Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

November 29, 2011

The Hard Quarter

So, in just a few days time we enter what I've started calling "the hard quarter"... for the randonneur above the "freeze line" in the continental US, this is where cycling traditionally gets tougher for a lot of different reasons.  Road conditions, temperatures, sun angle, wind direction and speed and feel, keeping bottle contents in liquid form, precipitation type, cloud cover and its effect on the psyche... etc.  Most riders have had their bicycles hung up since October... others relegate to the indoor trainer, or the short-course group ride.  Commuting gets tough, too -- early alarm bells, no sun... and sometimes returning home in the same lack of daylight - it can get old.  Finally, 'cross season wraps up and it gets a little darker and colder still, the cowbells clang fading into the background of the roar of that first icy north gale... yes, December, January and February are the harder months, for sure... harder, but not impossible. 
 
The rewards are tangible - like in summer when quenching a hard century with a cold beer or a dip in the pool, it's such a treat to come indoors after trials against a cold headwind, releasing frigid fingers from woolen captivity, feeling the warmth of a hot shower return life to icy legs, feeling the glow of the fireplace, the hot tea and food... perhaps even a crisp winter ale or a nip of scotch and the friendship of an old, worn recliner chair.  The cradle of bedsheets and a good quilt after finally retiring to a warm bed, images of frozen waste still whizzing by in your head...and the satisfaction that you accomplished something that only a small few will dare.  The rewards are many, but the hardest part, often, is simply motivating oneself to go outside.
 
Never pause... never consider...  dress fast... go ride... 
 
Easier said than done.  As I continue the march towards a second R-12 award, I find myself looking towards winter at the halfway mark of accomplishment.  This hurdle, from the wrong angle, can seem giant - un-jumpable.  Surely as the commuter in me will sometimes smack the snooze button a few times too many, and grab the car keys with a rush of guilt - there are weekends where the wind, the cold, and the grey stand against the front door with too much force to budge.  "How bad do you want it?"  they'd taunt... the clatter of busy wind chimes announcing the relentless push of Canadian air, the dance of dead leaves down the street as they try to flee.  Tiny white flecks caught in the glow of a porch light across the way... snow... 
 
Yet, for the strong-willed, the able, the hard cyclists of winter... the taste is too sweet.  How to BE that rider, no matter the weather?
 
Never pause... never consider...  dress fast... go ride...
 
Every winter ride is three miles long... and only three.  The fires of cellular exchange heating the core to boil... steam and sweat, angry against the cold, begin to tip the battle... and from frozen lips the strain of push curls upwards into a frail grin, the first hill mounted.  Layers are unzipped, shoulders drop, the neck loosens... fluidity returns to the legs as the rhythm is unleashed.  Cocooned against the odds in body heat, wool, and Lycra - a flash of bright yellows and luminous reds against steel grey skies.  The snap of lifeless twigs and the crunch of sand under cold tires echoes the applause for those that defy the seasons!  Some will glare in disapproval, some gaze in disbelief, some nod in pure respect... for the winter riders.
 
Whether it be that one-more-commute, that one-more-weekend-with-the-group, or whether it be number-six;
 
Never pause... never consider...  dress fast...
 
GO GET IT.
 
 
 

1 comment:

Ginger said...

Love it -- exactly the conversation running through my head lately! Of course, it wasn't too hard to avoid the snooze and get on the bike this November morning -- 57 degrees in New Jersey at 6 am. Seriously!