Even now, nearly a month beyond the solstice the winter can feel endless. The dark mornings, the gray skies, the biting winds, if this weather spoke for the whole of the year how many of us would ever have taken up cycling? How we ache for spring.
For most of us, our cycling is confined to the margins of our lives. Passion takes a back seat to necessity and so when the sun is properly up we tend to those most primary of priorities: job, family, home. We fit our riding into what others would call breathing room, which means at this time of year we ride in the least desirable temperatures and in light that seems counter to riding. The conditions can be enough to make meter maids and skiers both head for a coffee shop.
At first light and often before, or in light fading to the pitch of night, we drop pennies in the bank, knowing that while we can’t buy more sun, greater fitness at the peak of the season can make the sun shine brighter, the day seem just a little longer.
But thoughts of spring and summer days are the picture on the wall, temperatures that call for short sleeves the way Friday night calls others out for a night with friends at the bar, and yet we go about our routines.
Who among us bought a bike for a reason other than fun? Somewhere, all goals aside, the purchase of a bicycle was a reminder of the best part of childhood—fun with no agenda—just the enjoyment of doing something so pure the doing was enough. How often in our lives is the doing the payoff?
And yet, winter training is an ugly business. Bike maintenance doubles. The miles drag. The restraint we practice is a bridle none wants to wear. The sky blue day lost to a dingy ceiling of cloud. There’s no way to slice cold and wet into fun. The hardest among us may confuse a triumph of will over a winter day that would send others scrambling for the fireplace as fun, but honestly, all we’ve done is romance what we believe the real hard men are doing for six hours a day, when the best we can often carve free is two.
Winter training is the domain of those with an agenda, when our definition of fun has been narrowed, whittled down to something that can only be accomplished when we are out our best. We log these miles as if we were cleaning house, waiting for our beloved’s return home. We are preparing for the real event.
The attacks will have to wait. Race weight comes on a different page of the calendar. The pain we feel now is the pain of absence.
Each additional mile we tick by is a love letter to the object of our affection, months away. Those slow miles are a kind of chastity, a promise that there will be no romance with anyone but you.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International