October 7, 2015

Spring is here and I can't wait to get out and ride

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A friend and former colleague once told me about a phenomenon known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — the idea that “people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms” when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

At first I though he was pulling my leg — how could something as simple as the weather have a demonstrable effect on a person’s mental state? But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. In fact, it even seems to happen to some extent here in Melbourne, judging by the conversations I’ve had with various people.

Sure, winter in Melbourne isn’t nearly as bleak as it is in other parts of the world. Consider somewhere like London, for example, where the sun mightn’t rise until after 8am and then set before 4pm, all the while being wet and cold outside. Even without that degree of misery here in Melbourne there’s little doubt the short days, the rain and the seemingly interminable cold winds have a tendency to leave you feeling rather despondent.

Now contrast that with the feeling of walking outside on a perfectly still, sunny spring day. I’m smiling just thinking about it.

As I’ve written in the past, I spent a great portion of this year’s winter off the bike, not least because it often felt like a chore to get out and ride in cold and wet conditions. But now that the Melbourne spring is here in all its glory, those feelings have disappeared entirely.

The other day I found myself with an hour to kill between errands and walked outside while thinking about how to spend that hour. Normally it wouldn’t feel worth my time to go out for a ride, knowing that I’d spent 10 minutes getting kitted up and ready to ride and 10 minutes at the other end to get packed up and showered. But when I stepped outside and the weather was literally perfect, there was no hesitation. A 40-minute ride would be good for the soul, and it was.

Right now you might be thinking “Yep, big deal – better weather makes you want to ride your bike more”. But there’s more to it than that. As I wrote a few weeks back, being off the bike for much of winter has really made me miss cycling. And while it’s still a week and a half until I can fully sink my teeth into cycling (I’m running the Melbourne Marathon on Sunday week) I can’t wait to get back out there and spend some time on the bike now that the weather has improved so dramatically.

It’s interesting how, as you spend more time riding, your goals and motivations change. A few years ago, for several years, my sole motivation for riding was the 3 Peaks Challenge (now Peaks Challenge Falls Creek). In fact, that’s how the blog component of this website started. But nowadays, I’m far less motivated by such events and more motivated by a desire to explore new roads and new climbs, to use the bike as a vehicle to have great experiences, and, occasionally, to push myself.

I can’t wait to get out and visit areas that I’ve barely explored by bike (if at all), riding new roads and finding new favourite places to go for a spin. I can’t wait to go on more bikepacking trips with my mate Nick, like the one we did early last year. I can’t wait to spend hours out in the Dandenongs, stringing climbs together with my brother Brendan until we’ve both had enough.

I can’t wait for the Domestique 7 Peaks Rides, to see hundreds of like-minded riders tackling some great hills together. I can’t wait for those summer commutes where the extra daylight gives you the freedom to take the long way home. I can’t wait for the Aussie racing season and the riding that comes with that — rides down near Geelong for the Bay Crits, rides near Buninyong for the Road Nationals and, hopefully, rides in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under.

So what about you? What’s got you motivated to get out on the bike this spring and summer? Are there particular events you’re training for? Or are you just looking forward to riding in the sun with your mates? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thanks for reading and please stay safe on the bike.

11 Comments

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  1. Andrew / Oct 25 2015

    i was riding through winter this year because i had to train for Gold Coast Peaks Challenge. I’m not normally fussed by the cold and rain but this year i had a few below 0 degree mornings along the yarra and around kinglake and Donna. That was terrible. Horrible pain in the fingers and feet, even with winter gloves and toe covers on. You dont have much choice but to ride early if you’re tying to get a 200klm 3000meter training session in. I was very thankful however that i didn’t get a drop of rain fall on me during this period and it was around 20 degrees for most of the day on the gold coast.
    Now training in Spring for Cradle Mountain challenge is like a whole other world. 9 Degrees in the morning i would consider warm after winter.

    I also use a computerized indoor trainer over winter which gives alot of variety if using TrainerRoad or virtual video rides. Even better if you can ride parts of the real course by loading a GPX. Not sure i could face that for any more than a 4hr training session as it does get a bit boring but at least you can get off the bike and grab something decent to eat and a cup of tea.

  2. Early Riser / Oct 13 2015

    I think the longer days of spring are are a breath of fresh air but-
    There are few things better than waking up early on a winter day, kitting up and stepping our for an early morning ride.

    You step out of your warm cocoon of a house to greet the day.
    The freshness of the air and the clarity of the sky are amazing as you scoot down country roads drawn in a beautiful greyscale palette.

