales person adjusting saddle height and sending you out into the parking lot and telling you not to get it dirty. How can you test ride a bike without taking it on an actual ride? Its actually not possible. You need to take a bike on a ride that mirrors your intended use. No other way to see if the bike works for you and what you want to do with it. Taking a bike you have never ridden on a 50+ mile group ride in a snow storm on icy roads has disaster written all over it. I assumed Roger would have to stop and adjust the bike every 5 minutes. He never stopped once. He was at the front all day. The bike fit him like it was a bike he'd had for years. After an hour I forgot he'd never ridden the bike before and would just follow his line through all the potholes and ice berms.
Visually the bike is stunning. No other way to say it. We have big plans for this bike. Or Roger does. I am hoping to tag along on a lot of these adventures in the coming months. On Saturday, April 6th at 10:00 am we will depart from the Ride Studio to undertake the "Diverged Ride" Its a ride that will showcase just what a versatile bike like the Honey Winterando is all about. All are welcome with the caveat that you must be prepared for what the ride will entail. Its an adventure ride covering 100k of pavement, gravel, dirt and rocks. About 50k unpaved. It sounds like heaven to me.