Here in America it is the week of Thanksgiving. On this Thursday most people will celebrate with a huge meal and hopefully get a chance to reflect on what they are thankful for in their lives. The holiday itself is based on a celebration of a friendship between Pilgrims and the Native Americans who befriended them and helped them survive brutal New England winters. The Native Americans took pity on the newcomers, teaching them what crops to farm in the new land. The holiday has grown into a celebration of thanks for all the good in the year and a uniquely non-denominational holiday full of family and food. There is a certain irony that the day after Thanksgiving is the beginning of the Christmas holiday shopping season where many Americans will spend all day in frantic consumerism less than 24 hours after celebrating being happy with what they already have, but that’s another topic for another day.
This week and I thought that it might be nice to approach the holiday from a cyclists’ perspective. There is normally many perspective style articles written about what an author is thankful for and there is now a meme on Facebook where people write one thing they are thankful for each day of the month, but there is very little said about cycling these days other than many on line retailers trying to advertise early Christmas sales. This deep in November cycling topics can be hard to come by, so this is certainly a stretch.
The first thing cyclists have to be thankful for is an off season. There really isn’t much of a time when you can’t ride a bike, but there are certainly times of the year when it is less pleasant than others. Gone are the warm afternoon rides through trails dappled with sunshine through the green trees. Gone also are the stunning early morning sunrise rides through a riot of fall colors down seldom traveled country roads. Now we are left to frigidly pedal through cold blasted barren lands, dodging potholes and road debris as our hands freeze despite the two pairs of gloves. The winter holidays give cyclists an excuse to take it a little easy. Cyclists tend to be addicted to time on the bike, but “Gee, I’d love to ride, but my family flew in from out of town, I really should spend some time with them.” is a great excuse. A little time off the bike is also mentally beneficial. Any activity done to the extreme can lend itself to monotony. A little time away can refresh you and remind you of how much you love to ride. There is also scientific research that shows an off season is actually beneficial to your riding. A period of rest will rejuvenate you and allow you to train harder and more effectively. Take a month off and you will bounce back as a better, stronger, more focused rider.
The next thing I think cyclists can be thankful for right now is charity. Cyclists are an amazing group of people that tend to do everything for a good cause. Almost every organized ride I participated in this season was held to promote and fund a charity of some type. There were rides for bicycle focused charities, but there were also rides for Big Brothers Big Sisters and for Rotary Club/United Way charities. The Thanksgiving/Christmas season is a great time to ride for charity. Right in my own area there are Cranksgiving rides which are an organized ride mixed with a food drive where you ride and gather food left out by others. There is also a great Thanksgiving Day ride where the entrance fee is a food donation to the Food Bank. The best part about these rides, other than the good you can do for the community is that the rides are for fun. It’s too cold to race so the riders take time to simply spin and talk to each other. New friends made on these rides can turn into training partners for your spring group rides.
The next thing cyclists can be thankful for is the invention of the indoor trainer. You may have gotten the impression from the preceding paragraphs that I am a bit of a weather wimp. I will ride in any weather, but only if I have too. If there is a scheduled ride, I will ride. I will tackle rain, cold, and even the occasional snow flurry, but only if I am forced by circumstance. I will hide in my basement and ride on my trainer if any of those conditions threaten if all I have to do is go on a training ride. I also love my indoor trainer for another reason. There are a lot of times I don’t have the time to get a good outdoor training ride in. I like to go 20 or 30 miles when I ride and that isn’t always possible for me. There is the weeknight time crunch and there are some weekends when I have to be on call for my work. I can’t be an hour from home when the phone rings or cooking dinner while I ride, but I can ride my trainer. I can get an hour of interval training in four nights a week and still be available if my kid needs me or if my work calls. The fact that I am warm and dry? Complete unrelated bonus. Really.
Along with the trainer, cyclist can be thankful for indoor training videos. My favorite are from the Sufferfest. They are race footage videos that are edited together to be an entertaining story. There are on screen prompts to help you interval train and music to keep you motivated. If you have to ride indoors, or if you have to hide from winter, this is one of the best ways to distract yourself while you are there.
While I might enjoy an offseason, I am thankful that manufacturers do not get that luxury. They are busy creating great new bicycles, parts, and accessories for us to play with when the sun finally starts warming up the world again. Fun new carbon fiber bikes with new trick suspensions or weight saving designs are right around the corner. New bike computers that will give you power readings or directions to the next waypoint are being invented. They keep building new and wonderful products because they know we will keep buying them. This also makes me thankful that Christmas is right around the corner too.
Finally I am thankful for what are cyclist are thankful for. I am thankful for my amazing, loving, and above all understanding family. They really don’t understand why I ride as much as I do, and they don’t really care. They just try to support me when I say that I want to travel 100 miles away to ride 65 miles and then drive home. They travel with me and waive at me when I ride by and then help me get home in one piece. They help me find parts and pieces for my bike when it breaks or they don’t question my sanity when I think I want a new one. They don’t complain when the training ride goes to long or if I try to fit in a ride during vacation, or when I try to get them to go on a vacation because I want to do an organized ride at the destination. Doesn’t everyone want to travel to Maryland in October? I am just thankful that my family is supportive of my hobby, even when it becomes an obsession. Without them I wouldn’t be able to do any of this.