Sunday, December 16, 2007

In Winter.

Months have passed since the summer riding season ended. You segued seamlessly into knickers, then tights, then tights with windpants, but this is a level or three beyond all that. The frosted edges of the window hint at the depth of the frozen world that lies beyond. Hands grasping the sill, you scrape some frost from the glass and peer out, already imagining the bite of wind on your cheeks, the initial reluctance of your lungs to inhale the sharp air, the discomforting feel of the cold that lies, hopefully, just beyond the few layers of clothing you’ll be wearing when you head out. Behind you the furnace kicks on, filling the room with warmth and reminding you that imagining is never the same as being out in it. A wave of realization hits; the cold beyond that window is tangible, even in here. A shiver runs through you.But still you want to ride. Maybe the shiver wasn’t just from imagining the cold--maybe it had something to do with nervous anticipation, or possibly its’ origin was the childish thrill of heading outside when common ‘knowledge’ says you shouldn’t. The only certainty is that you ARE heading out. Tugging shoes on over thick socks--the last in the winter-dress ritual of layering, velcroing, and lacing--you try to get out the door before soaking yourself in sweat.Once out you immediately note the absolute silence, which, curiously, brings a knowing smile to your face. After a fantastic season of epic group rides, mud-fests, trailhead tailgate parties, post-ride barbecues and fall color tours, you’re about to get back to basics. You smile because you’ve missed the solitude.In winter you ride alone far more often. Chances are you won’t see another person, and won’t need to remember how to tactfully say, “On your left”. Because of that, there’s less urgency to the rides. Winter brings out the possibility to slow down and enjoy the ride for what it is: a chance to be outside when the rest of the world, or so it would seem, isn’t.For those who don’t put their bikes away when the cold and snow come, the rewards lie in the subtleties; the cold air sharpens you enough to notice the little things. Feeling the first bit of ice forming inside your nostrils. Noticing hoarfrost on a tree limb, on your bike frame, on top of the snow itself. The key to noticing these things is the lack of distractions.Alone and undistracted in the cold, you’re able to experience and observe so many extraordinary things: crystalline, shimmering air; sundogs; northern lights; moon bows; even the simple, satisfying crunch of snow under your tires.
As fantastic as those things are, even better is that winter riding allows a few moments of clarity away from an otherwise chaotic world. You’re able to sort out many of life’s details, letting go of the trivial ones, thereby gaining fresh perspective before returning home.Add it all up and what do you get? The solitude afforded by winter riding allows you to notice--and more importantly appreciate—the life that surrounds you.