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.