August has been an interesting month here in my New England home. The weather, for the first time in a long time, was mainly cool and dry, so a lot of riding happened, and I enjoyed it an awful lot. Not being too hot/cold or wet allows you to do your best riding, as it turns out.
That said, this month also sees the end of my focus on the road. I have all but stopped heading out to pile up paved miles simply for the sake of doing so. As I mentioned last week, local trails are calling my name, and while I have been riding them on my road bike lately, the mountain and cross bikes are also calling my name now. With the mornings growing darker (and chillier) I can see that it’s time to switch it up, and find some new fun.
My mind has turned to warmer clothing, the eternal search for the right winter cycling glove and a frank assessment of my lighting options. I’m not quite ready to put any of those things into regular use, but I do hate to wake up on that morning I need them and not know what I’m doing.
My friends who race cyclocross haves started their strange, cross-related rituals, mostly leaping over sticks and cones in public parks, like so many two-wheeled LARPers. Soon enough, I’ll be straining to hear the announcer over the rumble of a generator, and wondering who in the hell fixes the grass after a cross race.
Meanwhile the pros are winding down their season. La Vuelta, Worlds and the Giro d’Lombardia sit at this end of the calendar, a few remaining shots at redemption for those who have not quite met their “objectives” yet. Though those big races remain, it’s hard not feel as though a corner has been turned. This guy knows what I mean.
And while the summer is mainly over where I live, my friends in the southern hemisphere are undergoing the opposite shift. They’re gaining the light and warmth we are losing.
So this week’s Group Ride is about that shift. Is this a month of change for you? If so, what does that change look like? Are you pulling on arm-warmers yet? Or stripping them off? Are you switching from one bike to another, or training for a new kind of riding/racing?
Image: Matt O’Keefe
A new season means new kit. Depending on a few factors such as when you finalize sponsors, when your race season starts and how proficient your team’s leadership is at herding cats to get the order in, and of course, how long your clothing company really takes to get the clothing made, you may be receiving your new uniform anywhere from January to April.
Often times, I can barely remember what I ordered, how many bibs, jerseys—did I order a new vest this year—clothing orders vary when, unlike the PROs, you pay your own way.
The arrival of a new kit is one of those events like Christmas or seeing the UPS driver—the anticipation can leave you salivating like a dog who has just heard the can opener. No matter who the manufacturer is, when I tear the bag open on each piece there is a smell that emerges, part men’s department, part fabric softener, that excites my brain the way movie previews did when I was 12.
No matter what hour of the day it is and whether I’ve ridden that day or now, I have to try on my new duds. It always starts the same way: I tell myself I’m not going to try it all on, that I’ll just check out the gloves or arm warmers (don’t ask why), but soon enough, I’m in the bedroom undressing so I can see how everything fits.
And whether I’m alone or not, the very next move is mugging for the mirror. I check the fit of the bibs, the drape of the jersey over my shoulders, its length, the length of the arm warmers, the color matching of the colored Lycra to the sublimated Lycra. I even check how low the jersey falls over the butt panel.
I confess: I don’t preen this much when wearing my tuxedo.
Naturally, I can’t wear the kit out on a ride too soon. Whether I’m headed for a recovery ride on my own or out to join the biggest of the local group rides, I’m decked out in the full ensemble. And it is upon exiting my driveway that I’m reminded of something I forget each and every blasted year. New bibs are slippery on a saddle. Sitting on the saddle in new bibs is like trying to run barefoot on an ice rink.
That may be the key to my favorite part of new clothing. I’m happiest when the look is still new enough to be fresh in the peloton, but the bibs have enough wear to stay put in the saddle, which is to say when my new clothing isn’t brand new, but almost new.