Blog: the last days of summer

I am by nature an optimist, so when our erstwhile leader and I were discussing upcoming blogs, I wanted to kick this one into December.

However, a change is being wrought and with Eurobike safely behind us and talk of model year 2014 product in local bike shops the length and breadth of this fair isle, I suppose I must face autumn’s dawn and accept the loss of long, warm summer days.

The weekends remain unchallenged for pedalling during the winter months but it is the ease with which rides that begin with the phrase “I’m just nipping out on the bike for an hour” (leg-looseners that invariably become three-hour sessions) are lost from the mid-week schedule that shapes form going into the off-season.

The last of the summer sun is to be savoured before it disappears for winter

With the days of summer now numbered, and autumn marking its earliest presence with chilly starts and shorter days, the cyclist can cheer himself with two thoughts: firstly, autumn brings some of the best cycling days of the year, and secondly, the winter offers new cycling challenges, and the excuse (or, if my heavily pregnant partner is reading, need) for new gear.

September cycling takes some beating. A new found desire to wring the last drops of sunshine and enjoy the rural lanes in all their glory has gripped me. I am pleasantly reminded that knee warmers, gilets and good base layers extend the usefulness of my summer kit and I do not yet have to go out dressed like a fleece refugee.

Winter is inevitable, and we can grumble into our tea, or deliver Frosty the Snowman a metaphorical kick in his icy unmentionables with a plan for winter riding

A pre-work ride this week, although shrouded in a fog that seemed unfamiliar, such has been the length (for once) of summer, was one of the most pleasant of the year to date. The evenings remain light until eight, and post-work rides have been accompanied by the pleasant sensation of form. A sustained period of good weather has afforded a sustained period of riding, and I’m (finally) feeling the benefit.

And when September ends? None of us are likely to welcome winter, but it’s as inevitable as death and taxes, and we can stay indoors and grumble into our tea, or deliver Frosty the Snowman a metaphorical kick in his icy unmentionables with a plan for winter riding. Ploughing on with a summer riding schedule in winter conditions (same routes, same gear, worse weather) is unlikely to put a smile on your face.

For me, winter will mean starting a bike build project, mastering those lethal rollers (I will not be defeated this time!) and returning to the mud-soaked arena of cyclo-cross for the first time in longer than I care to remember.

And so to planning. Already, friendly product managers are keenly pressing lights, tights, waterproofs, mudguards and various other winter products upon us. Disc brake-equipped road bikes, ‘cross bikes and plans for custom builds during the long nights are making post-ride conversations among my riding buddies. Wider tyres, overshoes, wool socks and where did I put my favourite winter gloves – all of this can wait for a little while longer. I’m going out on the bike – but just for “an hour”…


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