I got to teach a late season class the other day. The wind blew a constant 15-20mph all day. My face got remarkably wind burned. The “feels like” temperature was 41 degrees, which doesn’t sound that bad but definitely is the sort of thing that can impair your physical skills and mental acuity. Remember, hypothermia is when your core temperature falls which can lead to the “umbles” like mumble, stumble, bumble, fumble…tumble…Don’t underestimate Mom Nature and her ability to wick away warmth.
However this isn’t a warning about the dangers of the cold, this is about the first line of George Orwell’s “1984” which goes:
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Somewhere back in the cloudy recesses of my brain I remember my eight grade english teacher pointing out the disparity of the words ‘bright’ and ‘cold’ being used together to create a powerful descriptive phrase. Teach had it right, George had nailed it. I know this because as I was riding home from that chilly class at noon it was, indeed a bright, cold day. And I liked it. A lot. I was dressed appropriately, I wasn’t trying to set a land speed recode, and the fall sun was low enough to cast a wonderful side light I hadn’t seen in a year.
Riding can be a wonderfully visceral thing that can assault and caress all of our senses at once. We smell diesel, fresh cut grass, sometimes orange blossoms or that truckload of manure half a mile ahead. Wind bats us around, knocks down gas mileage or can give a gentle push. The atmosphere rushing over us will cool and refresh us as well chill us to the bone. Water. I like riding in the rain, it’s pleasant and immersive in its totality of sensual overload, perhaps that why I enjoy it so. Smell, sight, taste, feel–it’s all there. Toss in the heightened awareness you have due to the enhanced potential for trouble…and you’re downright alive! If I could bottle that feeling I would give a big swig to everyone who asks, “Why do you ride that thing?”
The point of balance between summer and winter and winter and summer is officially called the Equinox, occurring around the third week of March and September; respectively this is the beginning of Fall and Spring and when the amount of daylight and night are equal. At the equinox you get as much dark as light. For me the flavor of a ride is found not in being monochromatic but in it’s well-rounded-ness, its ability to touch all the bases. The best rides aren’t the ones that were blindingly hot or violently cold. The best rides aren’t all about being all turns or enjoying a lack of traffic. The best rides have the best mix of light and dark, they are equal parts challenge and ease, light and dark.
It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the fall. From struggling to get a bike running to waiting for it warm up riding in the fall is a time of transition that can present all type of challenge and pleasure. I love the gamble you often make selecting gear–what is too much? How much is not enough. The lick your finger and stick it in the air, hope you guess right on the weather calculation is a great time too. Clear visor or smoked? Will the sun be low enough to need glare protection or will it simply be gone?
From surface conditions to route/time/visibility selections fall is a wonderful time to ride, an immersive baptism you get before you have to put up your favorite vice for a month or two. Fall shouldn’t be a season of dread it should be a celebration of separation as you use all your skills one last time before hibernation.