Our Winter Sunday's
Don’t get me wrong, I love cycling and pretty much everything about it. I love getting up early at the weekends in the Summer, so I can hit the road to miss the worst of the traffic. I love the empty roads that run through the forests or quiet country lanes, whizzing past corn fields lined at the edges with giant Oak trees. I love having the time to let all my worries at the start of a ride just slowly fall away until I find myself just being at one with the bike. I also like the feel of the sun burning into my back and the warm breeze.
As much as I love all these things there is another side to cycling that I love too, and it’s not one that I really think about too much until the end of the Summer when I find myself starting to get a little chilly in my shorts and thin jersey. It’s commonly known as Winter. I’ll admit that in the Winter I do not use my road bike at all, instead I switch over to my faithful hybrid that has been hanging on my garage wall all year gathering a thin layer of dust while the tyres slowly deflate. Actually that’s not strictly true because occasionally I do lift it down and inflate the tyres just to stop them from perishing.
While the Summer for me is all about watching my weight, checking my cadences and average heart rates on my computer and planning long rides that push me to my limits, the winter is pretty much about the opposite. I like the idea that I don’t have to wear skin tight lycra, my bike in pristine condition and having to race along at my limits.
The Winter for me is all about relaxing recreational riding. I like it when I have to get togged up in my Winter clothing to keep out the elements. My hybrid bike is well equipped to handle all that the bad weather can throw at it. I don’t have to impress anyone either. I tend to do much shorter rides on this bike, there is no pressure to perform and I ride it in places that I would never dream of taking my road bike.
One of my favourite short rides usually takes place on a Sunday afternoon. I like to take one of the extensive ranges of cycle paths that lead away from where we live with my better half and we make our way towards the town. Riding in an urban environment is very different from the country runs. To me if the bike is geared up for it, this can be fantastic fun. Because we go more slowly we can take the time to look around us, at the streets and houses that we pass and discussing what we like or don’t like about them.
After about an hour we will reach one of my favourite stopping points along the way, The docks along the waterfront. There are a number of small cafes along here we like to stop for a while and have a little treat. For me this is usually a large hot chocolate with all the extras and a hot chocolate croissant (or two). I don’t get the guilty feeling in the Winter at having eaten an extra one, I just convince myself that it was well deserved.
It doesn’t matter to us if it’s hot or cold, sunny or raining, it’s just a lovely place to sit and watch the people passing by and the boats bobbing around on the water. After around half an hour or so we usually start to feel a bit cold so this is the signal for us to get going again.
We ride along the waterfront and head back into town and up through the park. In there you will find the usual inhabitants on a Sunday afternoon, dog walkers, runners and Dad’s out with their kids giving Mum a well-earned rest at home. By this time the light begins to fade a bit and it’s time to get the lights on. The road home is a nice easy run back, all the easier for the fact that when we get back we can tuck into the beef casserole that has been bubbling away in the slow cooker for the last six hours. On a day like this I consider it a perfect reward for spending a couple of hours in the saddle out in the cold.
It is just as satisfying to do a ride like this at an easy pace in good company than it is on those fast Summer runs. For me this is what Winter riding should be about. Sometimes if I am feeling energetic I will get out and do longer rides, these take place usually on a Saturday afternoon and on my own. I do get enjoyment out of these rides too but sometimes you can’t beat a leisurely ride with a reward at the end of it.