real life cycling

Cycling gets ugly

November. It comes every year, I shouldn’t be surprised.

I wheel the winter bike out from hibernation and spruce it up as best I can. New bar tape is essential. Maybe a new chain, or at the very least the deepest of deep cleans. Whatever it takes to turn it into a bike I want to ride for the next four months. The relationship has to be rekindled every year.

Come December, and January, the winter steed is in full use, and the twitchy sports car speed of the good bike is long forgotten. Slow plod is the new quick. Out on the road, although the usual procession of weekend cyclists persists, cycling got ugly.

Instead of the summer display of carbon framed pieces of art the bikes are Ribble winter trainers, mainly, but also old Pinarellos, bottom of the range Treks and Giants, and mongrels made from this and that. Mudguards spoil the aesthetic lines, and grit and grime spoils the detail and the workings. Aluminium, and sometimes steel, is everywhere. Carbon not so much.

Ugly (Image:

Perched atop these bikes, the cyclists got ugly too.

The kit budget was spent on the sexy summer stuff, leaving the winter kit faded and threadbare, all function and no form. Waterproofs flap in the wind, and once tanned legs are wrapped in ridiculous winter tights, rendering any contact with civilised society an embarrassing parade in niche legwear.

The feet are covered in overshoes. Never was an item of clothing less loved. Even typing this sentence is causing my mind to wander to more interesting places. They do a job. The worst of them look and feel like wellies, the better ones only a marginal improvement.

Any skin on show is pale. The days are short, and Vitamin D and UV light is at a premium. Squint at arms and legs and it’s possible to convince yourself the tan lines are still there. They’re not. And they’re covered in layers of technical fabric anyway. Cold windswept days produce rosy red cheeks, but they only serve to highlight the paleness.

As if the layers of kit weren’t enough, the chiselled cheekbones and lean limbs of the summer are coated with flesh. A dip in mileage, and an increase in food and alcohol to ward off the winter has seen to that.

To cap it all, fluorescent kit is everywhere. Understandable for safety reasons, unforgivable for sartorial ones.

It’s November, and cycling got ugly.

Roll on spring.

9 comments on “Cycling gets ugly

  1. It’ll get better 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is a certain romance to winter cycling though. The preparation beforehand, laying out all that extra kit the night before. Deep winter gloves? Check. Toasty weatherproof jacket? Check. Pack the gilet as well? Check. Those near zero degree, pre-sunrise, early morning roll outs. Breath misting the air in front, yellow tinted glasses fogging up, struggling to get some warmth to the quads as you hit that first climb. Greeting any fellow hardcore winter cyclists along the way with a wave and a shared grimace.

    Then there’s the winter cafe stop. Never has a slice of cake and a piping hot mug of your favourite mid or post ride beverage felt so good. So earned. So deserved. Winter cycling has it’s charm, for the hardcore at least.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was thinking just this morning as to when exactly it was I moved from one thin layer of Lycra to oh so many. This year I barely seemed to have noticed, I just kept on riding.

    The hardest part is getting out there. So much faffing with the layers, the boot covers, the nine pairs of gloves. Once out, you’re usually fine. Assuming that is you’ve left your toasty bed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cycling this time of the year is lovely if you’re an off roader in the north. The usual morning grey has some colour as the last of the autumn leaves are around. I’ve traded my exotic japanese minivelo for my chunky tyre mtb as the mulchy leaves need a bit more traction and we’ve already had two week’s worth of morning frosts. Living in the hills, I prefer this time – my ride home means I’m able to put more effort in without fear of overheating as I push up 3 miles of serious uphill. And three miles of downhill isn’t long enough to freeze into an icicle before I get to work… not too many layers – knee boots and a mid-length poppy coloured coat with flashes of hi-viz – I just have an extra bit of mud dotted around me to wipe off when I land in the office.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amen, brother. Though I do like November for bringing the mountain bikes out… Did 23 miles today, cold and bitingly windy. Gnarly.

    But it was fun and we rode well. Better than a swift kick in the nuts anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. For me, winter riding is all about the gear. Good gear keeps you comfortable and takes the mental burden away from the elements and the piece of mind that you are prepared for whatever comes your way, a downpour a drop in temperature. I like winter riding. (After i manage to get out if bed!)


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