It's only the third day of November, and it already feels like we're in the thick of winter. In fact, the temperature on my own ride this morning just so happened to match the day of the month - just like yesterday. Well, at least it got one degree warmer.
We could, of course, omit a collective little sigh, lock our bikes away, only to dust them off once the first rays of spring arrive. But in reality, if most keen cyclists were to do that within a week we'd probably have undergone a complete personality transplant, turning ourselves into hyperactive children with very, very bad tempers. So of course we won't be putting our bikes away. Instead, let's take time to appreciate the beautiful moments of winter road riding. And there are plenty of them (even if they're peppered with the odd minor inconvenience).
Here's a look at the bests and worsts, in my book...
BEST: Who doesn't love snuggling up in a great pair of winter bibs, and that magical jacket that seems to keep you warm, whilst preventing you from overheating? Winter clothing labels should read 20 per cent thermo fleece/roubaix, 10 per cent elastane, 70 per cent fairy dust.
WORST: Only ever being able to find three left gloves. Same goes for arm warmers, shoe covers and socks. You can only assume that your partner has some sort of weird right hand fetish, that your children are working on a creative right hand only patchwork quilt, or that your housemates are playing tricks on you.
BEST: Heading out into the night time quiet, re-discovering the lanes you know and love by the light of a brilliant torch, with hardly any drivers around to disturb your peace.
WORST: Getting kitted up for said night ride, only to realise you'd forgotten to charge that excellent, all-power giving torch after the last time...
BEST: Watching the sun rise over the trees as the rest of the world hides beneath the covers or ambles its way onto the lurgy infested train you're escaping from.
WORST: White hands that just won't do as they're told when you get to work, and claw toes that make you walk around the office like a piglet with mud-filled trotters.
Covering your legs up
BEST: Bib tights mean less time spent shaving, moisturising, and generally preening to be honest. Also, nice warm muscles. The only downside is difficult, slightly chilly, pee stops if they don't have a zip/clasp/halterneck/other.
WORST: Seeing those lovely tan lines you worked SO HARD ON all summer fade into nothing.
Chilling out on that winter steed
BEST: The major goals of summer - racing, sportives, or beating your mates on Strava - are all behind you, and next year's are far ahead in the distance. So you set your bike up with winter tyres, mudguards, even swap over to an older, heavier machine for a couple of months and just enjoy some easy miles with a comfortable old friend.
WORST: Punctures on winter tyres. They need to be more resilient, because more crap (for want of a better word) gets washed on the roads. But that resilience means they're tougher, and harder to get on and off the rim. Which is crap in itself when you do happen to get a flat.
Cleaning your bike more often
BEST: It's kind of fun to spend more time smoothing away the nasty bits of grit that will otherwise wear away at the key components of your beloved, and the dirtier the bike is, the more satisfying you find it
WORST: Knowing you're going to have to do it all over again after your next ride, and the one after that...
Tea stops in cosy cafes
BEST: On a long ride with your best buds, you stop off for a lovely warm cuppa to melt your ice block hands and a slice of cake to fill your belly. After all, shivering burns more calories, right?
WORST: Putting all the kit you took off to sit in the cafe back ON to go out into the cold after your stop. +extra 'worst' point if it's been raining and your kit is still wet.
Trying new things
BEST: With the busy summer cycling season behind you, you find you've got tons of time to explore new styles of - well - cycling. All of a sudden you've fallen in love with your new cycling discipline and you don't need to worry about what to do with all that new found free time, anymore
WORST: When it turns out you're not very good at your new thing*
(* Actually, this can still be really fun. To be honest, there aren't many 'worsts' about finding a new thing)
BEST: Sure, it gets boring if you don't train with intervals from a cool video/online source like Sufferfest, Zwift or Trainer Road. But if you DO use one of these, or have your own intervals planned, indoor training can pay massive dividends in fitness. And if you set yourself up with a friend you can laugh at each others suffering.
Also, you get to wear your summer kit all over again.
WORST: When you don't have a set session, and you're just pedalling away in the garage and it's boring as hell.
The wet stuff
BEST: When you find somewhere to get out of the rain JUST IN TIME and smugly wait for it to pass. Better still, arriving home exactly as the first droplets fall.
WORST:: Knowing that your face tells the whole world you've spent your entire ride being a massive wheel sucker. And eating other people's rear wheel grit is a bit grim too.
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