Or, February – it’s a proper bastard. Aside from a few over-medicated nutjobs, there is a collective and plaintive whinge from the cycling community come November. Too cold, too dark, too bloody miserable to ride, too much effort for too little gain. Too much kit, too much washing, hit the hibernate button and wake me in Spring.
I am one of the over-medicated nutters. Although individual rides may trigger mad delusions that my life had ended only to be reincarnated as a dolphin, the collective revolution of a million* moist pedal strokes leaves Al’s world sunny side up.
Not that much of that sun is going on outside. Which brings me back to why February can only be conquered through gritted teeth, and the vague promise of something better soon.
November is fine, really. Some ace riding on still dry trails, bits of the commute lack benightment, still time for a trip away or two. December can go either way, but dicking about in the snow is the only Christmas present that makes you feel ten years old again.
And while the road bike is tending to the grim, it’s worth it for the looks on the be-suited faces of people not quite like you. Short month as well, before the excesses of a holiday period where getting out is the pefect release valve for being stuck inside with relatives who are not obsessed by cycling. Honestly, what’s wrong with these people?
January is brutal. Always cold, not much light, the misery on the faces of those swapping pasties for lentils. A spike in the number of off road riders spotted spluttering up the hills early Sunday morning. It is always like this – when the year turns – and it never lasts.
February tho, you feel cheated. Daffodils break through the winter crust, white ice is replaced by snowdrops of the same colour, occasional bright and warm days are snatched away by freezing easterlies and bands of spiteful rain. And you know it might snow again, which gets old so damn quickly and sends you back indoors in a grump.
Having missed a couple of rides already, my last commute was powered from a position of weather forecast denial. 6am in the wind and the wet confirmed the tea-leaf readers actually had it about right. After drying out at the office, the train home provided a further opportunity to view the hard rain slashing at the windows.
Wet weather gear is fantastic, but the problem is that it does not wateproof your brain. It’s a struggle sometimes to install the “it’ll all be alright in a few minutes” template as everyone else is rushing for their cars.
No choice but to get on with it. Displacement strategies include marvelling at how damn fab this is going to be in the light and warmth, calculating savings over the easy-drive option and wondering if hitting something is the right approach, as road bike brakes have a “work to rule” clause in the pissing rain.
Arriving home, you signal to the family that – contrary to all appearances – you are not an avenging swamp monster in control of an epic storm. Accept you’ve lost a bike and acquired a wheeled shed, peel off layers of dampness and hurry into the light.
Then do the same again on the Mountain bike the next night. The mud is up, the grip is down, the brakes are so much better but tyres – slicked by slushy crap – offers them nothing to work with. A dirty brown protest marks your rucksack, crack and back, but two hours of this beats an inside job with the TV.
So it’s time for a change. No more low-rent, truculent light mocking your motivation. Spring has to crank the season-ratchet and turn up the sun. What do we want? “Double digit temperatures, more light that dark, sunshine and no snow“, When do we want it? “RIGHT NOW”.
Maybe I’ll get some posters made up.
* well possibly not that many. But close enough if my not insignificant investment in bottom brackets is anything to go by.