I don’t enjoy every autumnal-wintry ride; sometimes it’s grim. I’m not saying you shouldn’t Zwift, or turbo, or curate your perfect pain cave. Just don’t forget there’s adventure to be had out there.
Picture that midweek spin with a friend. In high summer it’s a short-sleeved frolic, but in November it’s a different beast. The wind is gusty and great piles of crispy leaves gather and swirl. You’ve not had your tea yet and it’s already been dark for an hour. It will rain at some point.
The world exists within the beam of your highly powered head-light and beyond that lies the imagination. Out along country lanes, clear of civilisation, thoughts occur.
‘This is axe-murderer territory. If I puncture now I will be seized and killed. Was that a barn owl that just flew past? Or a spectre? What’s the difference between a spectre and a ghost? A Bond movie and a romantic thriller. I wish Patrick Swayze were here to give me a cuddle.’
Babbling nonsense, and with the threat to your life you’re pedaling faster. Working harder. Imminent death is the greatest of all the motivational aids: ‘OK peloton…LET’S DO THIS!…don’t make me pass your personal details to an indiscriminate killer!’
Further on, still alive, and there are vans parked up. Cab lights lit. Figures inside.
‘Dunno,’ replies your riding buddy, ‘I’m no expert. I only dabble.’
It’s a good line, but you pedal faster still. On balance, the axe-murderer is a more appealing prospect.
You’re rattling along now. Right out in the wild, no signs of life. Work, money-worries, the pandemic, pushed to the edges of your mind in favour of the moment. This actual moment. You’re within the realms of ‘safe’ but you’re nudging the boundaries.
It’s a mini-adventure now.
It’s dark. The rain has come. It’s tense. Gravel, pot-holes, unidentified wildlife; all poised to leap out and mug you. Zwift is good, but you don’t get this in the garage, the shed, or the basement.
‘Hang on…what time is it? Shit, I’ve got half an hour to get home for that thing I promised. It’s ten miles from here…’
You’ve dealt with a mortal threat to your life and the awful prospect of actual doggers. You’ve definitely seen a ghost and the spooky shadowed trees are starting to freak you out. Now you have to smash ten rolling miles in half an hour or risk the total collapse of domestic stability.
Heart rate pounding. Manic look in the eye. Alive!