The morning I drove to Annapolis to meet the Severna Park Peloton for coffee it was 15 degrees. It was the kind of cold that had me sitting in my car as I waited for the gas to pump.
But I caught myself before I complained too loudly because I knew that while I was sitting inside my car, the group of eight riders who would be meeting me for coffee were already 30 minutes into their hour-long ride from Severna Park to City Dock.
For them the 15 degree temperature was only part of the consideration. Going between 15 and 16 miles an hour and facing the already windy conditions the temperature for them was well below 15 degrees. So, I sat in my warm car sending up little prayers of thanks that I had opted to drive instead of ride to meet them.
The dozen or so riders who meet Monday through Friday at 5:30 a.m. every week throughout the year gather at what they call the Rusty Bridge, wheres where the Baltimore Annapolis Trail crosses East West Boulevard. They then wind their way through Severna Park over the Naval Academy Bridge and back each day before most people have even thought of heading out to warm up their cars.
When the Pelotons first arrived in Annapolis, I was standing just outside the Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers so I could catch them before they dismounted and we could get a predawn photo before heading inside for coffee and muffins.
As a mom who worries about everybody whether they are my kids or not, I was pleased to be able to see them coming from several hundred yards down the road. Each of the riders was suitably decked-out with headlamps, bike lamps and reflective gear because safety is a real concern when riding during the predawn hours.
Four of the riders stuck around for the photo, offered a quick greeting and then headed back home to get ready for their busy days. Thankfully “Dangerous Dan” Oldale, Clint Provenza, Earl Janssen aka "Rev. Rider" and Brian Nelson, stuck around for the next hour to explain the lure of winter riding.
In the warmer months of the year, you will see large groups of Peloton riders out and about in the area but these eight guys and a few others including several women who couldn’t make it for coffee are the diehards. Because they ride together almost daily, the group is pretty tight knit. Still, Janssen said he fit right in when he started riding with them a year ago and Dangerous Dan who joined the group a year before that agreed.
“It is a tight group and we become good friends,” Oldale said. “but it is not an exclusive group. We love to have new people join us.”
They are also an open group, willing to answer all of my questions and share just what it takes to get out on the trails and roads at the very early morning in such cold weather. Each of the riders showed me their gear. Three long sleeve technical shirts, a jacket, a hat, something to keep the face warm, a good pair of wind resistant gloves and hand warmers.
“The trick is to not dress too warm," Provenza explained, “If you get too warm, you start sweating and that is really when you start getting cold.”
The cold and dark conditions they ride in makes riding in a group particularly important. There is always safety in numbers but this group takes that more seriously than many I have met. They also take the responsibility to each other more seriously than other groups I have been a part of.
“I would be embarrassed if I discovered one of my riders had had a flat or a problem while they were out and nobody had stopped with them to make sure they were safe,” Oldale said.
Provenza added, “We have a no drop policy. What that means is we don’t leave a rider behind. If someone has to slow down, then somebody will stay with them. If somebody as a flat or another issue, we stop and wait. It is just safer that way.”
Beyond the safety issues though, the Peloton members admit that one of the best parts of riding with a group is the accountability. Knowing the group is waiting for you is pretty good motivation in and of itself, but knowing that if you don’t show up, it might be mentioned in the daily email blasts after the ride is added incentive.
These don’t ride in the morning just out of necessity or because they feel accountable to others. They actually enjoy the experience of being out when other people are still asleep.
Each member of this small group agrees that having the roads almost completely to themselves, watching the sunrise as they head back home each day and having the quiet of the morning, makes winter rides some of their favorites.
As I sat listening to the riders, I thought how nice it would be to be a part of this group. I have joined the Severna Park Pelotons online so that I receive email notices of upcoming rides like the one they do in April to Ocean City and back and I hope to join them on some of those. But as much fun as it sounds, I think I will wait, until the temperatures start rising above freezing in the morning before committing to anything publically.