The Warmth of the Sun
Brian Wilson, founding member of the Beach Boys wrote about the warmth of the sun keeping him warm at night when things change. We are now at the time of year as cyclists when things do indeed change for the worse and the beautiful Beach Boys song (one of many) often springs to mind as summer ebbs away with autumn taking hold as we head into the depths of winter. It is a transitional and reflective time of the year for us bike riders as we assess and perhaps ponder what has happened over the 12 months previous; what PB’s were achieved, where did I suffer, how many miles have I done, would could I have done if work was not in the way, should I buy those shoes and change those wheels, are those other tyres faster ?
Of course, we also turn our attention to our trusty steeds and more often than not, the ‘best bike’ is hedgehog style confined to the spare room attic, den, shed or garage and the winter bike is unshackled from its parking spot and wheeled out into the looming despair of dark nights, rainy days and frozen toes. I once got told off by my Mum for asking to them to store my winter single speed bike. “Winter bike, what on earth is that ? Silly. Me and your Dad do not have a winter car !!!”. “True !” I replied “but we are talking bikes not cars. You’ll never get it”. N+1 and all that.
The key of course is making sure that your ‘best bike’ is cleaned and prepped - put away tidy and ready for the fast days again, but secretly hoping that summer will turn Indian again and prolong itself another few weeks so you can allow your best tyres to feel the tarmac again before Santa arrives.
I managed to snag 55 miles around the Mendips on Tuesday in exactly this way. Warm and sunny, though blowing a gale. The weather of late has indeed favoured the sneaky bike ride, labelled as winter, but with the low sun on our backs allowing us to enjoy it for as long as we can. If this was the sum total of winter I think we would all be happy but fear not, if it changes, in reference to getting your bike clean the Bagpus mice used to since “We will wash it, we will mend it, we will make you brand new” and the beauty of a mechanical machine such as a bike is 40 minutes of cleaning can indeed make a bike look beautiful again.
But again, in the Beach Boys song they lamented that night does indeed turn into day and winter, whilst horrible for the modern bike rider, does pass. To my mind we have not had a really bad winter since 2010 when I realised that riding with two frozen bidons and a Beach Boys, circa 1970, beard solidifying in the cold, cold wind was not the best idea. Frankly, it was stupid, but that is the life of the committed cyclist. The issue that day was that I rode to the old Severn bridge before deciding it was simply hellish and turning around to make the 15 miles back to the Southville Metropolis one of the worst slow hours on a bike ever. I felt like George Mallory on a push bike.
Winter is all about a change of ethos and style. Forget the summer miles and the summer fast loops. Plod about, enjoy the lack of effort and don’t fret about losing fitness - it happens. We are in this as mere recreational riders and if the cycling becomes an obsession, you can lose the passion. I once waited for December sun to lift the black ice on the South Bristol roads and paid the price, hitting the deck hard, thus writing off a Dura Ace 7900 shifter and a rear mech after bailing on unseen ice. Bike parts can be replaced, hips, knees, elbows cannot and the ultimate price is time off the bike with an injury and torn bibs. Join a spin class or buy a turbo - take advice from a good bike shop like Mud Dock and listen to the seasoned riders if you are in your first or second winter on bike. Worse things happen at sea but fret not, it won’t be long before the summer socks and shaved pins are back, feeling the warmth of the sun. Full gas tomfoolery to be enjoyed by all.
See you next year. 2017 is almost upon us. It’ll be light again before you know it.