Summer’s gone – End of year cycling

Cyclist restingTan lines fading. Motivation too. Mornings cooler, darker. Days shortening. Summer fades so quickly into autumn, an annual event that somehow manages to surprise and disappoint us. Ahead, only darkness. Nine months into the year and the dear cyclist begins to think of hibernation.

The paradox of fitness peaking, body stronger than ever yet oh so tired, weary, continually on the limit. Limbs lighter, mind perhaps wiser, most importantly you’re a quicker rider. Yet probably still not satisfied. You can always be quicker.

Brief memories of cold winter base miles long since passed, eight-hour days reduced to moments. Low hanging mist, the sun setting, a flapjack here and there, especially that big piece you dropped in the road when oh so hungry. The early tempo interval sessions easy, enjoyable almost, unrecognisable to the sufferfests you now dread.

The distant Spring adventures to lands anew, beautiful rides stirring the senses, recall aided by Strava statistics and heavily filtered photos. Satellites always watching, recording your many paths. This is my land and I have conquered.

A spreadsheet captures each and every ride, an annual training schedule defined on a grid, the bars from which you cannot escape. Pride at your progression. I did this. I actually did this.

Average speeds increasing by the month, legs strong, confidence growing, you’re racing only against yourself, your most formidable opponent, one you’ll never beat but will never stop trying.

Cyclist tan lines
Wear tan lines with pride at all times

Peaking in time for summer, for forays into beautiful mountains or across arduous cobbles. Form fleeting, like a pleasant dream from which you never want to leave, your decline as inevitable as the sun rise.

Limbs not so long ago shining with sweat now pimpled with goosebumps. The morning chill forcing you to dig deep into the archives of your Lycra wardrobe, fingers fumbling for the thick stuff, for the lovely smooth fleece lining. You inevitably dress for December in September and overheat. Every year the same, fear of cold trumping accumulated experience.

Autumn and all change. Winds blustery, somehow always against you. Leaves fading, falling, a metaphor for your form. Speed means less for now is the time to eek out simple pleasures, riding like a child and enjoying every moment before winter reduces cycling to a contest of keeping warm.

Cycling spreadsheet
Next year’s plan sorted

Next year I’ll be stronger you think, swallowing a huge chunk of cake before opening a new spreadsheet, the empty template somehow thrilling. Beware! Vague plans become actual adventures the minute they are typed.

Next year planned before the current one ends.
Better get training.

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6 thoughts on “Summer’s gone – End of year cycling

  1. This year was a bust for me and cycling. I got out early and then succumbed to an injury and really never made back on the bike. Usually at this time of year, I am gearing up for the “Epic Tour” but not this year.
    Once the “issue” is sorted, I am going to have to get on the indoor trainer if I want to be in shape for my planned cycling vacation.


    1. While I enjoyed sleeping in, I definitely missed being on the bike. The year didn’t start off well, but the weather wasn’t that hot, so I am sure I would have enjoyed it quite a bit.
      The issue is being looked at, so hopefully a course of treatment will be enacted this week.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed your reflections. Especially here in Northern Europe, the melancholy accompanying the fading of Summer bears a certain heaviness. The manic months filled with endless days are over, ahead is a frosty and desolate darkness that seems to go on forever. Although I do not use spreadsheets and pay attention neither to heart rates or watts (maybe I should), at this time I am uneasily counting the days until snow and ice cover all roads and make outdoor training nearly impossible. Longer excursions with the commuter on studded tires remain an option that, however, do not stir up much enthusiasm.

    Among your thoughts, I especially loved the overdressing bit. After spending a late summer holiday in the Caucasus, the intuition of how to dress for Scandinavian temperatures is completely gone. It might be warmer on a sunny day now than on many Summer evenings that saw me wearing minuscule amounts of wool and lycra, but now the hand inevitably picks out the long sleeved stuff and the leg warmers. With vitamin D deficit looming on the far horizon, I wonder if this lack of skin exposure is the smart choice, yet the chill I feel on the descents bears no trace of Summer’s more generous base temperatures any longer.

    But this year is special. While I would normally be preparing to squeeze in one last big event before the curtain of darkness drops, this year I am nursing a nasty infection I picked up during my vacation in the Southern parts of this continent, a result of a heavy food poisoning. This puts not only the big event, but also any further training sessions out of the question for the near future. If my strength permits, I will concentrate on preparing my machine, rather than myself, for the coming months: re-wire the lights, re-adjust the fenders. The studded tires can still wait.

    While I think about this, memories of winter rides come to me. Heavy white puffs of breath, the opening of zippers when the going gets a little intense and the body heat needs an escape route in spite of nature doing its best to freeze everything in an ice-cold stasis. The helpless fumbling in overly large mitts I could do without, but I also remember the joy when on the second day of a mid-winter trip, countless snowflakes suddenly started falling and the deserted country road I was on seemed to transition into another reality of absolute silence (acoustically and visually). The spell was dispelled when I entered the next town and sat down for a mug of hot coffee and a freshly baked waffle. The memory of looking out into the snow that day brings back a feeling of coziness that is simply impossible to recall during Summer.

    Perhaps Winter’s not so bad, after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lovely lament to the passing of the season. Every season has its joys for the cyclist and despite some of the hardships of winter I wouldn’t trade the pleasure of watching the four seasons change should somebody offer me an ever present summer. Autumn now. Beautiful colours falling from dormant trees, low mists and darkening skies, sunsets and sunrises during waking hours, the desperate last dash of cyclists eeking out light evening rides for soon winter proper shall be here.


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