One of the things I love about mountain biking is that it puts me in touch with the passing seasons.
The thing about riding outside through the year is that there’s no way of avoiding noticing the conditions, the weather, the climate, the nature of the ground beneath your wheels (or feet if it’s really bad).
I may bemoan it when I come home cold & wet (or refuse to go out at all) but I love the feeling of connection it gives me.
The rolling of the seasons
The weather in Britain is nothing if not unpredictable. There’s a reason why I take a waterproof out on all rides of any length. But the seasons? There’s a genuine pattern to them. The winter is colder and wetter than the summer. Autumn has the air of the winter with the ground of summer and spring is boggy under the wheels but warm on the arms. These changes serve to mark the passing of time.
Those changes are mirrored by the riding. Summer is all about dry, fast trails in sunlight. Autumn has that dryness in the ground but the wind is colder and there’s a better chance of being rained on. Those dry, dusty trails of summer can turn into deeply mudded horror-shows with notional traction ridden in the dark. In spring, there’s the promise of warmth and greenery sprouting up everywhere, but there’s also a good chance of coming home spattered in mud.
These changes in turn are mirrored by changes to how I ride and what I ride. There’s that moment in spring when my arms come out for the first time in months, the moment when the mudguards come off, the first evening ride without lights. In summer there’s the first evening ride in dark glasses, the urge to ditch the backpack to let heat out, suncream! In the autumn I have that moment when I try to remember where I put my lights for the summer, pulling out the windproof gloves for the first time, waterproof shorts and boots. In the depths of winter I’m tempted by the ease of cleaning that comes with the hard tail, I remember where my thick gloves and skullcap are, remember why I own thermal jerseys.
The spice of life
Why do I love it?
A road is a road is a road. Sometimes it’s damp, icy or even underwater. But mostly it’s the same.
Trails evolve and change through the seasons. It’s a cliché that you never ride the same trail twice, but there’s some truth in it. In summer a trail might be dry and dusty, ripe for ripping along at speed. In winter that same trail is as slippery as a speedway track ripe for sliding along sideways. Conversely a trail that’s an overgrown exercise in verdant spelunking in the summer is wide open when the vegetation dies back.
Years of experience has told me what to expect from my regular trails at any given time of year. Some trails are deeply seasonal: too overgrown in the summer or too slippery in the winter. Some are very resilient, holding onto grip when everything else is slippery. My inner trail map is four-dimensional: time is crucial.
That’s not to say that the unexpected never happens. I remember riding during the floods a couple of years ago. It’s a sunken lane I’ve ridden hundreds of times and never really thought about too much. On this occasion, it was two feet deep in water for an unavoidable few hundred yards. Every pedal stroke dipping my feet in the water. Then I got a puncture.
Suffice it to say that I didn’t go back until spring!
This change in the conditions, the riding style required and the experience of riding is what keeps the local trails fresh and exciting for me.
It also keeps me connected to the world around me. It keeps me connected to the slow cycle of the changing seasons. It keeps me reminded of my place in the scheme of things.
So why not come out and join me as we experience what the world is like this week? It’ll be different next week. And the week after too.