Friday Group Ride #156

I laughed out loud, and it was one of those moments when I was alone, walking back from dropping the kids at school, and I hoped that none of my neighbors had seen me, walking along by myself, laughing like an idiot. I had been thinking about my “season,” i.e. that time of the year where I ride without the sorts of interruptions that keep me off the bike for weeks at a time, things like two feet of snow dropping in a single evening and shrinking all the road ways to high-speed hallways for impatient motorists.

When, I wondered to myself, would my season start?

And really, even thinking of what I do as having a season made me laugh out loud. I mean, who am I? I don’t race, so I don’t train except in that masochistic way that yields some level of spirit-illuminating suffering. I ride hill repeats occasionally, but only the way a penitent wears a hair shirt, to know better what a clean soul feels like.

It was just two weeks ago, as I was riding home in falling snow, that I even realized what’s good about the off-season, that yearly hiatus that comes unbidden in either December or January or February, or whenever the capriciousness of nature turns the endeavor of riding into a survival exercise. I was cursing the snow and thinking of Padraig wheeling along in the Southern California sun and thinking some not-altogether charitable thoughts, when suddenly I realized that being forced off the bike periodically is a good thing.

It keeps me from exacerbating repetitive use injuries to my knees. It allows my body to recover in myriad ways, some of which I’m sure I don’t even realize, and it forces me to pursue other activities that I enjoy but often eschew in favor of riding.

Despite our recent meteorological travails, some friends are riding 40 miles tomorrow in honor of someone’s 40th birthday. Given my current condition, and the current conditions, 40 miles would be a good ride, but family duties have me standing in a hockey instead, watching my boys excel at a sport I don’t even really understand.

I was thinking about missing that ride when I started laughing to myself like an idiot. “When,” I thought, “does my season get to start? And what even does it look like?”

This week’s Group Ride asks when YOUR season starts. Do you even think of your riding as having seasons? And what do those season’s consist of? Club rides? Races? Grand fondos? Or just a long series of solo rides, away from family and responsibilities and the cold, darkness of hockey rinks?

Image: Matt O’Keefe

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  1. vNate

    Four weeks until my “season” starts. The rotation of the earth + day light savings time will give me time to ride outside after the 9-5 job. For me it means a guaranteed night out with my friends each week and the downside of arguments with my spouse about disappearing for hours at a time each weekend.

  2. Steve P

    Winter saves us from ourselves – it forces variety. Been catching up with everything else this winter.

    That said, I rode for a short while today, yesterday and the day before. The sun was out, snow banks are subsiding… days like that in February are a real treat.

  3. Souleur

    yes, I ride all year, all seasons, and first race ‘frozen toes’ is always the last weekend of feb, that kicks off the season officially for me

    in the meantime, its a steady base being laid for now
    occassional club ride, maybe one Fondo
    and lots of soul time

  4. cormw

    My “season”, began about four weeks ago as I began training for the first and really only objective of the year (so far). A Gran Fondo in Central Florida, only a four weeks away.

  5. Joe

    I have two seasons: Spring/early summer, usually involving some longer-distance event (TOSRV this year), and the a work-enforced hiatus (I run a summer camp) until August, when I start preparing for cross season, which takes me into December. January and February are reserved for weight bearing activities.

  6. Vince

    The season has started here in Texas. Two races in the books already for our team.

    It’s that time where we go from lots of base miles and route exploration to focused workouts.

  7. christopheru

    My season lives and dies with salt.

    When the salt trucks come out at the start of winter, my season is over. When the last salt of the winter is washed away in the spring, my season starts.

    The riding never stops, but what I ride changes.

    The salty season sees me on a trainer in the basement, or on my commuter bike slogging through the snow and mess that is winter.

    When our world becomes salt free and the nicer and more expensive bikes hit the road and trail again, the season starts anew.

  8. jorgensen

    I was going reasonably well the week before Christmas, then got sick holiday week, not really ready to consider going hard till over a week into the new year. Now day 13 of a nasty flu, I was the last of the household to succumb. Maybe next week I will feel like riding. Despite my best efforts I lost 10 lbs in the last two weeks. Not the way I wish to lose weight. I did ride to work today, and darn that saddle felt hard. Time off and less organic padding will do it.

    Restarting in the second month of the year is not where I planned to be.

  9. Mo'Nilla

    Well, I just got back from the doctor who told me I have two blood clots behind my right knee and not only am I going to have to limit my alcohol intake while on blood thinners, I may be off the bike for three weeks to six months. Frantically searching for silver lining…

    1. Padraig

      Mo’Nilla: What the wha?! No bike and limited alcohol? Dude. I’ll raise one in your honor tonight. Speedy recovery to you. I look forward in a very personal way to your return to the peloton.

      (FTR: I log good miles with Mo’Nilla.)

