Yesterday, I rode to work in the rain. It wasn’t a hard, soak-you-to-the-bone rain, but it was definitely coming down at a pretty good clip. And you know what? I had a great ride. The fenders kept the road crud off me, the rain jacket kept my upper body dry and warm (a little too warm; I didn’t need the long sleeve jersey with that jacket), and the temperature was nice and moderate.
By the time I rode home, it was entirely dark. With my light setup, though, it was no problem. The temperature was mild (one of the great things about WA), and there’s something about riding in the dark that really gets you thinking about the act of cycling itself. Instead of looking around, you just look ahead. You hear your breathing, notice how it’s timed against your cadence, and just enjoy the feeling of the motion.
As I climbed Inglewood, I noticed: it was easy. I usually do it in my lowest gear, but yesterday I climbed it in third and fourth. Maybe that’s partly because after climbing that hill on the fixie, it just feels easy on a geared bike. Part of it, though, is the end-of-season payoff. I’ve been training, working hard on losing weight and getting fit, for about six months now. Now, with all the events I’ve been focusing on behind me, I get to be fast (for a little while) and strong without really working for it.
As I rode, one thought kept bouncing around in my skull: without a doubt, autumn is the best season.
It’s a sad irony that many cyclists wind down and stop riding by the time autumn rolls around. Since you no longer have anything special to train for, you stop riding, taking a break. That’s the right idea, but the wrong way to go about it. The break you take should be taking nice, spinning rides out in the country. I think I could de-burnout-ify just about any rider in the world with a quick 30 mile tour around Sammamish, Issaquah, Carnation, Snoqualmie, and Fall City. The rain has brought all the ground cover back to life, while the trees — the ones with leaves, anyway — are all changing color. The bright oranges against the deep greens just can’t be seen the same way from a car, and you can see only a little bit of it on foot. On a bike, you see it slowly enough to appreciate it, but fast enough that you get to take in more than one little spot.
I tell you: biking in autumn is just the best.
Mountain Biking in Autumn
What I’m really missing this year, though, is mountain biking in Autumn. For the first time in ten years, I don’t have a mountain bike. I’ll fix that soon enough (I hope), but meanwhile I’m missing out. And I’m missing out doubly, because I’m not getting to mountain bike in UT in autumn this year. By mid-summer in Utah, a lot of the mountain bike rides have become so dusty they’re no longer as much fun — they’re loose and slippery. And it’s hot.
Then autumn comes. Rain packs the trails; suddenly you can clean climbs that you weren’t even bothering to attempt a few weeks ago. You’re lighter — climbing with just a water bottle instead of 2 bottles and a camelback. The sun feels warm, but the air is nice and cool. You’re riding for fun, the trails are perfect (and nobody’s on them), the weather is somehow both cool and warm at the same time, and everything smells great. Heaven.
And then there’s the scenery. Riding on the Ridge Trail in autumn is just unbelievable. The mix of yellow and red leaves, the white bark of the aspen trees, the evergreens, and snow just starting to show up on the tops of the peaks: it makes you stop and stare.
You don’t get to stare during the downhills, though. Leaves cover the trail, hiding branches and embedded rocks. You’ve got to read the contours of the leaves, make your decision what the best line is, and go with it. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong. Downhilling in autumn is how you discover exactly how good — or bad — your Spidey sense is. The surprisingly loud rattling of the leaves as you roll over them adds to the adventure of an old trail suddenly becoming completely new.
Autumn rules. It’s not debatable.
Then winter comes. Which sucks.
Today’s weight: 159.8
Bonus “Best Commenter Ever” Award: A couple weeks ago, I described how, in a fit of feeding madness, I spread peanut butter on Oreos. BIG Mike of Australia — who, sadly, is not experiencing autumn right now — let me know that in down under, there are actually peanut butter Oreos available for purchase. He then went one step further and sent me a box of them.
I have two observations regarding these peanut butter Oreos:
1. They are the most expensive Oreos I have ever tried, since it cost BIG Mike $18.50 to send them. BIG Mike, I think I speak for everyone when I say that you rule, and that you’re completely insane.
2. They tasted good, but not as good as just spreading peanut butter on regular Oreos.