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Winter Riding

The demands of holidays, work, the flu, and winter allergies seem to have conspired to keep me off the bike in December. The Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Luckenbach and beyond was all the more precious because in my heart of hearts I knew that was probably about the last entry for my 1994 cycling log. The finale for the year. The end.

Except for one Sunday morning and one Critical Mass, my bicycles have spent the month of December providing homesteads for spiders, while I’ve gone about the business of year-end rituals. No guilt, but some regret, especially during the week of springtime weather we had just before Christmas.

But I got through it because I discovered a loophole, possibly a way out, a way to ride and notride at the same time. About the time I realized serious cycling was out of the question for me during the month of December, I remembered a motivational article I’d read years ago in an airline magazine. It explained how to use creative visualization to succeed in business or sports or whatever. The idea is to see yourself doing the thing it is you want to do, mentally go through the preparation, overcome the difficulties, and then when you succeed, feel what that feels like. The theory is that if you do this often enough behind closed eyes, your synapses will rise to the occasion when you really put them to the test. Hmmmm. Could it work? At least, I figured, it probably wouldn’t hurt.

So for the past few weeks I’ve been cycling in my head (a lot more fun than a wind trainer and safer than rollers). These trips range from the practical to the sublime. Some of them cross over into ridiculous. I can go anywhere, and I can make the weather whatever I want it to be. But I don’t take advantage of the easy attainability of easy rides. I give myself challenges. Thinking ahead to the Border Surf ’n’ Citrus in February, I’ve done some rides against a stout headwind, but rewarded with an equal tailwind. In my private pre-Easter Hill Country tour, I ride through hills blanketed with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. I experience difficulty at first, but I eventually begin to crest the hills more easily, sometimes almost effortlessly (but not all of them).

Some of my rides are in the dark, because I know that in January when I start riding out of my mind again, a lot of it will be night riding, which isn’t as bad as I’d feared it might be. Actually it’s fun in its own way. I just don’t expect to go as fast as when I can see the holes, glass, and other hazards. I do rain rides, too, but not in the dark or with cold weather. One adversity at a time.

After these warmup rides, I begin to diverge from the familiar to more global excursions. After all, with an open ticket to ride anywhere in the world. I can enjoy a civilized motel-based trip along the eastern coast of Australia or cruise the misty moors of Scotland. When those trips become too tame, there’s always India or Nepal, where I understand neither the languages nor the food. No bananas, PowerBars, safe water, or easy communication back home or with anyone else. I’ve ridden from home all the way through Mexico to see what’s really happening in Chiapas. If only I could find a land route through Panama to Colombia, I could ride on to South America, through Ecuador’s Valley of the Volcanoes to Machu Pichu in Peru.

Soon I will be riding the real roads of January, and glad of it. There’s no place like home, and no riding like on a real bicycle. Soon enough, I’ll find out what effect, if any, my December rides have had on my cycling condition. If my actual riding is not improved by my virtual December miles, at least I’ve had enough practice with headset adjustment that maybe I’ll be able to use what I’ve learned to get me through the hard parts. Maybe I can turn a headwind into a tailwind, break up clouds with sunshine, reduce the gravitational effects of those long uphill climbs.

Maybe I won’t need to

© 1994 by Nancy Grona Meredith

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