Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Catharsis of Seasonal Change

Purple & White
"It's over. Step away from the roadbike" I said to myself as gently as possible while watching the snow from the window. I was going to publish this over the weekend and title the post "The End." But then I decided that was far too dramatic, and that when titles like this come to mind the prudent thing to do is take a couple of days off from the blog. It's snow for goodness sake, not the end of the world. In fact, it is quite beautiful. And in retrospect I see that it has been cathartic - a resolution to a state of uncertainty. 

Sage Green & White
After a productive and well-organised December I naïvely expected to keep going at the same rate in the new year. But January started out slow and difficult, and only grew more so as the weeks wore on. After the holidays there was suddenly a pile of work due all at once, which is a situation I never handle well. And the move to the new art studio proved more effortful to organise than I anticipated (How did I accumulate so many jars of congealed ...stuff? why do I never throw anything away? and why did I need such enormous canvases, and so many of them??). In the midst of this we had a special occasion to celebrate, and some financial decisions to make. My immune system kept faltering. I felt as if I were moving in slow motion while everything else spun around me faster and faster.

It took me a while to connect this unsettled, disorganised state of mind to a decrease in cycling. Soon after the holidays the roads had turned icy, so I hadn't been riding as much as during the previous month. Of course! I was coming down from a long endorphin high, and not in the midst of an existential crisis. What made it worse, was that since it hadn't started snowing yet, I kept thinking that I could/should be cycling. I kept waiting for the idyl of December to return, not willing to put my bike on the trainer just yet, stuck in limbo. 

Winter Bike Lane
With the snow's arrival, the limbo finally ended and things became more clear-cut: "Right then. Bike on the trainer and you are done for the season. Now stop checking the weather obsessively, ride indoors while watching all the movies you've been meaning to catch up on, and get on with your life!" (Is it a bad sign when the snow speaks to you? No, no, don't answer that...)

Snowy Neighbourhood
This might sound strange coming from someone with a daily blog about bicycles, but I tend to downplay the importance of cycling in my "real" life, particularly roadcycling. It is my anti-athletic, anti-"jock" bias - a holdover from my teenage days as the angsty weird arty girl, for whom jocks were the enemy. Not very open-minded of me to carry that over, but at least I admit it. Cycling, important? Oh no, it means nothing to me compared to things like art and (real, not bloggery) writing. Oh this little blog? It's just some light-hearted stress relief. Hours a day in the saddle? It's just physical activity; it means nothing. But of course it can't possibly mean nothing. I need to admit to myself that cycling is important to me and that it integrates with the rest of my life whether I want to acknowledge it or not. Likewise, when I drastically decrease my time on the bike it will impact other aspects of my life. It will affect my mood, creativity and productivity. I was going through withdrawal, plain and simple.

The human mind is a funny thing, and once I became aware of all this, I felt better. Swiftly, we got me all moved into the new studio - thanks to the Co-Habitant's formidable lifting prowess and a magnificent zipcar pick-up truck. I even got a workout from carrying stuff up and down 3 flights of stairs, as the freight elevator in the building is not operational over the weekend. My calves are still hurting today from all that stair-climbing and it feels kind of nice. Maybe I should do this for fun in addition to walking and riding on the trainer, and all together that might keep me in shape till spring. Of course I could also cycle inside the studio (as demonstrated by the lovely bikeyface). Indoor mini-velodrome à la Interbike 2011

Night, Snow, Paper Bicycle
As I write this, the heaps of snow are already half-gone and temperatures are mild again. It is possible that the roads will clear up completely and we will have a continuation of our mild winter. But I am going to take a break from roadcycling anyhow, because all the back-and-forth and the increasing concerns about icy roads on descents are making me way too neurotic and it's time to stop. Of course, transportation cycling continues as usual. Seasonal change is good, winter is beautiful, and finally I feel that the year is off to a good start. Now, could somebody please tell me what those purple berries are?..

46 comments:

  1. Well put ! It looks to me as if you're well on the road to achieving Balance in your life. I certainly remember similar feelings due to a winter lay-off from road cycling. It is like an addiction ,isn't it ? And I too still can't love the Hamster Wheel ( turbo trainer ! ) as I should. On reflection, I used to do more harm than good to myself, because as soon as the ice had cleared from the roads I was out on the bike and probably putting in too many kilometres too soon. Wintry west of Scotland wind and rain didn't help either. It wasn't until I was a good bit older that I realised that my fluctuating health was related to my cycling patterns.When I regained common sense I started to accept the fact that it's a crap idea to cycle in hard winter conditions. Ice ,snow and road cycling just don't go well together. Accept it ! Get on with something else ! Much as we love cycling don't let it become an obsession.
    What do you mean, not real writing ? I think that well written blogs are the direct descendants of the essays written by people like Joseph Addison, Charles Lamb and Robert Louis Stevenson and many others !
    Sorry, I don't know what those berries are either, ask a jam-making Granny, they know everything. Well, mine did !

