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Living in Scandinavia I sometimes wonder why exactly my ancestors - The Vikings - decided to settle in a climate as cold as this? Admittedly, it isn’t cold all year round, and we don’t have polar bears wandering freely around in our gardens, contrary what some people think. We do actually have a lovely Spring, hot Summer and a vibrant Autumn, but let’s be honest: Italy or southern Europe it ain’t. When Winter hits, it hits hard, and you tend to forget Spring, Summer, Autumn ever happened.
As a rider, dealing with conditions as cold as -15 degrees, you sometimes contemplate if you can even be bothered heading out. Some of my fellow riders take to rollers or Tacx trainers. I have “dabbled”, but didn’t “inhale” and felt utterly bored staring blankly into my studio wall. A video of Galibier and Col de la Croix de Fer didn’t help much, and I soon realized: I am an outdoor cycling type. Like a dog, I hear the wild calling and have to go, and as they say: There is no such thing as bad weather - only bad cycling apparel.
When riding in Winter, and sub-zero temperatures, you don’t do the same distances as during the warmer months. Less can also be more, and as long as you head out, turn the legs and enjoy the great white open you are already onto a winner. Distances can for sure be longer over the weekend, but on a normal weekday, if you are able to, why not take a break from your laptop and head out for an invigorating one hour lunch ride?
Around where I live I’m fortunate not having to venture very far before I feel I have left the world behind. Within a one hour lunch ride I can cruise down snow clad country lanes with beautiful views over the privat lake of a pop star couples mansion perched on a hill. “One day….!”, I think to myself every time I pass, but then again money isn’t everything, and perhaps I’m actually the lucky one? I’m after all on my bike.
“Barbie Girl” mansion aside, keeping your eyes on the road is always absolutely essential. Riding in winter conditions as this the roads are always slippery, but when the road switch from snowy tarmac to frozen gravel, with frozen puddles covered with fresh snow, it is for sure time to focus even harder on what is ahead of you instead of dreaming about expensive real estate.
To keep yourself motivated throughout winter it is important you break away from what you normally do. Riding the same routes again and again can drain you, and come Spring you will hate yourself for having done it. Taking a ride into the woods is a huge boost to your riding soul. Even if you don’t own a Cross or Gravel bike you can still enjoy a brilliant ride into the woods on your road bike. Simply lower the pressure in your 25 millimeter tires, and you are good to go.
In the woods you see things you don’t normally see when stuck on the open road. Fallen giants lay flat on the ground like a mystical scene in the cold, glowing light. The lakes are frozen, and the graveled lane switch between being in the open or completely roofed by huge pines sheltering you in a wooden housing. But don’t just stay on the open gravel lanes. Go and get lost by taking a sharp right instead of keep going straight on. You never know where you might end up or what you may find.
Stopping your bike, listening to the silence surrounding you and enjoyning the moment, should be an optional part of any bike ride. Too often we find ourselves racing like a gang of wolves without ever stopping and seeing things. If riding in a bunch, it can admittedly be difficult to persuade everyone to stop, but when riding on your own, or with a couple of friends, do yourself the favor and stop. Don’t do anything. Just enjoy the moment. A known national artist has said: “Poetry is in the silences between all the words”, and in todays noisy life “Silence” is a rare, beautiful gift being given to us.
It doesn’t matter if you are riding hard, gentle, long or short - the point is you do something great and different during your lunch, instead of being tied to your desk and computer. And you can still eat while riding. If you are able to, a one hour lunch ride is a gift. Whether riding countrylanes, gravel, the woods or simply jumping on your bike around hidden roots in the City for 60 minutes, you will for sure return to your desk fully revitalised and invigorated ready to face the rest of your day.