Or, if you're Canadian, European, or pretentious, -12 Celsius.
Of course I realize that not everybody considers this cold. We know all about the extreme temperatures in the Rockies, which fluctuate like a Pro Tour rider's hematocrit. And we're all too familiar with the Bunyanesque tall tales of riders in places like Minnesota who boast that commuting to work in 27 inches of snow is commonplace, and who, when the mercury starts seductively tickling the freezing point's undercarriage, consider it time to take off their arm warmers and bask in the rays of the sun and their own feelings of superiority.
Nonetheless, I feel it's safe to say that 11 degrees is pretty cold. I have a three-point system for determining when it is officially cold outside, and this morning satisfied all three of my conditions:
1) You have difficulty pronouncing words with more than one syllable (the Novocaine Effect)
2) Wiping your runny nose is painfully abrasive (the Frozen Glove Mucus Effect)
3) You cannot differentiate between wind chill- and saddle-induced crotchal numbness (the Genital Numbness Ambiguity Effect)
Now, I’m not one to brag about riding in the cold, nor am I one to criticize those who choose not to subject themselves to it. For each one of us, there’s a point at which cycling goes from enjoyable to unpleasant, and the Universe does not award points for suffering—if it did, anybody who’s ever listened to Ben Folds or watched Bike TV on NYC public access would ascend straight to Nirvana. And if you are riding in the cold, not everybody’s impressed. While some people see a dedicated cyclist braving adverse conditions, others see a frostbitten moron who didn’t have the sense to shell out two bucks for the subway and who’s going to spend the bulk of his day waiting for sensation to return to his extremities.
Still, though, I would have expected to see at least one fixed-gear rider this morning. Instead, it was as though I had stepped into an alternate dimension in which the entire fixed-gear phenomenon never happened. And not only did I not see any fixed-gear riders, but I didn’t even see any of the usual locked-up fixed-gears that have become part of my commuting landscape. The green bikesdirect.com Mercier in front of Saatchi & Saatchi; the pink and white brakeless conversion in front of the gym; even the diminutive, de-decaled chrome Pista in front of the cafe; all gone! In fact, when I entered the URL for fixedgeargallery.com, I half-expected the site to be gone as well. (Fortunately for lovers of brakeless rattletraps everywhere, it was still there, in all it’s craptastic glory.) The only bike I see on the street every day that was still there was this one:
Then again, when you pay for Dura Ace, you ride every day. You gotta get your money’s worth!
The illusion of a post-fixed-gear Apocalyptic world was finally shattered when I saw someone walking with a fixed-gear. I was uncertain if he was walking due to an aversion to the cold or a mechanical problem, and I must confess that I didn't stop to ask if he needed help. (I mean, it's cold out!) I did, however, slow and perform a visual inspection of the bicycle, and everything seemed to be in good working order. That should count for something.
Still, though, this eerie dearth of fixed-gears had me wondering if there is indeed a fixed-gear temperature cutoff--a point at which the environment becomes so inhospitable that these riders cannot ride. Certainly there weren't that many bicycles of any kind, but they were out there. I even saw a Beautiful Godzilla, who blithely ran a light and turned into oncoming traffic as comfortably and casually as if it had been a balmy spring morn. In any case, I shall continue to observe, and if such a cutoff does exist I shall attempt to quantify it.
So far it would appear that the cutoff is above 11 degrees.