Bike Social Scene: Winter Riding with Freezing Saddles

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Erin Potter Tweet Us @BikeArlington@BikeArlington December 5, 2018

Erin Potter is the former Program Manager for BikeArlington.

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Freezing Saddles is a team-based winter riding competition organized by local volunteers. Join them for a bike ride, and stay for the fun community activities, happy hours, and silly games.

We definitely get it. It can be harder to find the joy in hopping on your bike after the clocks change back, and there’s less daylight and temperatures start to get cold. Well, a local group of bike riders has the answered the winter doldrums by organizing an annual winter riding competition called Freezing Saddles.

What is Freezing Saddles?

Freezing Saddles is a winter riding competition for people who bike in the DC region. While BikeArlington may be in the official competition, it’s an entirely volunteer organized event, spearheaded by members who talk to each other on the regional BikeArlington forum.

Last year, over 200 riders took 24,561 bike rides during the competition which runs from January 1 through March 16, the last day of winter.

How Does the Competition Work?

At its most basic, participants are divided into teams. Individual riders accrue points for both themselves and their team by tracking their rides through Strava. The team with the most points at the end of the competition, wins!

The rules and teams are set up so that riders of every level can have a good time and help contribute to the point totals of their team. Even if all you do is take a one mile ride each day, you can earn ten points for your team. This is affectionately called a “Sleeze Ride” but totally fair under the rules!

The Rules

Rules are subject to change from year to year, but the basic ones stay the same:

  • Riders earn 10 points for riding a mile each day and an additional point for each additional mile.
  • The game runs from January 1 through March 19, the last day of winter.
  • Only rides outside count—trainer rides and stationary bike rides don’t.
  • There are handful of additional rules, too.

It’s About More Than the Miles

Many Freezing Saddles participants will tell you the community is what makes the competition as great as it is. In addition to the basic points per day scoring, there are “reindeer games” and “pointless prizes” organized by individual participants.

There are a lot of great ones to choose from, but a runaway favorite last year was Calvinball. A nod to the Calvin and Hobbes comic, the game asks riders to “seek the game ball, hidden secretly amongst the cycling trails inside the beltway.” After that, rules can be added or changed and even the “game ball” can be swapped. There were also several pointless prizes awarded for things like visiting the most coffee shops or cataloging the best road signs.

How to Join

You’ll need to create accounts on two different platforms, each used for tracking different aspects of the completion, and then formally register for the competition.

  1. The Washington Area Bike Forum is where all communication and organization will be done throughout the competition. Create an account.
  2. The Strava app is how ride data will be tracked for each participant. Create an account.
  3. Register with Freezing Saddles by completing the participation form.

Registration is open until December 24, or until 250 riders register. The competition fills up quickly, so register today and go for a ride and volunteer for something. Each awesome thing about Freezing Saddles was started by a person just like you.

Photo Credit: Millie Tansill

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