I don’t remember the last time my ass hurt, more specifically the lower connections of my gluteus maximus to my adductor magnus, that soft spot where sitting and pedaling come together. Before Sunday, I had been off the bike for something like six weeks, a combination of injury and bitter cold forcing me to concede that discretion was called for this winter, rather than valor.
But Sunday was warm, nearly 50F, and I didn’t feel I could sit on the couch any longer. Dawn cracked. I pulled up my big boy tights and set out to do some pedaling.
The first ride back is always revelatory, isn’t it? To feel your body working again, to be outside and engaged, to cover some ground under your own power, it calls up all those things elemental to cycling. And of course, there is the revelation of form, really the lack of it, the slowness, the struggling, the cruelty of the wind. Coming back up the hill to my house, I couldn’t believe how slow I was and how hard it felt. Except that I could.
My neighbor has been stealing rides between snow storms, running to keep up his fitness when the bike is a poor option. He asked me to ride with him on Saturday, and I should have gone, even just for an hour, but I was afraid. I wanted to suffer alone first, to see where I was before showing anyone else.
The good news is I still love riding bikes.
I took a slow spin into the city. No one rides into the city on purpose, but I do sometimes. The roads are all awful, snow plows and salt breaking down an already patchy network of asphalt, the pot holes spread like mines in a field. But the low winter light plays across the faces of buildings and throws shadows across the river. Winter ducks cluster at the water’s melted edge and the streets are quiet, too many people stuck in their cold weather routines to recognize the beautiful day dawning outside their windows.
It is a pain in the ass to start over, especially when there is little prospect of a quick return to form. The snow hasn’t finished with us yet, and this January thaw will fade back into frigid cold again. I won’t be piling up miles any time soon. But that’s ok. Sometimes it’s good just to remind yourself of what you’re waiting for, to roll around aimlessly and feel like a cyclist again.
For most people, the start of a new year is either a blip on the calendar and no more or less significant than the changing of seasons, or a chance to re-set the clock with the ultimate self-improvement quest: the resolution. The failed results of most of those resolutions fill city dumps around the world.
As cyclists, though, we know something of new chapters. Aren’t we the most hopeful of resolutionists? Each new year is the dawn of yet another season of cycling. The cycle of seasons thrusts remission on us and with it, a chance to take stock and consider what the year’s cycling did and didn’t deliver.
It’s rare that we don’t make a conscious appraisal of the previous year. If we won, we resolve to continue to win, maybe win even more. If we didn’t throw the V, we hope to ascend to greater fitness and this time, claim the top step for ourselves. And there are among us those who have turned in the superhero cape. Nothing left to prove, as the march of time creeps into the second half of life, many will find treading water enough. This year’s body turning last year’s watts is a kind of victory. None of these can trump the achievement of the cyclist returning from injury though.
No one wants to make last year a forgotten dream more than the rider who was injured. No matter what the wound nor how inflicted, to the injured, the arrival of the new year is a shot at catching up. The fallow field for one rider is newly mown hay for those who heal.
The new season is a library, swollen with unanticipated treasures and terrors. Each book is the self, each ride another page revealing the unknown.