Nobody develops a passion for cycling by going slow. We fall in love with the zoom. Our bodies thrill at the way gravity pulls at us as we enter a turn. That pull at our mass tells us we are alive, a feeling wholly different than the one you get on a couch in front of the TV. That sensation ignites ride after ride, eventually drawing us out on rides in dull light, misty afternoons, eventually complete downpours.

Love leads to exploration, right? Well that was fun, so this probably is, too. The ecstasy returns when you discover a new descent, a fresh line.

Somehow, even riding in the cold registers as fun, at first. Somewhere along the line we figure out that more riding translates to more fitness and more fitness means more speed and we’ve known for as long as we’ve been cyclists that more speed is more fun. So more riding is more fun, obvs.

Our desire for more fun evolves into devotion. We begin to see riding more through the lens of taking care of ourselves, our fitness. We do rides that may not be all that much fun, but we know that not doing them will make those other rides, when we want to have more fun, more successful. It’s a strange equation, not having fun just so we can have fun.

As much as we see ourselves changing cycling, by doing it in the cold, the wet, the dark, what has changed is us, our willingness to occupy the margins as way to spend more time with our favorite pursuit.

That’s the thing about growing up. We come to appreciate the value in the tasks that aren’t all that much fun. It’s that first trip to the store with your new sweetie. Almost anything with the object of your affection is more fun than buying the groceries. At least going with them saves you from the pain of going without.

In 1970, nearly a decade after his death, Ernest Hemingway’s novel Islands in the Stream was published. One camp of Hemingway fans celebrated its release while another decried it as a travesty, the exhuming of a corpse its creator wished to remain buried. To me, there was little mystery in why people wanted to read it. It was more time with a voice people missed. Even if it wasn’t his best work, it was a chance to hear from an old friend, years after they’d passed from this world. A real friend loves you even when you’re not at your best.

That’s the thing about love. In its adult form, we take the good with the bad, the sexy and the mundane. It’s in those duller moments that we appreciate just how transcendent the best times are. It’s why riding in a cold rain is like tending a garden.

The greater our effort, the sweeter the fruit.


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  1. Eric

    Nice piece, again. Rode the trainer this a.m. for first time in months and titled the ride “Dark & Wet Morning = Zwift”. Fast, fun, fitness, friends – all are part of my on and off bike contemplation of why I allocate hours to riding vs. other things.

  2. Neil Winkelmann

    Weather finally turned cool and wet for my Monday commute. The leaves are falling. Winter is coming. Here in Canada, north of the wall, we know what that means. Fenders are on; shoe covers and lights are all now in use. The layers will start to build, and gloves will come out as the temperatures drop still further. It is simply a wonderful time be cycling. The city, harbour and mountains are at their most moody and spectacular. The park is blissfully quiet, compared to sunny summer days. But it is on the truly “grim” days, yet to come, that I feel most at peace. Not long now until snow starts to settle on the mountains. I can’t wait. To be alone on the bike in the cold, dark rain is a meditation that I treasure. Love indeed.

  3. Tominalbany

    Padraig, this essay along with your Metamorphosis essay are a nice pair! They really do speak to some of the ‘Why we ride?” question.

    Nice job!

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