It was a sunset befitting the end of the season. The sky was orange like a wildfire with wisps of clouds rising like smoke above the mountains. To the east, even Mt. Baker – distant across the American border (and the venue of this year’s ‘epic’ ride for your author, thanks to the excellent team from La Bicicletta Pro Shop in Vancouver) – was visible, snow covered, receding into the dusk. For it was not even eight-thirty and already the afternoon light was rapidly disappearing. The end of a season.
Much as we might rally against it, we cyclists are seasonal creatures. Spring is the time for beginnings, summer the time for achievements, fall or autumn the time for endings, and winter either for renewal or for contemplation. For your author, summer cycling is defined by the beginning of mid-week crit racing in early May and which finishes in the last week of August, even is this does not conform to a conventional division of the seasons. It begins as the weather is usually turning for the warmer, and the evenings for the brighter, and ends when the evenings turn darker, even if the weather (potentially like this year) persists in staying warm well into the next month.
There’s no particular reason for this division; the racing is for fun and fitness, and for friendly rivalries, rather than a focal point. But it represents a rhythm for the year. Once it ends it signals the end of evening riding, a return to more conventional hours. The race bike also feels tired: the bar tape discoloured (despite regular buffing) and uneven; the chain stretched and worn; tyres dusty and festooned with nicks and cuts; mysterious creaks in the pedals, the cranks, the wheels, and who knows where else. With nothing left on the calendar the overwhelming temptation is to repair, replace, and rebuild – and then retire to storage until next year.
Indeed, time spent on bicycle TLC now is not time wasted but instead a well-spent investment. Who can remember when next spring rolls around (unless meticulous records are kept) when the chain and cassette were replaced, if the seat was adjusted, if tyres felt tired, which bolts were tightened. Better to tend to all those details now, when the memories of riding are still fresh and time is plentiful, instead of in a new year when absentmindedness and the urge to ride forestall a thorough pre-season check.
But perhaps there are still a few more weeks left, or even months, as we move into fall, the time for endings when epic rides can be completed, unridden routes re-explored, or mountains climbed one last time. For soon the winter tyres or wheels, or even the cyclocross or winter bike, will come out of storage, and the rain and the cold and the dark will be upon us; distracted minds will wander to new plans for riding adventures, mystical training techniques, and fortifying tonics, looking forward to a new season of empty summer skies.