  10. christopheru

    Mo’Nilla – that is very unfortunate. Being sidelined by a medical thing is never fun. Hopefully, when your knee is better, you will be able to get back on the bike stronger than ever. While it is not much of a silver lining I know, once you are recovered from this and back on the bike, it will hopefully be even better for you mentally than it is now. I know that was my experience when I last wrecked badly and almost broke my back.
    Good luck and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  11. Scott

    Normally I would have already started my season with a TT in February. This year though the motivation for TT’ing is down. I’m looking forward to a couple organised century rides this Spring. No rush to start, just enjoy riding with my girlfriend and other riding partners.

  12. Michael

    I definitely have seasons. I start riding in March, with only a few rides outside in the winter if there is a prolonged thaw. I went for a couple of rides at lower elevations last weekend, but not sure when I’ll next be on a bike outside. Winter is really for skiing – skate or classic. Sometime in March I’ll start riding and usually pretty rapidly work up to 100-mile rides. In May, I typically have some long ride as a goal – double century, tour, something like that. Then summer hits, and I ride and run in the mountains above town every day. Sometime around late August or early September, I segue into running more. Still ride a day or two a week, but trail running seems to take over for a couple of months, until mid to late October. Then it is a month or so of riding and running, however much and long I can, until the snow starts sticking and I switch back to skiing. Seasonality is wonderful. It keeps everything fresh and fun, and perhaps it holds down the repetitive-use injuries. At least the mental ones!

  13. Howard

    Just riding now, no hammerfests. Finished cyclocross and a “Grasshopper” ended the last season. Not racing road these days, but enjoy longer group rides as the summer comes along. Being on the the bike is a big part of life

  14. Wsquared

    I also ride pretty much year round, with periods of a week or so here and there of enforced idleness when Mother Nature lets me know that I’m better off letting my aging lower back heal for a while by dumping snow on this part of Colorado. This Winter, there’s been a drought, so I’ve been riding more than usual and my back is really letting me know it. The price we pay for having fun.

    Its been a very long time since I did any racing myself, so for me “the season” is the international cycling racing season, which is about to start in earnest with the Spring Classics right around the corner. This time of year that means lurking around to see what live and recorded races I can scrounge up. It’s amazing how many races you can watch live over the net these days.

    I have also found a great cycling video source on twitter to feed my habit, Fabulous Cycling Videos – @FabulousCycling. They scour the net looking for all kinds of cycling videos from different sources all over the World – everything from Coppi winning Giro stages on YouTube to interviews with racers, race videos, manufactures promos etc. They are sometimes in languages other than English, but I usually get the drift. Today, @FabulousCycling has a couple of links to Volta ao Algarve videos. They’re in Portuguese, but the images are universal:

  15. Eto

    Here in West Michigan I have friends that ride through the winter even without Fat Bikes. For those hardie souls their season just slows down for a few months.

    My start of my season is defined by the light of day, beginning with the time change in April. Then the weekly schedule consists of at least one local shop ride (Tuesday night) and one friendly group ride (Saturday morning) which involves breakfast, unusually pancakes. Last season, I hit my peak in late August… Not like it used to be but I can’t complain.

    My goal has and will remain to ride enough to be able to enjoy my best rides whether in a group with friends or solo into the wind.

  16. slappy

    Fat bike season is ON. as is nordic season, ski season, hockey season, sledding season, and how. Got a good beat down in our local nordic race yesterday. Pretty amazing after the body pains of bike racing, namely the lower back upper body that doesn’t do much, while skate skiing seems to be a truly balanced exercise that benefits the whole body?! Alright back to the fat bike

  17. Carrie Schmeck

    In northern CA, we ride all year long but my real “season” starts when I don’t have to decide how many layers to wear and the clock changes. That’s when we ramp up our ride mileage and intensity to prepare for our list of must-do centuries.

    And to commiserate, I missed out on an epic group ride yesterday in lieu of an all-day high school wrestling tournament. Sweaty gym vs. blue skies and sunshine–priceless. Time is short.

  18. Michael Schlitzer

    One of my riding friends has a problem with his eye in the cold weather, so our first “real” ride is usually in early April out in the country, through some cow fields. The wind is usually blowing and it’s long enough, early enough in the year to make it interesting, and it ends on a little climb. It’s not quite a real “classic”, but it’s good enough to be our start for several years in a row now. That makes it a tradition.

  19. Don Byrd

    Our season is all year long on the left coast. Monterey has very mild winter temps and knickers work most year round . Jamming through Pebble Beach to see how all the wealthy people live. Nope , I not there to golf , just to jam silky smooth roads. It is tough to train with the ocean lapping against the rocks . Most go for the golf , I go for the roads and of coarse the view of the ocean . I been told they use to race cars through Pebble . That is hard to believe , but the roads are great for a racing bicycles .We occasionally have to steer clear of the tour bus . Small price to pay for silky smooth roads . If you are ever on the left coast, plan a ride through Pebble Beach . It is one that you will remember for sure .

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