Friday Group Ride #141

The deleterious effects of Hurricane Sandy notwithstanding, fall is normally my favorite riding season of the year. The cooler temperatures mean I can go farther, faster than I do in the oppressive summer months. I seem to be particularly susceptible to the heat, sweating like a cold coke on a summer dashboard. I dehydrate like astronaut ice cream, like the sand at the edge of the tide line.

Winter is under-rated. The snowy season has given me some of my coolest riding experiences and most challenging circumstances. From the pure joy of a cold, bright morning ride, to testing yourself against driving wind and sleet, I would never call winter my favorite, but, like an old girlfriend, we’ve had some good times together.

Spring, at least where I live, is a pretty blessed time. Exiting the cave of winter, you get that first taste of warmth, the expanding light of lengthening days. Again, you are doing more than the bare minimum. Your cycling pops like a daffodil from the frozen soil.

And let me not completely disparage summer. The salad days run long and give rise to improbable after-work rambles with friends. I struggle with hydration and the challenges of being soaked with sweat for hours on end, but it is all worth it, returning home with road grime pasted to your ankles and your helmet straps white and distended.

This week’s Group Ride asks the simple question: What is your favorite season to ride and why? Our Southern Hemispheric friends are all exiting winter now, not plunging into Autumn. I wonder how they feel about it. I wonder if anyone else suffers the summer quite the way I do.

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32 comments

  1. andrew

    I can’t work as hard in summer, hot weather can make me feel drained of energy.

    I really like spring and autumn too, and riding my mtb in deep virgin snow is a special pleasure. But I still prefer the feel of hot sun on my back to the pain of frozen fingers and toes.

  2. Ransom

    We don’t get super-bitter in Winter in my part of the world (Portland, OR). Joe Parkin’s “A Dog In A Hat” and its ability to help me romanticize, ahem, imperfect conditions, and finally trying ‘cross were the things that really brought me around to being okay with Fall.

    Okay with. Not in love with, even with the quasi-Belgian damp romance.

    Summer here is what we pay for with the other nine months. I love the first warm ride in only shorts and jersey. I used to seem to deal better with heat than some folks I rode with, though I need to get rid of some of the insulation I’ve picked up in the last decade before that will be true again. But it doesn’t prevent me from liking the warmest, sunniest season the best, and by a wide margin.

  3. Jeremy

    I, like you Robot, have found that my best form usually comes in the Fall and Winter months (which aren’t as challenging here in the SF Bay Area). I feel better right now than I did all summer, and the last time I felt this good was in Jan-Feb-early March, when I was preparing for a big ride. I also struggle with riding during the summer–my body produces a surplus of heat and sweat, easily controlled when temps are cooler.

  4. Matt

    I commute almost year round. It’s a short enough slog to be fun even in the snow, dark, sludge-type weather. I come off the road bike some time in October/November and head into the basement/coffee shop indoor group ride for training. Spring is my favorite, when the days are suddenly long enough to grab an hour after work and the air is clear and the light is good and everything is that early bright green color.

  5. Dave

    Fall is my favorite, hands down. You still have some “fast” left from the racing season, and don’t mind spending it on junk miles. Rides aren’t yet dominated by targeted workouts and rest days. Yep, I love the carefree riding days of Autumn.

  6. Rod Diaz

    I love CX, even though I’m really bad at it. Short rides in bad conditions make me feel happy, so Autumn is my favourite.

    I also like late spring, when racing starts and I start getting the competition jitters and the season seems so full of promise. The summer is ok, if done right (early in the morning). Winter is pretty much a wash – lots of ice and snow. I still commute to work on studded tires, but can only go for a proper ride when it is unseasonably dry.

  7. tinytim

    Winter riding holds the greatest amount of asthetic beauty and meaning. The only objective is to pedal soft and deliberate circles. The roads are wet and the low sun flickers through the bare stands of maple and willow that line the roads. There is no thought of crits, intensity, or power meters. The art of being soaked, cold and enjoying it is good for the being. Mtn rides are best in the late fall. Theres nothing more spiritual than climbing a steep pitch of loose grey shale adorned with the large orange leaves of the broad leaf maple and fire red poison oak. There are no crowds to impress as clean you the crux. Just your breath and your own insignificance.

  8. Paul

    I ride all year round, but I would have to say spring is my favorite time. The days get longer, the trees burst into flower, and the blessed sun warms your winter-frozen bones. There’s nothing quite like that first ride in full summer kit.

  9. Peter Lütken

    Trondheim, Norway favorites:
    Spring – Going for a road ride one day and XC skiing the next.
    Summer – Getting off work at 4 PM, spending the afternoon with my family, then kitting up and going for a three hour ride at 8 PM in full daylight.

  10. Les Borean

    First of all, ‘bot, Q: When riding in snow how do you avoid potholes, gravel, thrown axles from trucks, etc. when there’s a layer of snow obscuring the road? Being in SoCal I wonder this about snow riders in other parts of the world.