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  2. I hear you. It is hard to let go of some of the mileage, but once you say "stop". It gets better and better. Now if only I could get enough snow to ski on...

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  3. Totally get this. Cycling is my happiness, but breaks from the routine are welcome (just as in life). Stepping out of anything for awhile, makes me happy to step back in. I miss being outside, but have learned to embrace the trainer, catching up on movies and pbs shows, meditating and sweating. I totally know that feeling of 'giving in' once that bike is mounted on the trainer, but the sooner I admitted it to myself this year ~ the better off I was.

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  4. Out of any of your musings that I've connected with, this may be the one I best understand. Perhaps there is some law of nature governing this phenomena, but along with the drop in quality saddle time so too have I found a plunge in quality artistic output. SAD? Perhaps a bit of that too as each gray day grows ever more gray and the world outside is coated with yet another layer of gray film. Withdrawal, then, it is.

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  5. I think that we used to place more importance on holidays which helped us mark the changing of seasons. But road biking, while enabled by the warmth of summer isn't literally a seasonal phenomenon, as you've experienced with the nice dry December, so it's harder to ceremonialize and make the transition.

    Hope the new studio can bring the kind of projects which help that kind of transition, and good luck with the rest of the year!

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  6. Well, just in time for your sanity. It's almost 50F today, the sun is out, and the snow is gone. Take that roadbike out and enjoy some warm sunshine today! Wednesday and Thursday look to be very mild as well.

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  7. Art knows no boundaries,jocks,roadies,whatever. Callicarpa americana. The countries finest arboretum is around the corner. Check it out sometime.

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  8. POst holiday Jan has always been hard. When it's freezing it's hard b/c it's cold and dark and I want to hide under covers. When it's mild it's hard b/c it's dark and I want to hide under covers but the weather tells me to keep pushing. My recent dental issues have forced the issue and this sat I was ever so glad to not leave the couch and to just watch the snow come down. Today's spring like temps and feeling is weird. I want to ride but my mouth is not ready for it. as much as I like to hibernate- my recent abrupt ending of activitiy ( no yoga as I can't bend over without my face exploding) is leaving me twtichy and crazy. I too never realized how important daily movement was ( yoga, biking, running) until I stopped and couldn't do it.

    but yes- it was about last winter that I realized winter time is for this weird slump and hibernation. While I need to balance it with some activity so I don't feel lonely- I crave staying in. and by late FEb early march I am breaking free. a cycle that I have begun to enjoy.

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    1. I've been usually okay in January and it's end of February that I start going crazy, so this threw me a bit! Also just feeling weird because I love snow and used to really look forward to it so much pre-cycling. Now it's less and less so every year and that's kind of sad. I need to get back into skiing.

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    2. Yes, the winter substitute for bicycling is more skiing than riding indoors on a cycling trainer--even rollers, which are less boring than a trainer, are simply too boring.

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    3. Yes, I find doing anything outdoors during peak sunshine is KEY. Years ago when I trained for one of those three day 60 mile walks I spent the winter walking like 5-10 miles a day on weekends. And that was when it hit me how important being out from 10-2 during the wintertime was. Esp being active so you end up defending against the cold. I always end up feeling like Impervious to the cold when doing something active like skiing, walking snowshoeing and then I feel like I conquered the stir crazy feeling. And just the sun shining on my face each day or seeing the clouds and feeling the air was enough to help. Feb 1 is one of my favorite Pagan holidays. In lay-man's, non pagan terms ( as I am) it's basically the time of year that while it's still cold- if you stop and look there are slow signs of the season's changing. the sun rises earlier. flowering trees have their buds at the ready. I just biked to Russo's to buy Quince branches for forcing and in a few days I'll have pink flowers inside by the window. LAst winter the juxtaposition between the delicate spring flowers and the snow outside plus amarylis blooms really helped my feb. Anyway- those are some of my SAD tricks.

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  9. Escape and take on a project in Zona or SoCal lots of nice riding weather! or find an indoor velodrome. Glenn in the north west

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    1. I may be in "SoCal" in March, though that is still a long way off!

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  10. We just finished up 4 days of snowbound cabin-fever here in Seattle. The first 3 days most people didn't even leave their homes since even walking was problematic. Life without traction is difficult!

