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.
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.