    Summer is too hot for me to be grinding the formidable slopes of the Santa Moincas, so I’m “stuck” doing interval training in PV, Forestall to the top of Crest.

    Fall continues some of the heat from summer.

    Winter and spring are my favorite here, with plenty of cool sunny days 65-70 F. It’s then I traverse the Santa Monicas along Mulholland from Old Topanga to to Deer Creek.

  11. armybikerider

    Summer is my favorite – hands down. I don’t have to pile on layers of extra clothes, empty my constantly draining nose or worry what that next patch of slushy snow and ice will do to my equilibrium, like I do in the middle of the (relatively mild) winter here in Northern Tennessee. Plus, the long days allow me to ride on the road after work, and not even think about that hated stationary trainer. I’m finding that with age (I’m 51 as of yesterday) that the warmer temperatures are way more kind to my body than cold.

  12. randomactsofcycling

    Here in Sydney, the best time of year is right about now. Spring still has a certain nip in the early morning air and as the day develops, the Sun becomes strong enough for sunscreen. In all truth, we are quite blessed here to be able to ride all year round without needing snow tyres or fenders.
    We have just switched to Daylight savings too, so a lazy, after-work spin through the local National Park is pure joy.

  13. Rich

    Summer. Bibs and a jersey. Nothing to figure out. Summer is hot here. REAL Hot. Head out at 6. Its already 75. Run for the mountains. Where it might only get to 90. Coming back down riding into a 100’+ up slope wind is like riding into hell. Only the strong survive. I love it.

  14. Howard

    Summer, long days, good light, dressing is simple, sinuses and lungs offer no complaints. Oh did I mention long days, I hate dark at 6PM not to mention 5. I spent 40 years in the SE US, now in N California- this definately not hot. Come on Summer.

  15. owl

    I’m a fall guy myself. Summer is tough for me now with young children. I work from a home office for the first part of the workday. During the school year the kids are gone before 8am which gives me time for morning spring and fall rides. Summer camps and classes usually don’t start til mid morning, so my mid week riding disappears. Like Robot I do enjoy the occasional “test” against a harsh winter day – the clothes, the single-minded focus of staying upright, the imagining yourself on a flat, gray plain of northern Belgium.

  16. JPrummer

    Because of my job (Hotshot) I get no summer riding. Though I do some racing in the spring before fire season it is never enough. So fall is my favorite time ride because I have many months until fire season starts. Even though my fitness is good from fire season it’s not good for racing. Having several months to suffer into fitness is part of the fun.

    Someday soon (retirement in 5 years and 5 months) I will know the joy of summer riding/racing.

  17. PeterLeach

    In Canberra, spring brings a degree of uncertainty – early morning sun, an edge to the air and a promise of strengthening winds – that rewards an early morning start. Rolling hills, the occasional climb and quiet country roads are part of that reward.

    And part of my favourite riding season …

  18. offtherivet

    The transition from winter to spring, and then from summer to fall are special. There is something about having to start wearing warmers in the fall that really makes me happy. I am equally excited to be able to stop wearing them in the spring.

    Overall it’s simply that there are things changing during those rides. They are transitions. Transitions bring new beginnings; and new beginnings bring excitement.

  19. Michael

    Autumn is my favorite – quiet roads, temperatures are cool, and shadows deep. But those sub-zero days in winter between storms, with the lakes frozen but roads dry, and me all bundled up in layers and hats and moon gloves, and frozen water bottles and fear of getting a flat because I don’t want to change the tire with bare hands, and the roads are deserted until I see one other person after 25 miles so we cross the road just to chat – it doesn’t get better than that. But spring has to count, since I do my longest rides then, in howling winds that test the soul but make for great base miles and I feel so delightfully drained at the end. Summer, well, what could be better? Warm weather, days in the low 80s, and time to stop for a quick skinny dip before continuing. Yeah, those are my favorite seasons.

  20. Rod Diaz

    @ Les Borean – riding on snow is actually “smooth” in many cases since the potholes are filled with packed snow. I was born and raised in a warm place and I imagined the snow was a soft, wet, pillowy substance. It is, for about half a day. Then it compacts and when it is surprisingly resistant when dealing with “normal” potholes (not gates to Hades). I commute with big tires on a fixed gear in the winter, and it is surprisingly smooth. Ice storms are a different matter, requiring studs.

  21. Pat

    Summers in Southeast Arizona. You can start riding at 5 AM when it is cool and get 4 or 5 hours in before it gets too warm. No traffic on the roads, solitary time on the trails, and then pancakes at the local diner.

  22. Wsquared

    This Summer’s record breaking, day after day of 90s-100s, punctuated with smoke from forest fires, reminded me why it’s not my season. I try to get out early, but my biorhythms really aren’t wired that way, and on a lot of days, it was over 95 by the time I got home anyway. Coupled with the body fat I wasn’t carrying 30 years ago and having to hydrate like a fish made for riding through Dante’s Inferno too many days..

