As snow falls in the Inland Northwest, limiting our opportunities for two wheeled adventure, cyclists all across the region are presented with the challenge of maintaining fitness and sanity until the spring. Many of us engage in activities better suited for the conditions such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or fat biking. Despite our best efforts, it’s difficult not to look at our fast, skinny tired shred machines and want to start tinkering.
Every year, well into winter, I find myself in my shop holding a beer and staring at my bicycles. They have been sitting idle for too long. The feeling of tires digging into dirt and floating through the air feel like a past life, even though it was only several weeks ago that we last experienced them. Shoveling snow and scraping car windows have since temporarily replaced shoveling and scraping dirt. The surrounding landscape has evolved from our usual mix of vibrant colors to an almost purely monochromatic scene.
It begins casually enough, taking a rag and wiping the crusted mud and dirt from the tires and frame, just trying to make her look pretty. I should have done this right after the ride, but I assume I was anticipating another ride in the very near future and didn’t see the point. Dust inevitably finds it’s way into my nostrils and the smell of the woods takes me back to when this mud made it’s way onto my frame. I remember flowing down the trail, tree branches whipping my arms like skinny high fives, unweighting over roots and pumping for free speed, completely submersed in the present and focused only on the second I was currently living. Not thinking, just doing.
As I turn the wheels, removing the dirt, I notice my brake is squeaking and must be addressed. The brake pads are almost completely worn to metal. I remember installing fresh pads part way through the summer and I’m a bit surprised that they are in this condition. My mind flashes back to the descents that we labored to earn, the delicious reward to the sweat, burning lungs and lactic acid investment we made on the ascent.
In sharp contrast to the many bicycles that are purchased shiny and gleaming and gather no more than dust after a handful of rides, the steeds in my stable have seen some shit. This isn’t their first season nor will it be their last. They may not be overly classy or expensive but they are reliable, very rarely coming up with an excuse not to be ridden. Always ready to take an adventure or a beatdown. Seasoned dirtbags, a pull from the chain lube bottle and a few hits off the floor pump provide all the stoke they need.
Every worn out part, crust of mud and smear of dirty grease is a token of a life well lived and time well spent. The winter rebuild may initially stem from boredom but once I get into it, it becomes a rush of fond memories that I thoroughly enjoy reliving. Remembering how the scratch on the top tube came to be and how it matches the scar on your arm from the same incident or how you traded beer for a fresh set of tires.
It is an opportunity to relive the tales of the last season and to speculate what you might choose to do in the next. I encourage you to grab a beer, spruce up your bikes and take a trip down memory lane.