I love being a cyclist in Alaska. People from other states read my blog and think I'm tough. Or at least some of them do. People have even called me "extreme" because I sometimes ride to work in sub-zero weather. Co-workers question my sanity and, truth be told, I sort of enjoy that.
Hell, I frequently take part in the Frigid Bits race series, and the New York Times recently referred to us as the "subgenre of the subgenre" of winter bicyclists. I was flattered.
All this stuff could almost make a guy feel rugged.
Unless he knew other cyclists who ride in Alaska.
I could give one example after another of riders who make me look like some weasel who just pedals his nerdy bike to work a few times a week. Really, I could go on all day.
But for the past few days on the web forum where many of us stay in touch and swap information, endurance racer Pete Basinger has been seeking advice on a new sleeping bag and bivy sack for his ultra-long-distance winter races. He's not asking for much. He's used to freezing already, so if he "could figure out a set up that would allow 40 minutes to an hour of sleep at 20 or 30 below" he'd be "very happy."
I'd be psychotic from sleep deprivation, and running naked through the woods in the final stages of hypothermia.
Because Pete has a race coming up and he's short of time for field-testing bags, Mike Curiak recommended that Pete test a few by sleeping on his porch here in Anchorage. Even Pete's sane enough to admit that's pretty hard to do when there's a warm bed nearby.
Jeff Oatley chimed in that he doesn't use a particularly warm sleeping bag because he sleeps while wearing a mountaineering parka and pants. He said it works great and, "I've slept in my driveway at -20 with just the parka and pants, no sleeping bag."
Most people who find a neighbor asleep in a driveway can safely assume a large amount of alcohol was involved. But Oatley's neighbors—assuming he has any—have probably learned to simply shake their heads and mutter something along the lines of, "grumble, grumble, damn bike freak, blah blah blah."
Of course, it's hard to explain that such people exist when I'm talking to neighbors and co-workers who don't understand that I'm just out for a little jaunt when I ride to work or spend a couple of hours doing a trail ride while the weather's relatively nice.
So I'll just keep letting them think I'm a real tough guy.
Oh, shit ... pinkie cramp! Gotta stop typing now ...
(Note: Photo of Pete in last year's Iditarod Trail Invitational was shamelessly lifted from Sleepmonsters.com.)