    I like the Fall and Winter. The Spring is OK, but we get a lot of windy days here in CO that you really have to grit your teeth to survive. Crisp Fall days are the best. That’s the time of year that I enjoy climbing the most.

    Winter has special pleasures. It averages in the 40s here, and there are several county roads nearby that have clear shoulders most of the Winter. Snow on roads usually melts in a few days in this part of CO. Getting the right combo of layers is always a fun challenge. Every winter I tweak my kit a little & experiment with clothing. (Loving my new Castelli Claudio nano bibs.)

    Winter has an ethereal beauty. Riding through rolling farmland when the roads are clear, but the countryside is covered with sparkling snow and the sun peaks through the roiling clouds in blue shafts of light. The only time of year I listen to Enya on the bike. Riding on roads that parallel the foothills when a storm is brewing in the mountains and its starting to spit a little snow down here. (Am I gonna get caught this time?) Riders get down to hard core commuters, racers that train out of Boulder, and grizzled grey hairs like me who count every day above ground as a gift.

    Stopping at Mary’s in Hygiene to drink hot chocolate, warm toes & swap stories.

  23. Steven

    Back in Indiana where I grew up, Fall was absolutely my favorite. The leaves are fantastic, the weather is usually perfect, and I have some great memories of the bike tours that take place during that season. The only other season that comes close is late spring, where the heat hasn’t risen to the unbearable summer levels yet, and the days are so long that I could get in a full century after work if I wanted to.
    Now that I live in Seattle, though, both Fall and Spring are associated with constant rainfall – meaning that Summer wins by default.

  24. Ali

    Call me crazy but I love the Austin, Tx summer. Whether it’s a 100 mile team ride of our Thursday evening crit series…there’s no ride that our natural cold springs cant cure…plus…summer is optimal tanning time. :)

  25. Jonathan

    randomactsofcycling: agreed. Early morning spins up to the gorges around Berowra/Galston (on my back doorstep) are bloody great this time of year.

  26. Ron S

    Robot,

    I too have found the beauty of fall and hopefully winter rides to be better. But here in the Buffalo area, winter can be a bit dicey, although fall is fabulous.
    For the last few years I have been struggling with summer cramping on anything over about 60 miles. Perhaps you could write a column about that and solicite recommendations to deal with it. I’ll start. Two people have recently told me to add enough salt to my electrolyte drink so it it tastes salty or briny. I’ve yet to try it, but I will on the next warish day (before the snow flies).

  27. Corey

    Here in Minnesota we get 140 degrees of temperature fluctuation from winter to summer. In the winter, anything beyond -15F, even on the best fat bike with all the best gear, just sucks. I love the bright clean promise of spring, before it gets buggy and humid and hot. I was in Palo Alto last December and saw the Stanford cycling team riding trainers on a porch in 65 degree weather. I told them that this act alone was probably killing cyclists in the upper midwest. They responded that it was really cold and that the roads were still wet from a rain. Good cycling weather is not in the eye of the beholder…

  28. Full Monte

    Winter.

    Most of the week, the bike is on the trainer in front of the big screen TV. I’ll come home from work, prep for dinner, feed the animals, then pedal a couple hours while I catch up on old movies — till my wife comes home in the evening, exhausted from shrinking heads all day.

    One afternoon a week, I’ll play hooky, sneak out for an afternoon and meet a friend for a ride in the freezing Chicago bluster. Again, on Saturday or Sunday, I’ll brave the elements for a long ride, solo or with a friend.

    Then in December for Christmas, and again in February for my birthday, my wife and I will visit our daughter in Florida, where my Florida bike waits in the garage, and in the dead-doldrums of winter, I’ll be treated to a blast of summer for an entire week. I’ll ride my bike during like a drowning man clings to a floating log. Hour after hour. Soaking the heat and sun and sweat knowing that soon, I’ll be back in the dark, pedaling to movies. Or out on icy streets while a cold wind out of Canada and off the lake freezes snot rockets before they hit the ground.

  29. Pat

    Monte, I grew up in Waukegan. I remember the hawk coming off the lake and trying to blow you off your feet when walking on icy pavement. Summer was sweet though. Now I remember why I stay in AZ. The riding here is outstanding, almost the whole state has great road and mountain riding. But in the SE corner, you can ride road year round. I can leave my house, 1/4 mile on neighborhood streets, hit the highway and have 34 miles of either mulituse path or bike lane one way. And there is a state park 24 miles into the ride.

  30. Pat

    Should have said multiuse path, bike lane, or 7 foot shoulder all the way. There is a short part, about 1/4 mile through a town with a small shoulder but road is a wide 4 lane. Then onto 7 foot shoulder for next 25 miles. Check out hwy 90 from I-10 into Sierra Vista.

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