Given this week’s temperate weather, I’ve heaved a big sigh of relief and welcomed the idea that fall will soon be (if it is not already) here.
Fall is my favorite time of year for bike riding. Ironically, fall is often when my monthly mileage slacks off, at least for a couple of months. As I looked over the way that Felkerino and I plan our riding, I realized that the fall months really represent cycling for fun and relaxation.
That got me thinking about what I see as our “bicycle cycle,” and I realized that our bicycle cycle follows the four seasons.
Winter: The Build-Up.
Felkerino likes to mark the the beginning of our cycling year with the Winter Solstice. (This year the solstice is December 21, 2012.) That’s the time when we work earnestly to get our base mileage back up, kick ourselves out the door for some winter centuries, and make sure we have the miles in our legs so that we can ride our first 200K brevet of the season in comfort. Or at least, as much comfort as can be had at a March brevet. As you year-round riders know, you never can tell what type of weather March is going to serve up.
From March through June, Felkerino and I turn our focus to the completion of the Super Randonneur series and, if possible, a fleche. That means at least one 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K brevet plus a 24-hour ride of at least 360K.
It’s a time when the bike riding becomes more disciplined. We get up extra early, spend more days following a prescribed route, and we pedal purposefully to ensure we finish our ride within the brevet time limits.
Summer: Long Days, Long Rides
Over the past three years, we’ve taken the remainder of June and the months of July and August to prepare for and ride a “longer” brevet, such as a 1200K or 1000K. That usually means a few overnights and long-weekend tours to build our endurance.
The preparation for a 1200K is challenging, but really fun. Summer riding may be hot, but I love that we don’t have to take a ton of stuff to go on a ride. Just the basics, no layering systems required.
We also like to work in a week of summer touring if our schedules allow it. We’ve really enjoyed our “credit card,” i.e., no-camping touring. We still have the fitness from the brevets, but can ride without the same constraints of time and mandatory stops of brevets.
Fall: Relax and Rejuvenate
Suddenly, when I think I can’t take one more day of summer heat, fall arrives. The sun lazily pushes up over the horizon just that much later. The air feels dryer, a morning chill makes a subtle demand for a cap, arm- or maybe even knee-warmers, and the sun gradually warms the body but never punishes you with its heat.
Fall cycling is the best part of my bicycle cycle, but it’s not only because of the weather. Fall means our major cycling goals are behind us or ahead of us, and for the moment we can truly let loose and pedal wherever and however we feel. It’s a time to recover from the big rides of the spring and summer, rejuvenate, and get excited about the winter season, when the bicycle cycle begins again.
I’m not the kind of person who could live somewhere it was summer all the time. I need the crisp cool of fall, the blustery winds of spring, and even the treeless winter days. Like the four seasons, the bicycle cycle is all about achieving an optimal balance. It helps me ward off burnout and revel in each facet of the bicycle cycle.