I’m standing beside the canal on the verge of crying. My bike unceremoniously dumped in the mud underneath another tree decorated by followers of the Dogshit Fairy. My hands are screaming at me in the way that only hot aches can make them do. So sore. So cold. Stupid hands. I’d cut them off if I could stand any chance of grasping a knife. The only real option I have is to shout at them. The Canadian geese just laugh.
I have a real worry for those people who say they love winter training. The seemingly endless hours of endurance riding (read: boring as hell) on greyscale bleak roads with cars zipping past within meters. It’s not that I worry that these riders are in danger. I worry that they are mentally unstable.
As someone who thinks riding around a frozen field for an hour wearing nothing but a layer of Lycra, maybe a baselayer if it goes below -2 Celsius, this may sound trite. But I just can’t get into the same mentality of suffering of those who pursue ‘winter miles’. Cyclocross makes sense in this weather. Ramp your heart and lungs until they want to explode out of your chest. With all that extra heat being produced, there is never a worry of getting cold. Go team thermogenesis! Finish up, have a sneaky puke, then go find some beer/cake/tea. It’s all good.
But riding along at a docile pace for four hours in the bleak northern evening light? Please, it’s suffering for the sake of tradition. Pointless suffering. Everything about it becomes hassle. Nothing is fun about it. I think we should just stand up and admit this. “Hi my name is Greg, I used to do winter miles. It’s been two years now. Every day is a struggle.”
Except those days. You know them. Real bluebird days, where if we lived in a sensible country we’d be out skiing. Those days are stunning, almost perfect riding weather. Crisp air and dry roads. Sunshine, but never enough to pull your hands out into the light. Softshell weather where you can ride hard, always on the brink of overheating, never going too slow because it’d be rude to do so.
But now, in November, the bleakest soul-shattering month of the year where the weather decides to give us all its first two-finger salute of the year, those bluebird skies are far, far away. So screw the long rides. Go hard, go fast, go to the races. It’s not worth suffering so little for so long when you can suffer so much for so short a time.
Beer of the Week:
Dead Pony Club – Brewdog 3.8% ABV
“Some people say slow is good. We believe fast is better. Being shot from a Howitzer beats the hell out of trotting round a paddock. That’s why the internal combustion engine got mounted on two wheels. Screw down the throttle and listen to that dull banshee howl floating back from those malted mufflers. Fuel up and hold tight, this thoroughbred kicks like a mule”
“But why would you kill a pony!” my wife often laments when I grab a bottle of one of my favourite go to beers. “Because ponies taste like grapefruit. And grapefruit is healthy.” I really love this beer, not too strong, not too weak, but with a smell and flavour that shout summer. A perfect beer after a less than perfect long ride.