While all evidence points to the contrary, the 20th century’s greatest twatwaffle LE Gunderson may have got something at least half right after all. Of course it’s about the bike, otherwise we’d be runners. But there are other factors that contribute to what makes us Cyclists which can often be overlooked completely. Not the clothes we wear, or the training we do, or the races we love. The people we ride with and the places we ride in help define our Cycling experience.
I’m reminded of this every Tuesday. I know there’s a ride on; there always is. Depending on what kind of day I’ve had, I may or may not be looking forward to it, especially at this time of year when the temperature drops and darkness has already cloaked the sky long before rubber meets tarmac. Motivation can go straight out the window, where it quickly shivers and tries to come back inside. No deal, that portal is shut tight. But it usually sneaks back in through the door when the other protagonists enter through it and mill around, happily chatting while waiting for me to get my shit together. What is wrong with these people?
The act of layering up to ride in the dark in peak hour in a capital city is one usually borne out of necessity, rather than recreational pleasure. Commuters do it every day, right? We do it because it’s what we do. Throughout summer, it’s no problem; chuck on shorts and jersey, cruise around checking out the packed esplanade, work up a sweat then enjoy a beer or two before heading home. The ride is more a conduit for the act of hanging out with mates and socialising. Take away the sun, the light and the warmth, and the ride itself holds a more important post. We could just shelve this ride for the winter, leave it as a summer thing to do, and just use the weekends as our chance to drink coffee, pedal, drink beer, repeat.
But I digress; getting back to cycling in the city at night, this is a huge factor in why this ride endures the middle months of the year. The city we live in contributes hugely to keeping us motivated. The first ten minutes may be spent alongside cars on some of the main arteries, but soon we are unshackled from frustrated drivers and are almost alone on the road, in silent darkness, looking back at one of the most picturesque skylines in the world. It’s always at this point that someone says exactly what I’m thinking; “what a night” or “goddamn, I love this city”. If we were just plodding along a highway we wouldn’t be saying anything remotely similar.
The city, and the people I ride with, makes all the difference. My environment is sorted, it’s just left to me and my bike to fill in the blanks.