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On Biking: What spring means for a cyclist

Posted by Christina Jedra  March 20, 2013 10:18 AM

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For a cyclist, spring means the end of cold weather riding. So that snowstorm on Tuesday? I’d like to think it was Mother Nature’s way of telling us who’s in charge. 

For a cyclist, spring means that we no can trot out our spring wardrobe. In the winter, our clothing is drab and predictable: tights, a wind-blocking jacket, a wool hat with earmuffs, thick gloves and neoprene booties. Good stuff for keeping warm, but nothing you’d ever see on the runways of the Paris fashion shows. 

Spring, on the other hand, means short sleeve shirts in a riot of colors and designs. My favorite? A Captain Crunch jersey that I saw last summer. Though I am also partial to anything made from wool. If it was good enough for Eddy Merckx, it’s good enough for me. 

But some spring days are just a little too cold for a short sleeve jersey. That’s when you need a set of arm warmers. My arm warmers are wool. They have pencil thin purple stripes. They almost make me look fashionable. 

Ah, spring. 

A friend believes that we slow down in the winter because the cold air creates more resistance. This means that once it gets warm, I’ll have to come up with a new excuse for why I’m riding slowly. That, or summer in Argentina, where it’s cold in July. 

For those of us who follow racing, spring means we can watch the classic one-day races in Europe. My favorite is Paris-Roubaix, otherwise known as the hell of the north. This race includes cobblestones that look like loaves of bread scattered across the road. 

When it’s dry, Paris-Roubaix is brutal, full of crashes, broken clavicles, and busted up wheels. When it’s wet, it’s even worse. I once had a dream, and it was the best dream of my life, that I finished this race and that Phil Liggett (the Johnny Most of bicycle race announcers) called me an animal. 

To a cyclist, that’s a complement. 

For normal people, people who like to bike for fun, people who do not think that suffering on two wheels is a virtue, people who don’t know the difference between clinchers and tubulars, spring is a gift. A chance to wipe off the cobwebs, squirt a little lube onto the chain, snap on a helmet, and go out for a ride. To the park, along the Esplanade, or the coffee shop. Wherever. One mile, two miles, three miles, four: it doesn’t matter how far. Just do it. 

Why does a cyclist shave his or her legs every spring? In a word: tradition. Besides, they look kind of cool, to a cyclist, that is. 

Maybe I won’t go any faster than I did a few months ago. And no: I will never place in Paris-Roubaix. And the jury is still out about whether or not my arm warmers will work. 

But now that it’s spring, none of that matters. 

Spring is a cyclist’s version of Opening Day. Hopefully it will be a good season. For the Red Sox, and for the bikers, too. 

Jonathan Simmons is the author of “Here For The Ride: A Tale of Obsession on Two Wheels.” You can follow him on twitter @On_Biking

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