I’ve been riding my new Pugsley bicycle during this recent cold wave.
Maybe you’ve seen the distinctive bike: it’s the one with the super fat, four-inch tires. Made by Surly, it’s the all-terrain, monster truck assassin assault vehicle of the pedal set. I got mine at my favorite local shop, Sugar Bottom Bikes.
The fat, thick-treaded, soft tires (only 15 psi) go over bumps, curbs, tree stumps, craters, snow piles, Dachshunds (just kidding) and just about anything else you aim it at with nary a shimmer in the handlebar. Matched with mountain bike geometry, the Pugsley is designed from the get-go to be the big bad boy on the block. Ride places where you wouldn’t dream going on lesser rims.
I pedal five miles to Hy-Vee for breakfast and avoid doing anything big or bad other than slathering my scrambled eggs with ketchup and hot sauce. In my younger days I used to do things like pop wheelies or break hard on the rear wheel during a turn to get a “skitch out,” but now that I’m 61 bike riding is all about not crashing or falling or in any way getting hurt. And that’s why I love this new bike: it’s extremely stable even on the snow, ice and wiener dogs that are everywhere this time of year in Iowa.
People say I’m crazy venturing out in minus-15 degrees but it really isn’t that bad. The trick is in what you wear.
I start with an old fashioned, one piece, flap in the back, red cotton union suit covered by another set of long underwear, this one a two-piece and made of silk. Fleet and Farm meets Frederick’s. The silk underwear is not some kind of metrosexual fetish, in case you’re wondering; it’s a smart thing to stuff in your panniers in the event of unexpected cool weather. It’s light, warm and takes up only a few square inches of space. Plus, you never know when you’ll be asked to spend the night in a Geisha house. Over the silk I put sweatpants on my legs and sweatshirt on upper body. Over all of this I don brown wind-breaking bib overalls and my usual, and also brown, winter coat.
That leaves the extremities, which need extra consideration.
On my feet I wear thick socks and camouflaged hunting boots with a generous layer of Thinsulate™. For my hands I have black mittens with extra long gauntlets made of an even more generous layer of Thinsulate™. Next, I pull two balaclavas over my head.
The balaclava gets its designation from a town in Russia by the same name. During the Crimean War, a British unit showed up with their tea sets but no warm weather gear. Locals from the town knit and gave the troops the traditional head covering they’d been wearing to stave off Siberian cold for generations. The soldiers nicknamed them balaclava helmets.
There’s no town named Thinsulate™.
Whatever, I have two of them. One is black, thin and made of nylon; the other knitted thick and bright orange. For warming efficiency the thin wind-breaking nylon should be worn over the bulky knit but there’d be no style in that arrangement so the bright orange goes on the outside.
Over the orange I strap on a pair of black ski goggles with mirrored lenses and the total effect is somewhere between Darth Vader and an overweight orangutan on wheels. Either way, I figure I have style points and scrambled eggs coming.
In summary, I love my Pugsley and riding it in the winter.
I do have one complaint, however. While the Pugsley line has an ingenuous set of add-ons available, including a bottle cage designed to hold a growler of beer, there’s not one for a like-sized bottle of Heinz® Ketchup, which I never travel without.
Give John and the guys at Sugar Bottom a visit and join me, making the trails mutt-less.