The 5 O’Clock Shadow

A virtue of cycling is as seasons pass, we take note of it.  As I ride to work each morning & home each evening, summer’s sun is leaving us.  The sun lazily breaks later and later each day and the evening dusk arrives earlier and earlier.  This tightening of time doesn’t make allowances for the cyclist who wants to ride early before work nor do the darkening shadows allow for one to work late unrepentantly, expecting to catch the local Tuesday night world championships later, for now sunlight is lost.

Autumn’s setting sun reminds me of the old adage of the 5 o’clock shadow, much like my dad’s 5 o’clock shadow salt and pepper beard he evidenced after his long day at work.  It was obvious he was no longer fresh, and had just done a full day of work as he came home dirty from welding, carrying his empty steel lunch pail, his posture a bit broken with a slowed gait, his eyes tired.  And after a moment of refreshing, he would be ready for more.  A virtual parallel to our 5 o’clock shadow—as cyclists, we pass from a season, dirty, tired, our lunch pails empty, having done a full season’s work, and are now in need of respite.

Every season to the cyclist has both obvious items that we take away and other items may be taken away from it that are more obscure.  Autumn’s lowering shadows across the golden brown landscape brings with it indifference for this rider, for there are feelings of Thanksgiving to the moderating temperatures.  Whereas one should find contentment in that and be fully satisfied, the reality that there also is a sense of contempt because temperatures will fall for the next three months as winter’s chill will seek to suck out the marrow from our bones.  For now we go for free rides ever mindful that there really is nothing for free and that there is an price we will pay for our obsession in winter.  These things are obvious to us, obscure is knowing exactly what lies ahead.

As we ride in autumn we duly recognize there is a season past.  The year’s accomplishments are but a memory.  The memory of summer’s sun, southerly tailwinds, the endless miles that have seamlessly ticked over, the PRO’s season all are on the forefront of our mind’s eye.  It indeed does bring a smile to our faces as we spin and reflect and after all, autumn seems to a most appropriate season of remembrance.  If we are honest with ourselves, this introspection enables and empowers us in reflection on the season’s accomplishments and thus improve ourselves—both maximizing our strength and improving our weaknesses.  And with that the grim reminder of old man winter’s latency is but around the corner and not all of us live in sunny California.  Here in the Midwest, spring defeated old man winter and the cold grip he held.  Spring liberated us as cyclists to throw our windblock bib tights into the bottom drawer and don our lite summer jersey … but … old man winter is back like a bad smell and he is leering from the corner of the room.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Ron

    Great write up!

    The cool weather is here but one good development is that so is light and hour earlier in the morning! Got light just before 6:30 here, much better than waiting another hour.

    I love riding in the fall. You remember how much fun it is to just be out pedaling, not worrying about every small detail, how you are progressing, etc., just turning the cranks. My favorite part of the year! Thanksgiving for sure.

  2. Author

    thanks Ron.

    I must admit, the considerations center upon a climate that I am in, one of extremes. I do wish I lived in a mild climate, one of moderation because if I did, it would be great riding all winter long!!

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