    Even better is when the sun sun finally wakes and brings colour back into the world. Easing through increasing hues to ‘normal’.
    Sounds increase as everything wakes up destroying the solitude that has been your partner since the start.

    Sure – some days aren’t the best, but the option of not waking up is heaps worse.

    For now and through to summer, I look forward to riding the hills again while chasing the cooler air.
    True-I don’t have to worry about lights and warmers, buffs and long gloves – now I will have other things with which to concern myself.
    Sun shades and sun screen; carrying enough and drinking enough water.

    And sadly, I also won’t see the day transition again until the end of autumn.
    (I may be slightly crazed, but I am not waking up at stupid hours to see the sunrise!)

    The single truth is that all days that I can ride are brilliant days, and the best question to ask on those days is ‘where to next’?

  3. James / Oct 9 2015

    I really missed riding over winter this year, and it wasnt helped by having something akin to a recurring flu that I couldn’t seem to shake off from July theough August! What made it worse was that when I was sick and there were beautiful sunny days in the winter (there were a few were I am) I found myself wistfully looking out the window at the beautiful day and wishing I had the enrgy to go cycling.

    Now that spring is here, and the sun is out, and the flu is *finally* gone, being out on the bike in the beautiful sunshine it’s like having experienced a re-birth. Being out on the bike has helped me feel human again.

  4. Gavin / Oct 8 2015

    The way I see it is:
    – Riding in winter equals “training”.
    – Riding in summer equals “recreation”.

    In winter the bike cage at my office is half empty (about 60 bikes). In summer, on a nice day, it is 100% full with bikes overflowing onto the side fences (about 130 bikes).

  5. MARK KRIEGER / Oct 8 2015

    I enjoyed reading your blog Matt; quite inspiring. It’s always more difficult to ride during the winter months, except for the handful of days when the air is crisp and the sky clear. The country roads are generally that bit quieter too. Just the same, it’s always satisfying to leave the thermals in the bottom drawer for the next six months. MARK

  6. Gary Trounson / Oct 7 2015

    I must admit that I too have longed for the better weather but how I found the strength to ride over the winter was to set myself a goal to do an extra ordinary amount of elevated metres which I knew I couldn’t achieve solely in the good weather. After riding most weekends up Mt Donna Buang , sometimes in the snow, it was great riding each day over the long footy weekend. ( the weather was exceptional. 30 deg at the bottom and 15 at the top.) Normally I only see 3 or 4 riders each day over Winter but am now seeing 20 or 30. Happy riding.

  7. Billy Bob / Oct 7 2015

    As someone who suffers from SAD I can assure you it’s very real and just as debilitating as other mental illness. All my riding friends ride thru winter think I’m just disinterested but with the black dog hounding you down its hard enough getting out of bed to go to work! Then the warmer weather rolls around and its gone again for another 9 months like it never existed…

  8. Fat Fossil / Oct 7 2015

    Mate! SAD – now that’s a concept!
    Being Fat and a Fossil :) I took up cycling in the winter 3 + years ago.
    Took off 20 kilograms – did multiple RTBs – then 7 peaks. Then had some kind of shock when trying to do 3 peaks 2 years ago. Nailed that sucker this year. Got a 1:01 for the John West segment on Beach Road.
    All good so far?
    Sitting here with a shattered arm – losing all that conditioning – my crank failed at 35 kms hour dropping me onto the bars ( breaking ribs ) and then onto the road.
    Massively pissed off kids.
    You could call it SAD!
    But I intend at least – to come back!

  9. Keir Whitcher / Oct 7 2015

    To get out and enjoy the great country roads up this way (Daylesford) before the hayfever season reaches its peak knocking some out of the enjoyment out of it. After a tough Winter it’s great just riding along in short bibs and short sleeve jersey

  10. jules / Oct 7 2015

    I love road racing so I’ve had little trouble keeping up riding in the winter. I don’t find the Melb weather that bad – when you’re training, you warm up and adequate clothing takes care of that anyway. I plan around the rain so hardly got wet this winter, still doing 300+km weeks.

    Most of my riding is based around racing/training, or commuting. The commutes are done at a more relaxed pace, the training has a purpose. I’ll be easing off after Tour of Bright, just doing crits and club rides.

    A lot of people struggle with the whole racing – goal oriented thing, but I find it keeps me motivated to get out on the bike. Without that, I’m lazy and will find an excuse to not ride. It’s a bit of a dichotomy as I love riding, but that doesn’t always get me out there so having racing goals/commitments works for me.

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