My wife and I live in subtropical Maui. We moved here partly to break the horrible cycle of fall fitness followed by winters of undersubscribed gym memberships, eleven minute turbotrainer sessions, weight gain followed by depression and a complete loss of cycling fitness every f’ing spring. Bib knickers worn until May to ride exhausting little loops that would be non-events the summer before. Every year became a rebuild from zero. By August things are humming, long crazy rides completed. By October it’s back to commuting with lights. Too many of these cycles can make a cyclist bitter.
Careers are over-rated. What about my cycling career? Sure when you are in your early twenties an hour on the rollers is easy, squats at the gym are fun, beer drinking somehow never adds a gram of weight. Fifteen minutes on the rollers seems like an hour as you get older, in case anyone is wondering.
Good things happen when you can ride all year long. Obviously you do ride all year long. Tan lines become permanent tattoos despite the endless slathering of sunscreen. You get thinner, stay fitter and don’t have to ever own bib knickers. It is fantastic. It is such a novelty to ride your brains out in December and January that come April you can’t figure out what to do.
When you can ride year round and you do ride year round, that does present a downside. It’s easier to get trapped by the repetition and familiarity of your cycling life. Things are what they are. For fifteen years I’ve happily ridden a frame that was too large for me and had a 130mm stem, because big guys need long stems. Why did I not address that?
Perspective on your own riding can only be gained by getting some distance away from it. Either ride a different bike or stay off the bike. The first time I borrowed Frank’s Bianchi, after lowering the seat, it was a real revelation. Frank’s drop between seat and bars is huge, it changes the ride significantly. It made me question my own position, which is good. Never pass up a chance to ride another bike. It is easy to ride next to someone and see they are too stretched out, or on a bike three centimeters too small for them. But it is nearly impossible to get that same information about yourself. Is that why we steal a glance as we ride by plate glass store fronts? This is where I would praise a good bike fitter, if I had ever used one.
I forced myself off the bike for a good long time this winter to let my knee repair itself. It sucked. It sucked more than a wet cold house-bound winter because it was beautiful and everyone was riding except me. Driving a car on the our Sunday group ride route was torture. This also coincided with an N+1 purchase, a smaller frame and a shorter stem. When I did get back on the old number one it was so obvious, FFS, this bike is too big and this stem is too long! It was only after I was riding again after this decent hiatus did I notice things that had always been. My point is, you get used to anything.
So being forced off the bike in the winter serves a useful purpose I never understood. The first ride after a long interval is very instructive. Being reminded of how your shoes-saddle-hands-back bothered you is good. Try something else, out with the bad, in with the good. It’s a chance to buy new kit and work toward the unattainable perfect V-locus position.