The view from the window is not always what it seems.
Grey skies, a damp road, and a pessimistic weather forecast, combined with prospects for the vicarious pleasure of televised cycling from the infinitely more inviting climes of Catalunya would normally convince me to postpone riding plans for yet another day.
Winter’s stubborn refusal to depart, however, has already extended the resumption of regular miles for longer than I care to recall, begetting yet another disincentive: the prospect of riding with nothing in the legs. Catch 22.
Chapeau then for the company of a riding buddy in similar straits, his enthusiasm for the road sharpened by an unfortunate altercation with a set of rollers; one that almost terminated his hopes of parenthood.
Clad in numerous layers (merino base, Roubaix mid, softshell outer, and, for good measure, showerproof jacket) we crawl along suburban roads from the town to the countryside in conditions that threaten snow. The worst part of the journey (the countryside isn’t met until 10 miles into this regular loop, but the reward is worth the wait) passes quickly amid a caustic commentary on conditions.
It’s all good fun, of course: the darker the humour, the faster the miles pass, until, suddenly finding ourselves in the depths of the countryside, with nowt but fields as far as the eye can see, a dawning realisation strikes – it’s a beautiful day for cycling.
It’s not warm, of course, nor is it entirely dry, but it is far from cold, and a moist atmosphere is leagues clear of a downpour. The narrow country roads are free from traffic, the wheels whirr freely beneath us, and observations on life, the universe, and everything are exchanged with the freedom of old friends.
There are worse places to be on a Saturday afternoon. The misery of town centre shopping, the frustration of rail journeys made on a network beset with engineering work; even wallet-draining visits to coffee and bike shops are a pleasure to avoid on a ride made in spite of the conditions, not because of them.
The unmistakable lengthening of the days is also cause for good cheer. The desire, if not necessity, to be back on well-lit urban roads before darkness envelopes the countryside, the overriding consideration of rides in January, is now an afterthought. Daylight reigns these days until at least 6pm, and next week’s change of the clock will increase time in the saddle further.
Motivation can be hard to find amid the seemingly perpetual state of winter gripping northern Europe (ask the boys contesting the Classics if conditions are any warmer across the Channel) but the companionship of riding buddies can provide the necessary get up and go to, well, get up and go.
It’s all too easy to give yourself the day off; harder, though, to cancel an arrangement made with others. Make a date, stick to it, and pull out your warmest kit – as much of it as you can find. The highlights from Catalunya will be that much more enjoyable with miles in the legs.