On fall (a short interlude)

The English writer George Eliot lived just long enough to witness the invention of the bicycle, at least its early manifestations as a velocipede, variously invented and improved in France and in England from the late 1860s. Whether she had any interest in cycling is perhaps up for debate, but she was a fan of the fall season. “Delicious autumn!” she wrote, “My very soul is wedded to it…”

Fall is the preferred season for being a roadie. The weather, at least in these parts, can be fair and settled, with crisp mornings (yet to get icy and crunchy), clear skies, and cool breezes. It is also a great time for contemplation, amid autumnal colours, for looking at the season just passed and for making wildly grandiose plans about next year.

Such is gravity
Regular followers of this blog will have noted the author’s mentions of his diminished training time this year. The training diary bares all: few rides over 3 hours, diminished miles, and most weeks consisted of one night’s crit racing (a 70 kilometre round trip, including the race) and one other short ride. A far cry from the 7-10 hours per week of training recommended by Joe Friel for even the lowest level of racing.

Still, there were compensations. Although the course differed this year, your author may have posted a new personal best for the local Cypress hillclimb race. The secret? Weighing less. Stress is a great calorie burner and having a new family addition certainly fit the bill.

Climbing faster can be achieved without detailed training plans and lung-busting intervals by shedding the pounds. Whether this is achieved by reducing bike weight (typically expensive), dropping extraneous accessories (such as ditching that second bottle), or reducing rider weight. According to Tom Compton’s excellent calculator at analyticcycling.com, for a climb like Cypress (14 kilometres, 5% gradient on average) every pound dropped is worth nearly 10 seconds of time – not a huge amount, but significant if personal bests are in play. Therefore, being out of shape and not being able to ratchet up the power numbers can be compensated for by reducing the force of gravity that has to be overcome to climb at speed. Drop a whole bunch of pounds and you can feel like you’re flying up the hills even without much prior riding.

Fall reading
If one’s fall riding schedule is not hectic, but one’s work and family one is (causing the group ride to be difficult to fit in), a relaxed solo outing can easily fit the bill and also enhance the experience of reflection.

At the café, one can linger over a macchiato instead of the usual espresso (never a latte, of course, lest one be thought of as gauche). A small notebook, retrieved from a jersey pocket, can be a repository for words of inspiration, fantastical training plans, and unrealistic equipment upgrades. Better still, a small Penguin paperback fits easily in said pocket and a few pages can do much to pass the time. Currently, your author is enjoying F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Crack-Up And Other Stories’, with George Orwell and Mordecai Richler waiting in the wings.

Fall riding is about putting in some miles, keeping the pedals turning as winter – always a season of discontent – approaches, enjoying what remains of the clear weather and the fall colours, and rediscovering the joy of just riding (with some occasional reading thrown in along the way). Stay wedded to your bike and keep the soul nourished, for when the cold and the dark and the wet comes, and it will come soon enough, something will certainly be needed to keep us going.

For previous posts on winter riding, follow this link

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