Noah Hoffenberg | The Grind: Motivation is the message

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"What motivates you to ride when it's so cold and raw outside?"

"Who are you supposed to be, Dr. Phil?"

"No. I'm just curious."

"Well, if you must know, my belly motivates me."

"What? Like, you're hungry?"

"No. My belly is all flabby. Who would be attracted to this (pointing to and clutching the jiggling mass)? I need a six-pack set of abs so that I might garner the attention of housebound Berkshirites on the prowl for man candy."

"Wait. I thought you were married?"

"Never mind that. Next question."

Motivation is an individual thing. What motivates you to ride, might not motivate me.

For instance, mountain biker A wants to feel the thrill of the ride all year long; biker B might like the feel of sheer stretch fabric along his hairy thighs; biker C just needs to get out of her house, because if she's asked to find one more pair of pants or has to wipe one more nose, murder will be on the dinner menu.

For me, at 46, I mostly want to avoid death; in this case, it's preventable death, such as heart attack, stroke, the sugar diabeetus (or the Wilford Brimley version), etc.

I fully realize that death is coming for me, whether I'm healthy or not. I also am aware that mountain biking itself might hasten my journey toward death, perhaps in equal proportion to how pedaling boosts my health, making aging more graceful.

There's the yin and yang of it. Like life itself, mountain biking can heal, thrill and/or kill you.

Which brings us back to motivation in cold weather. When it gets cold out, as it did here in the Berkshires over the past two weeks, most of us feel like a cat at the door: The bitter breeze hits us and ruffles our fur, and we shiver and return to the couch. There awaits "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and a nice bag of potato chips.

And yet we must get out. So, setting aside the warmth, the pleasures and travails of Kim and Khloe and Kourtney and Kylie and Kendall, we don our tights, multiple layers, windproof mask and helmet, and ride.

If you don't get up and get outside, you'll regret it later on. If your belly is like mine, it'll only get flabbier. By doing nothing, the idea of six-pack abs will materialize into reality, but not in the way you hope: It's more like a keg of fatness, thanks to all the reclining and snacking.

The benefits (endorphins, sense of well-being, being in shape) far outweigh the negatives (frostbite, a stream of mucus down your face, the possibility of being struck by a snowplow).

You have options. If you own a fat bike, one of the newer kinds of mountain bike, you can take it out into snow. A fat bike — a 26-inch, four-season ride with 4-inch tires — is designed to hack it (even if you're not).

I do not yet own a fat bike, like many of you, so I'm stuck riding a three-season bike, with tires far too small to provide enough float on snowpack. So, I do the unthinkable for many mountain bikers, and I take to the road (but not on a road bike they look like No. 2 pencils on wheels).

Wintertime road riding in the Berkshires isn't like biking in urban areas. Ice can be a problem, though, so beware (studded tires are always an option). If you hit ice, plunk a foot down into the ice and use it like a speed brake; you'll slow enough to regain control. And there are cars, which can also fall victim to ice. But you're more likely to be speared by the beak of a pileated woodpecker than get hit by a car, and the views this time of year are breathtaking.

You won't have much breath to spare, though (heck, you might even be hurling into a snowbank because you're so out of shape), but the vistas of our snow-covered mountain range will remind you why you choose to call this place home.

Noah Hoffenberg is a Berkshire Eagle staffer. Send him an email about what motivates you to ride when the Berkshires turn into an icebox. Write to nhoffenberg@berkshireeagle.com. Take any of this as advice, and it's your own fault.


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