Monday, March 17, 2008

A Change of Season

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won't grow,
And we're changing our ways,
Taking different roads.

- Joy Division, Love Will Tear Us Apart

Winter is cruel. At the end of a long season it's a breath of fresh air, giving riders the excuse for days off and justification for a steady diet of robust, red wines, crisp Belgian brews, and thick, homemade stews. But once the novelty of "rich foods and the expanding waistline" weans, the relentless cold, short days begin to take hold and we begin seeking relief from our sedentary routines. Some years the winter delivers a cold, but snowless experience and others bring snow...more snow...and only more snow.

Like so many others, I struggle with the indoor cycling lifestyle: I loathe the basement and the hours necessary to maintain, let alone, build fitness. During the challenging winters, I go running, where the snowy streets and biting temps are no match for the short jaunt. Admittedly, I enjoy the free time resulting from the shortened workout times (hour run vs. a three hour ride) and the magic that running works on my BMI. (Like a smart investor, I am seeking maximum return on a minimal investment.) By the middle of winter my miles and subsequent fitness makes running almost enjoyable. Almost. As I'm jogging, I find myself thinking about riding: what these roads look like without snow, without frigid temps, the sensations a bicycle delivers, the feeling of coasting, and how fluid the drops feel mid-season. I often ask myself Why do I live in such a cold and unforgiving climate? Then I think about the years I did live in a warm climate and how despite comfortable year-round temps there was a season, a time the bike shop business would slow from October to May. Like a bellows to coals, the winter fires me up, I reflect on the fun I had the previous season, I crunch the training numbers and perform the much needed, complete overhaul on my machine. These peripheral activities bring me back in touch with my passion and rekindle my love.

As the seasons begin to turn over and winter turns to spring, I find myself eager to ride my bike, the burnout I felt in September washed away like the salt from the roads and my relationship with the bike patched like the potholes and frost heaves scattered about the roadways. Whether your "off-season" is defined by snow and freezing temps, or gray skies and rain, the "off-season" is the "off-bike" season, a period of healing, recharging the batteries, and reinvigorating the soul.

As my pal JO says, December is the holidays, January comes before February, February is the start of the race season, March is the start of the Classics, and April, well, you know what happens in April. Suddenly, and seemingly without effort, spring arrives and yet another cycling season gets underway.


Anonymous said...

You have covered so many of the classic parts of the ride, the rider and the peripheral experiences I hesitate to make a suggestion, but recent events compel me.

You covered sickness quite well and as usual got underneath the physical (although that was covered in great nuance)and went into the psychological part of the condition in a way that is so typical of a rider. long hours in a saddle bring a certain tooth to thoughts and an internal mind game over the best tactical solution to a strategic decision. chase, sit up, stay calm...the battle rages while the legs drive the machine forward.

but thats not the purpose of this request--your skills are much better at putting the details into words for the rest of us.

this is about wounds. the real kind, the crash and get back on and ride with shredded legs and elbows. from vino in last years TDF ripping his stitches as he rode, to the multiple off road adventures in paris nice this past week, to my own exuberant crash this past weekend--and subsequent ride in full tape and pain meds that felt better than walking or sleep.

whats RF have to say on the subject? from the practical--how to home doctor your self, to the inner voice that curses and cries simultaneously--to the absurd, how to clean out the blood from your kit after you crash and ride home a bloody mess.

keep the good stuff coming.

Anonymous said...

Come to Montreal and see the new all time record in snowfall, this place gonna be under snow come June ! But I never been in better shape, something odd about that...

JBP said...

Joy Division reference is always a safe bet.

bikesgonewild said...

...& how ironic w/ those lyrics, the band's name of 'joy division' & the fate of the group the night before their first american tour ???...

...sunday's finale of paris/nice w/ the descent off the col d'eze by luis leon sanchez which included his catch of the break, the solo off the front & the ensuing melee' w/ him being caught & his ability to yet again power past for the win was not only exciting but made me forget there even is a uci & an aso...

Matt said...

Well said BKN, well said.

Ari said...

After spending so many days on my 29er with studded tires getting the old road bike will be like riding on a paper clip. The midwest breeds some hard riders with a lot of mental strength.
The constant headwinds are our Mountains.

Unknown said...

Beautifully spoken.

Hoodooguru said...

Nice piece thanks. The only thing I did well this offseason is not gain any weight, an accomplishment not to be lightly regarded. The puff and legs will take care of themselves as the road gets longer.

Ignacio Moore said...

Never admit to jogging, its running!