Rite of Spring :: Ride in Spring

So rather inevitably there’s a first ride after Spring has sprung. It can go unmarked in the annals of bike riding when you ride year ’round, but I try not to let that happen. I didn’t always ride all year, and warmer spring weather (certainly warmer than today’s start at 30 degrees) marked the start of the season and all the fun to come.

Once riding all year became more common for me it became easier to forget to the mark the occasion, since often it’s just another cold day in a string of cold days. But today it was sunny and eventually warmish and the occasion was marked by the inaugural ride on a new bike frame.

I had a couple of cool winter projects this year. I have a “winter” bike. It can wear wear fairly large tires (up to about 40c I believe) and it’s made of aluminum so it’s able to deal with the salt and junk fairly nicely. It also has middle of the road parts, so the wear of riding through all that salt and sand and goo and yuck is taking place on less expensive parts, wheels, chain etc. I do what I can to keep it clean, but with no indoor facility for cleaning it, it remains a mess for the winter, and then it gets a good cleaning after the last ride of the winter. It may occasionally join the fray when I ride in pouringly wet weather.

As I settled into the winter regime, a friend noted some blow-out frame prices. It’s a sweet little ChroMoly thing, and I built it up over the course of the winter as a single speed/fixie. It’s the least expensive bike I own by far. Some parts were from EBay, some were the closet. The wheels were the most expensive component since I wanted single speed hub that matched the 130 spacing of the frame. Despite the parts sounding like they come from all over the biking universe, the end result looks nice and rides great… my first real bike also had only one gear (but it did have a sparkly purple banana seat and a low sissy bar).

The other project was trading in my road frame and moving almost all the parts over to the new frame. Shifters, drive train, brakes, bars, wheels, everything except for the stem, seat post, and saddle were moved over. The new frame is smooth, and efficient. Light as well, but that wasn’t the real point. I’ve done enough riding to have some sense of where my old bike were letting me down, and yesterday, on the new bike’s inaugural ride, my riding partner noticed the efficiency as we climbed a few miles of grade – that I hadn’t geared down at all, kept the pace up, etc. Now part of me thinks its a crock, and that my screw the cadence riding style this year has more to do with it, but whatever. I enjoyed the ride of it, and this year that’s what matters.

Other years faux training took over various aspects of my biking life. The reach to be faster, climb better, what-have-you drove me to bad training. Soft days not soft enough, hard days not hard enough, not enough rest, not enough base miles, incorrect nutrition – the whole gamut. Last year, my cycling fell apart altogether as life, business, and seemingly everything else came first, and I lacked the will to get up early or stay out late to do the riding. It was always dark, cold, and rainy, and never warm, sunny, and bright. I’d ride once in a while when things worked out, and then be annoyed at my lack of fitness, which naturally grew worse over the course of the year with the breaking point being an almost flat ride that I’ve done many times where I couldn’t keep up with a slow group on a slight rise. That was it, as it were, the weather was getting cooler, I was still crazy busy, and I had just had enough.

A couple of months go by and the fall weather has passed and winter has set in. I break out the rollers deciding that it was time to break the downward fitness spiral. Did that for a while, bored to tears, and decided that I needed to find the “ride outside” thing that I love. I sorted through the winter clothes, found the right stuff, and started out just doing simple laps around a nearby lake, slowly reminding my body what riding was all about. Soon enough the miles had piled up, and I was beginning to feel a little more like a cyclist. Shortly thereafter was a group ride, on that same flat course that had beaten me down at the end of the summer. With some trepidation we rolled along, I was talking with a friend, and realized that we were off the front. She dropped back to talk to some one else, so I figured I’d just keep turning the cranks and they’d catch up soon enough. Pretty soon I realized that I had remained alone, and all but stopped moving. A few minutes later the group caught up, someone jokingly accused me of doping, and we rolled on. But it felt really good to be that comfortable.

Part of what I found this winter was the simple joy of cycling. The year “off” had broken the cycle of improvement, got me out of a “training” mentality and returned me to the fun of riding. Nothing’s been more fun than doing part of my commute by bike. Wearing street clothes, platform pedals, etc. Just throwing a leg over and going. One gear. Just like was I was a kid. And now, when I do dress up and go out for twenty or more miles on the high tech, 20 gear, incredible lightness of being device, it feels right, and fun, and happy.

The last question I was asked recently was what happened to the mountain bike I built last year? Sold. My vision for that bike never worked out because I wound up being so busy. The trails aren’t close and the roads start right outside my door. I decided that there was no point in storing it in the garage just for the sake of it, I didn’t see anything changing anytime soon.

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