Summer is undoubtedly my favorite season for cycling. Summer is the most pleasurable time to cycle. Summer cycling conjures thoughts of funny tan lines, salt streaked skin, and the warm sun beating on exposed skin. Furthermore, even the hottest of summer days can be made cooler with enough speed, and there is something magical about stopping for a mid-ride ice cream. There is no seemingly better summer day than watching the Tour de France in the morning and following it up with an epic midday ride. As an adult it brings me back to childhood pretending I was Larry Bird in the driveway, only now I am Thor Hushovd sprinting toward the town line, or Ivan Basso as I attempt to eviscerate my fellow riders on a climb.
Despite all the wonders of summer riding, I still find spring the most satisfying time of year for cycling. What spring riding lacks in pleasure it makes up with in character. Mixed in with the excitement of being back on the bike, the volatile conditions add to the spring’s charms. Spring riding this year had us in high-eighty-degree weather one day, and riding in forty-degree rains the next. It is not just a varying of weather over the course of days; rather, rides change character of the course of miles. Some rides start out cold, but as muscles work and get warm, the sun rises pushing the temperature up. Some rides start out in the sun but are quickly enveloped in clouds and rain.
Preparing for these rides is an effort in futility, and it seems that no matter what decision you made leaving the house at some point you find yourself wishing you had went another direction, whether it was to have left something behind or brought something else along. As the Tour de France gets me excited to ride in the summer, it is the inclement weather of spring that truly motivates me. And as the legends of the Tour provide motivation through the summer, it is the weather of the spring classics such as Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and Paris Roubaix that quickly come to mind, along with images of hardened cyclists battling not only each other but mother nature as well.
The beauty of riding in the spring is the suffering. Unlike summer riding, it is not just suffering to keep up with the group or suffering up the hill; rather, it is suffering to leave the warm confines of inside (maybe not the warm inside of my home due to an aversion to paying for heat), suffering through cold fingers and toes, roads that have not been swept clean of winter’s sand and salt, and suffering to regain the fitness left behind in the fall. Riding in the spring satisfies the body’s need to suffer, and makes all of the negatives worth while.
“What makes a great endurance athlete is the ability to absorb potential embarrassment, and to suffer without complaint. I was discovering that if it was a matter of gritting my teeth, not caring how it looked, and outlasting everybody else, I won. It didn’t seem to matter what sport it was–in a straight-ahead, long-distant race, I could beat anybody. If it was a suffer-fest, I was good at it.”
– Lance Armstrong, My Journey back to Life