We’re about 2/3rds of the way through the month, and as the sunlight grows stronger, so to does the sound of rain on the roof. Been a dry month, which seems to have become the pattern the past couple years - Jan/Feb crop up rainless and clear, followed by a three to four week block of rain. We’ll have to see if that comes to pass, but in the meantime, there are 18 ride notches for 18 days this month, and I’m pretty pleased about that.
Yep, some of them are the after-dinner-after-dishes-”are you really going to go ride?” neighborhood loops of a few miles. But, those add up too. And count. Butt on the saddle is all we are asking this month.
That’s put me ahead of last month already, both in number of rides and the distance traveled. It’s focused my “exit vector” momentum, so that the pre-ride dawdles have faded into memory. It’s reminded me that the Dawes’ pedals still need to be replaced, that the Hilsen really does deserve a new cogset, and the 40 year old drivetrain on the Zeus does have to be accounted for in manner and deed.
The many-geared coastable setups of the Zeus and Hilsen have only had a couple uses each - I’ve tended to favor the simplicity of the fixed gear setups on the Dawes and Quickbeam. And the Quickbeam - as I knew it would - has ended up being both the inspiration and the reference point for this month’s endeavour. The fixed drivetrain does not lie. You go only as quickly and smoothly as you can.
Back in January, when it felt a bit like I was reminding myself how to ride again, I’d wind up the pedals to a speed which felt comfortable. 14 - 15 mph on a long flat stretch worked OK. Folks in team kit passed me reasonably regularly and when I encountered inclines, cadence dropped to a slow trudge designed to keep momentum intact.
Slowly, over the same roads, the spin came up a bit and breath became a bit more relaxed. A haggard 15 became a smooth 16, then 17. Began rolling over certain inclines in the saddle, kicked back and pushing through. The fixed drivetrain is patient. It also invites comparison, as the only variables are wind, weather and power.
Over the weekend, on a a ridiculously gorgeous February Saturday afternoon, I felt something which I hadn’t realized I’d lost - comfort, cadence and a certain sound of fat smooth tires rolling over asphalt. Speed nudging 19/20 on the flat and feeling good about it. Maybe another month or so before it becomes a given, but the legs notching into that ~90 rpm range without feeling klunky or stressed.
There’s been a lot so far this year. My mother in law passed away the day before Christmas, and we celebrated her life a week ago last Saturday. It was another wondrous day, both in the weather provided and the emotion, wishes, recollections and love of those who showed up. You don’t easily let go someone who you’ve known for most of your life. But, I think we were very lucky in that nothing was left unsaid. The grief was pure, and not mixed with regret.
And there’s no direct way to vector those thoughts back to cycling. But when I find wildflowers on the side of trail, small birds flitting between trees and manage to experience the stillness of a moment or two, I know that she was one who helped me learn such things.