Cycling is an offering to the sun. Going for a bike ride is a way to say “thanks” to your maker for the summer months. With the sun beating down and the wind rifling over your body, it’s easy to be grateful for a good life and abundant health.
Indoctrination into serious road riding and racing happens by degrees, much like peeling layers from an onion. But there comes a point when cycling ceases to be an expression of the best of times. We experience the same transition in romantic relationships. At first, we date. Our most hallowed hours of the weekend are saved for the object of our affection, but soon, we can’t get enough of our heart’s desire and we begin to spend as much time as possible with them. For romantic partners, that means trips to the grocery store together and cleaning house. For cyclists, it means riding in the cold.
You probably remember the first photograph you saw of the peloton racing in the snow. For me, it was a shot from Het Volk and the guys were covered in the best in thermal cycling wear. Mutts, balaclavas, thick gloves and thermal booties were the rule.
The shot altered my world view. Seeing the world’s great pros race their bikes in falling snow seemed more than just implausible. It seemed impossible but inspired a kind of hope that was crazy. That’s why science fiction can generate such a compelling hold on the mind. How else could you explain the fascination of men interacting with dinosaurs?
Simply put, riding in the cold is antithetical to the reasons why we took up cycling. It isn’t the breezy pleasure of a summer day. It isn’t carefree. It isn’t a triumph of the will. Or isn’t it?
To be sure, cycling in the cold, if done well, is a submission. It is a submission to the temperature, to the wind, to all the crueler elements. It is a submission to the larger demands of the season, an admission that we cannot hope to be at peak form year-round. Even so, it does take a force of will to leave home when temps reach freezing. A frozen water bottle is only cool as part of a story told months later. The humility required to keep the heart rate in check requires banishing the ego for months at a time.
But with that submission comes a reward. Base miles are pennies in a piggy bank: They aren’t sexy, but they do add up. Each new sunny day of the spring is payback for every effort you didn’t make. And like a flower in the sun, you open with the warmth to show a new you, the one worth watching.
But for now, the miles tick by unremarkably. The ego sits in a box on the shelf and each of us waits, waits for the change of the seasons that returns us to our real home, the true self.
Photo Credit: Presse Sports