Spring has Sprung
Spring is the time when most of us decide to get back into running, walking or cycling. I am not in this group as I ride year round. According to theories in Psychopathology normal people fall within three standard deviation points of the mean. They form a bell curve that incorporates into itself approximately ninety four percent of the normal population. The remaining six percent (us abnormals) flow out from the bell curve, three percent in either direction either positive or negative. I will leave it up to up you to decide which way I flow on that bell curve.
So for those of you in the ninety six percent that ride in the spring, summer and fall, weather permitting, read on. (If you reside in that three percent on either side of the bell curve you should read on as well as you are probably trying to get the ninety six percent out riding right about now.)
Get your ride ready. Don’t wait for that first sunny day to take your bike out of the garage, especially if you put it away without a bit of oil on the chain. Maybe you ended up riding a lot by the time the weather changed and didn’t notice that clicking sound that was trying to tell you you’re derailers needed adjusting. Maybe you didn’t notice that creak from your bottom bracket telling you that it needed tightening. Situations like this are amplified by storage over the winter, not to mention flat tires, rusted chains or frozen cables which can all change that first spring ride into experience that ends up in a trip to the bike shop for service. Much better to take your ride into the shop pre-ride for a spring tune up. Since this is probably not original thinking you should not leave that tune up for the day before your ride.
Get your body ready. Cozy living through the cold winter, accented by the feasting of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, and you may have put on a few pounds. Throughout the dark months of winter you, like most of the ninety six percent, cocooned or even hibernated throughout the darkened times with little exercise, so start out slow. Don’t just remember that last ride in the fall, after slowly building up your riding stamina, and just go for it. That could be a fatal mistake, like those who come out of hibernation to shovel the snow off of their sidewalk and driveway. Most hospitals register a spike in heart attacks right after that first big snowfall and I am sure that a flurry of spandexed patients fill emergency rooms on that first sunny day of spring as well. So pick an easy first ride and remember that the harder you ride the funnier your walk will be the next day. Set a schedule for your fist ten rides that gives you a gradient from easy to hard so call up your local cycling map service and plan your first rides accordingly. Once you are conditioned then you can take on whatever comes your way. So don’t start your first ride with one of us six-percenters who have been riding all winter because we don’t need the extra guilt when you fall off your bike clutching your chest. We have enough guilt already, which is usually what drives us to ride year round.
Get your mind ready. If you consider that your lying cheating body talks you out of riding when you should have, remember that it learned all it knows from your mind. Controlling your thinking is key to getting back into the saddle. You were wise enough to put away your bike through the dark and snow of winter, so your mind advises, getting back into the saddle can be put off by the habit of inertial from winter hibernation. Most seasonal riders deal with a spike in automatic negative thoughts the hours before their ride. (Google ANTs for more details) Each negative thought is connected to a following negative feeling. Each feeling which radiates out from our core is then the context for the next negative thought and so on. If unchecked your mind will soon give you the excuse your body wants to get out of the upcoming ride. If you are mindful in the moment and reframe these negative thoughts, like from I have to ride to I want to ride, etc. etc. you will change negative feelings into positive ones, which will make the approach of your ride a pleasurable anticipatory experience rather than one you dread.
So with your ride, your body and your mind ready to ride, get out there and enjoy the next three seasons. Also you may consider investing in some winter riding gear, some lights and more aggressive tires next fall and join the six percent of us who ride year round. Especially, if you live in the Vancouver area, where we get only one or two snow days a winter. You may need a snorkel on some really wet days but compared to Winterpeg or Ottawa we have it pretty good for year round cycling.