I only ever think, ‘there is no way.’
In the dark, in that first pre-dawn moment, it’s the first thing I can articulate. But it doesn’t come from nowhere, it’s an answer; an instant riposte to a question that to me seems so ancient that it doesn’t even have to be formed. It is the same question I have asked myself every day for the last twenty years, a question that is so much a part of my psyche that by virtue of just opening my eyes it has already been posed.
Am I going to go cycling today?
And the answer, once the days have drawn short and the leaves have been turned to mush, by the layer of cold water that sits unmoving and unmoved on the surface of the roads and trails for the next three months, is always, without fail, the same.
‘There is no way.’
There is no way that I am getting out of this bed, breaking the spell of sleep or the cocoon of warmth that my body has enveloped itself in. There is no way that I am leaving this comfort now, this the last place I’ll be for eighteen or so hours where no one can reach me or make demands of me, and where the world is yet to begin.
I sleep with the window open, and I know the weather. I am used to its sounds and its patterns. I can hear the water running from gutters, the tree branches swaying and the sound of the falling rain landing on the brickwork by the window.
There are no exceptions in winter, the clouds will cloud and so on. Even at it’s best winter is moist and dark in the only moments that I have to ride. I hate putting on overshoes, and I hate the damage that all that filth does to my bike. I hate gilets, and having too much stuff in my back pockets.
‘There is no way.’
I don’t have to be out in it these days either. I ride my bike purely for fun, and to keep myself in respectable enough shape that when the opportunity to go and ride a hundred miles comes up, or the chance to take part in a mountain bike race in the local woods presents itself, I can do it. I don’t need to be out there, no one will know, least of all care. The nagging senses of guilt, fear and competitiveness that drove me out the door for so long have faded to the point of (almost) being extinguished. There are no longer any rivals to worry about, or races to prepare for. I simply don’t have to do it.
From where I lay I think of myself out in that weather: water in my shoes, wind burning my cheeks, the dark, the layers of clothing that I’ll need to wear to go out in it that add up to make that weight of winter.
But even to get the outside world from where I am seems impossible. From the bed to my clothes - layers of kit to get into, then from the bedroom to the kitchen – water and espresso to drink, my bike to take out and get out of the front door. Each step a potential stumbling block, my Stations of the Cross.
‘There is no way.’
And then something weird happens. Everyday – almost without fail, before I’ve even had time to know what I am doing, I find myself riding down the street rolling away from my house.
The truth is, even I don’t believe it when I tell myself that there is no way, because as soon as I’ve thought it, it is already too late. I know that my body will do it anyway, even if my mind tries to resist – and the more that my mind tries to resist, the faster my body takes me out of the door.
You see while I was thinking about how much I don’t like the winter weather, my legs were putting on shorts and my arms were putting a base layer over my head. And even while I was thinking about how much I hate overshoes, my body was in the bike room taking my bike out, and then when I was firmly deciding that I would stay in bed after all I was already walking out the front door.
I find that worrying about what it is like outside is the worst way to never get anything done, ever. So I tell my mind not to worry, because I’m not going to go out, but I rely on my body to do the right thing and get out there anyway.
And I never get annoyed with myself for leaving the house, because I know that once you are out, it really isn’t ever that bad, it really is just a matter of getting past the front door.
Tom SouthamContinue reading