As we roll inevitably on into another winter, (which is definitely coming), my cycling is taking an unexpected turn. My priorities on the bike have changed and the ideas of hard training are gone, or maybe I’m just training for a different type of ride.
The warm sunshine of summer already seems a distant memory. 8 hour days in the saddle with multiple coffee stops and miles rolling by seem mere mirages, did they even happen? The Tuesday night fast group ride, adrenaline fuelled and chasing down that elusive 24mph average seems completely implausible. But I’m still enjoying being out on a bike, just at a different pace, taking joy in other things.
I’m lucky that my commute occurs (at this time of year) in that golden hour of half light, a technicolour show thrown up into the sky twice a day at sunrise and sunset. OK there have been the odd unremarkable transition between night and day, where the sky has just gone from dark, through pale grey, to pastel shades of blue almost unnoticed. But there have been more than a fair share of amazing displays of reds, pinks and oranges. Enough on some occasions to make me stop on the side of the road and just enjoy the view. The change from day to night occurring so quickly sometimes that it is pointless trying to capture it in a photo, why spend time trying to get the perfect angle that you miss the moment itself?
The change in conditions also means that road surfaces are not what they may have been during the summer months, mud, leaves and stones leading to a drop in speeds to accommodate. A drop in speeds that I’ve found myself taking even further over the last few days, to simply sit back (figuratively) and realise the pleasure of being on the bike. Slowing to say ‘Hello’ to a stranger and scratch an excitable dog behind the ear.
I’ve removed busy traffic-laden routes with quiet country lanes, increasing the distance travelled but rewarding me with both wildlife and serenity. My brakes have been tested over the last week by pheasants, deer and rabbits, far more entertaining than having them tested by an inevitable queue of traffic along the southern bypass. Even a weasel has crossed in front of my wheels, I’d like to think it was dancing manically to confuse me before the sudden realisation that maybe I was slightly bigger than a rabbit, though it was more likely simply crossing the road (if you’ve never seen a weasel or stoat dancing to confuse a rabbit then head to YouTube now!).
My habits on Strava have also changed, rather than looking at average speeds, cadences and heart rates after every ride, I’m more concerned with looking back at the photos and memories from rides. Planning new routes focussing on exploring new roads and places. Yes I look forward to the return of high speed efforts in the summer, but I’ve got other ideals to keep my riding entertaining for now.
We’re also planning a big ride next year through the Outer Hebrides, 7 days with a tent, 220 miles to cover and no real plan other than a train station at both ends. That’s only 30 miles a day, even allowing for a relaxed breakfast and difficult tent building that’s still only 5 or 6 mph. But we plan on relaxing and enjoying the ride, the scenery and hopefully the serenity. So in a way I am still training, even at the moment, training myself to take it steady and enjoy the ride.