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Bikexchange.com Column #3

Shifting Gears - Seasons Change
Gianna Bellofatto

"The autumn leaves, drift by my window, the autumn leaves of red and gold…"

Oh, pardon me as I break into song now and then. The other day while tooling on the bike, I noticed leaves on the ground. It was September 7th with two more weeks of summer, but the weather had already turned to crisp autumn chill—just perfect for riding.

I jumped on the bike to seize the day. Suddenly elation and melancholia merged. A sensation likened to a cyclist taking a descent while braking. Summer with its languid breezes had come to an abrupt halt it seemed. I suppose seasonal changes evoke mixed emotions for many.

I was wearing cycling shorts and felt underdressed just a half mile into my ride. Onward and forward I commanded myself and continued to pedal. Summer is still here! Let me grab every bit of this sunshine. Go, go, and go…

Typically September is where activity begins to bustle. It heralds the beginning of a school year and the threshold of numerous holidays. On the ride, I noticed shoppers scurrying along Westwood’s main avenue laden with bags of back-to-school clothes, while last minute vacationers returned sunburned and too relaxed for business as usual. By now I was feeling perfectly comfortable in my attire.

I recall reading an article that the Northeast population is better adept at seasonal changes, more industrious, and lives longer. Missing from the study was any mention of how cyclists have become quite creative to the weather.

A few years back I decided I was going to ride in face of all adversity. Sort of like the post office motto only on a bicycle. Humidity would not dampen my spirit. Rain could not cloud my parade. Cold temperatures could not take the heat out of my desire to ride. And March winds would not make a dent in my sails.

During the cooler seasons I resembled Darth Vader as a cross-dresser, and during the warmer months I mixed and matched the t-shirt-of-the-day with my cycling shorts. Any serious cyclist will tell you it’s not what you wear, but that you ride. By the end of the year I had logged about 3700 miles on my bike, which averages to about 10 miles per day. I wasn’t impressed with the numbers and began to wonder if my strategy was worth the fight against nature.

Our furry and feathered friends seem to have a better understanding of seasonal changes. They hibernate or fly south. After all, have you ever seen a bird riding a bike in the middle of January? Well there you go. But last year I witnessed cyclists riding while snow was on the road, in heavy rain, and blustering wind. There was one rider who looked like he was wrapped in plastic and freeze-dried.

What’s the alternative? Conventional cycling wisdom will tell you to shift gears when going uphill thereby making the ascent easier. Mother Nature would gently suggest alternate forms of activity in lieu of riding during extreme weather conditions. Mother knows. Shifting gears on the road or in day-to-day life requires conceding to nature’s will, while still making the best of what remains. Be it putting away the sailboat until next year, returning to work after a long absence, raking leaves, or preparing for holidays, be kind to yourself and make the shift more smoothly.

Like it or not, Life is a Bike and the days grow short when you reach September.

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