I somehow survived my first winter as a cyclist. It was a long slog of navigating through icy roads in the darkness and ensuring visibility by dressing like a Christmas tree wrapped in tinsel and fairy-lights. The month of March marks the start of Spring but you probably have the extortionate central heating bills and wind-battered umbrella collection to prove otherwise.
But there have been a few glimmers of hope for the new season in recent weeks. I can confirm that my cheeks have basked in the occasional warm glow of the sun’s rays while riding my bike – yes, really! Cyclists have the privilege of being able to detect and enjoy such early signs of Spring. Look out for the following seven changes on your next commute.
Set to defrost
I put off replacing lost cycling gloves in the first week of January, which was about the same time that my fifth pair of the season seemed to vanish into thin air. My fingers resembled pink, frozen sausages and the left hand seemed to be glued to the bike bell. But the warmer air has thawed them out and they will soon be cooking in the sizzling sunshine of Summer. I could even choreograph a finger dance while waiting at the traffic lights, but that would be a totally weird thing to do.
One of my biggest gripes about commuting in winter is the amount of clothing I need to pack in my bag: big boots, puffy coats, woolly jumpers. I often had to leave my beautiful, new beret and matching scarf at home because my pannier would already be overflowing with countless pairs of 120 denier tights and packets of Lemsip. The milder weather means that I just need to throw in a t-shirt and a pair of trousers then hit the road…with a lightweight waterproof jacket, just in case.
Time to take the hoody off
Last week I had to stop mid-commute and take my hoody off from underneath my outer jacket because I was too warm. Later that day, I cycled back in just a t-shirt – crazy, right? These are bold moves. OK, so maybe that was a bit too optimistic, as the breeze quickly became a wee bit chilly. But it’s still great progress. Also, now that there’s more space in the pannier, the layers that get stripped off fit in it just nicely.
Return of the helmet hair
Ah, how I’ve missed rolling into work and greeting colleagues with sweaty, knotted helmet hair. I also recently got a fringe cut in for the summer, so I’m probably going to have to give myself an extra hour or two in the morning to make it sit straight after a cycle. You can kind of get away with not showering after your commute during the colder months but it’s pretty much mandatory when your head decides to throw a sweat-fest in the warmer weather.
Dark times are over
Cycling to work on a dark morning then later leaving on a dark afternoon at around 5pm is very, very sad. I found myself focusing on getting my hands on a hot cup of tea in the office or a warm glass of red wine at home. But now, it feels like orchestral music should be playing around me as I whizz down the road into the rising sun. It’s just like being in an old-school Hovis advert. I can also see everything that is happening around me without the fear of being blinded by oncoming vehicle lights.
The terrors of taking public transport
I only cycled to and from work during winter, anything else was out of the question. I jumped on the bus or the Tube for other necessary journeys, finding the stuffy, crowded carriages to be strangely warm and cosy. Being outside on my bike in the cold and dark was as appealing as eating a tray of soggy chips in the rain. But now the idea of being on a stationary bus, while watching cyclists whizz by, horrifies me once more. Last week I called in at a friend’s house via bike ride for the first time in months, where she greeted and treated me with a great cuppa.
General good vibes
Smell those premature BBQs that are sure to be extinguished with imminent April showers; listen out for the guy who brings his boom-box out on the Quietway 7 and will surely be blasting out Will Smith’s ‘Miami’; say ‘GOOD MORNING’ to cyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike because, hey, it’s sunny; and take the longer, scenic detours through the leafy parks and blossom tree-lined lanes of London. This is Spring!
Then watch it all come to an abrupt, premature end as the British weather lives up to its reputation. Sure, there’s probably lots of wind and rain ahead but the dark days of ice are over and that’s enough for me to want to embrace cycling in Springtime again.
Image provided by Alexey Lin via Unsplash.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.