Bikes are like boats.

I’ve heard it said that owning a boat is a bit like taking personal ownership over a large hole in the ocean through which money disappears. I’m sure that is probably true, but I’d like to put forward the case that owning a bike and riding it properly isn’t too dissimilar. I’m sure parts for boats are probably a bit more expensive – but the principal of constantly seeing money filter into the hobby remains the same.

Riding a bike can be a very simple, easy hobby: have bike, have helmet – ride. It’s not really so simple once the bike gets upgraded and the miles accumulate. It’s certainly not so easy once the cold comes.

Once the cold had well and turly come Jan last year!

On Tuesday morning I left my house seeking hill reps. It was about 6.30am and it was cold. Circling the lovely roundabout at the end of my road and shooting off to my chosen 2 minute suffers-ville, I thought to myself: “My ears are cold, must get one of those Gore windstopper hats.”

So I’m currently wearing the shoes I got in May (to replace my 2-year old Northwave favourites which finally committed bike-shoe suicide), overshoes I bought in spring and could do with a replace, knee length warm socks (yep – got it all going on), brand new AMAZING Gore Windstopper/Shoft shell bib tights, base layer, jersey, arm warmers, and fantastic Louis Garneau gloves which have to be the first nice female fitting gloves I’ve ever had (up till Feb this year buying gloves meant popping into the nearest shop and purchasing whatever was on shop floor – always male, always huge… tendency to make one look like a snowman.)

And now I want a HAT?!

Not long now!

Of course, so far I’ve only covered myself. The bike needs to prepare for winter too. A crucial part of this preparation is lighting – bike and self need to be seen when the sun is hiding. Unfortunately, this is most of the time the rest of us are not working. Currently I’m sampling an Exposure Diablo helmet mount – it comes with a hefty price tag on it, but you can guarantee you can see in the dark, and you will be seen (as well as blinding pedestrians when walking into gym forgetting it is still on). I’ve messed around with rubbish lights in the past – problem is they either: stop working very suddenly, plunging you into darkness, have poor battery life, or frankly, just can’t stand the riding. I had one recently that flew off the mount in a final protest to the knobbly surface of Balcombe Road. When the packaging said ‘Bike Light’ I suppose it meant ‘Suitable for smooth roads of Majorca only’.

Dolce (the ‘Winter bike’) recently got a new bottom bracket. The situation was getting quite serious, I hadn’t realised how much so until I got back on Dolce after a few months on the new bike – but I can safely say it was a very cheap fix that made the bike feel like new. Bike could also do with some winterising with grippy winter tyres. Currently she’s rolling on ‘all season tyres’ – they are holding up but I’m sceptical. That, and I know that to be sociable on a group ride I need to kit her out with some mudguards. It’ll be a shame, since they look nasty – but I shouldn’t say I hate having the rider in front flicking dirt in my face, and continue to do the same.

So you see – bike riding is not always so simple as ‘have bike, have helmet – ride.’

It’s odd that a sport I adore because it gets me so close to freedom, and so far away from the boring rigmarole of life and bills and *blah* can be so grounded in a constant need to replace and buy. Strange that a sport I associate sometimes with being away from computers and TVs and all the modern constraints, relies so heavily on technology. Riding my bike is a chance to get mud on my face and not really give a crap – not what ladies do, but then ladies don’t ride down hills in the dark. So it seems absurd that it requires a bigger wardrobe than my day to day life.

In years past, I didn’t need most of this kit because I spent much of my riding time on a static trainer, I only really dealt with the cold on weekend rides. I’m not so much a fan of the turbo anymore (partly due to current house, may change when I move on Sat to house with proper turbo room!) – the last 6 days have seen 178miles of outdoor riding – most of it in the cold. Yes, it requires a lot of organisation, a lot of gear, and it takes a fair amount of my salary – but it’s all worth it to feel the freezing cold air melt into oblivion. Riding in winter might not be as simple as stepping out on a summers day and pootling to the park, but it’s worth every penny.

*Disclaimer: Will ride in cold. Will not ride in torrential rain, high wind, snow or ice.

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