    Fabulous studio. Best of luck getting all those congealed jars open and splashed on the canvas. There's always something so appealing about an empty space. Adding a bicycle is a great touch. Making art is the easy part... making a living from art is where things get tricky.

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    1. "making a living from art is where things get tricky"

      Yup. Especially if you're trying not to let knowing what is likely to sell and what isn't influence your content.

      Thankfully, the studio is walkable-to in the snow, so winter storms should not prevent me from working.

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  11. I got out this weekend and did some biking in the snow -- it was quite a bit of fun, with my snow tires, except where it was really deep. While I normally hate them, because they are so heavy and slow, riding around through slush and snow and not having to worry too much about slipping is a delight.

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  12. Your photos were beautiful pre-instagram.

    Instagram is the autotune of the visual world. Interesting for a few days, now they're @#$%ing annoying to look at.

    I still love your writing.

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    1. Without these I'd be re-using old pictures. I do not always carry a camera or have time to use it. For me this is the better option than using old pics to illustrate a new post.

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  13. Have you thought of adding a "Fat Bike" to your collection for riding in the snow. For example:

    http://www.cyclelicio.us/uploaded_images/fatbike-turnertech-1-770963.jpg

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    1. I'd love to try one of these. Surly Moonlander preferably!

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  14. How's the PaperBike handling the snow? Are you still planning to do a final review or did I miss that? Having had a short go on one I've got a real bike crush on it now...

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  15. The Paper Bike manufacturer was making a prototype rear rack for the bike, and I postponed further test riding it until it arrived. Now it has and we are working on installing it (a little tricky). Updates to follow!

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  16. @v, re fat bikes. Last I checked, which was right around when it snowed, because I snapped a tire lever and had to replenish my supply, Belmont WW had a couple of fat-tired bikes on the floor. Not sure how they keep them clean after test rides.

    Of course, the snow's all melting. Snow tires are looking like overkill.

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  17. 'My immune system kept faltering'

    You mean you caught a cold?

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    1. I have a bad immune system and get pneumonia easily. Once the cycle starts it can get pretty bad.

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  18. The threaded comments are looking better!

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  19. Hmm methinks you should have kept your Pashley and used it as a snoe plough (plow!?)


    Off topic I know but..
    Talking of Pashley's Im thinking of getting a roadster sovereign and noticed your partner had one. I wonder of youd mind me asking before I start going down that path which is; how low (or high) are the 5 SA gears..?

    Thanks in advance me dear

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    1. There are 2 issues here:

      1. SA changed the 5-speed hub a year or so after I got mine. The new 5-speed wide range hub has a wider range, but had some growing pains which may or may not have been resolved. In theory, it's better because it has more range than the hub my Pashley has. But I can't comment on how good or bad the wider range is because I never owned a bike with this hub. I recommend a test ride.

      2. Using my hub as a reference point, I initially felt that the lowest gear is slightly too high, and the highest gear is definitely too high. This problem can be easily remedied by using a larger cog that still fits inside the chaincase. The entire gear range then moves lower. However, the problem with that is the 3rd gear, direct drive, would then be too low for regular use. After my legs got stronger from cycling, I no longer feel like I need to switch to a larger cog.

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  20. Holy crap, is that your studio???? It is ENORMOUS.

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    1. I am sharing it with another painter, but yes it's enormous! That's not even the whole thing in the picture, the areas where all our stuff is stacked are behind the camera's position.

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  21. I don't know how you east coast peeps put up with such a short riding season.

    Not generally an Instafan but the best cam is the one you're carrying and it loosens things up. The ice one is appropriate.

    "Maybe I should do this for fun in addition to walking and riding on the trainer, and all together that might keep me in shape till spring."

    Art girl totally caving to "training".

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  22. I am impressed. If you ever want to cross your bikey and arty streams and share your work, I would love to see it. :)

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  23. how beautiful these pictures are, how poetic

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  24. MDI many thanks I appreciate your thoughts and feedback..!

    I will test drive as you suggested. I love the style of Pashleys -I wish theyd bring out a 5 speed Guv'nor...

    Have you tried the Pashley Paramount? I find there is little real feedback on this bike on the net..!?

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    1. Here's a pic' of the "Parabike" - the natural successor to the Paramount...

      http://i180.photobucket.com/albums/x248/Andismodelpages/PashleyZiproll.jpg

      In this instance I've added a "Zip-Roll" to the front and a "Barley" to the rear. I've also replaced Pashley's 20t rear cog for a 22t. Makes all the difference in the world - much more ridable. Top is still high enough for me to clatter along at a veritable lick, and I've the confidence to tackle long hills now [the really steep ones I'll happily walk anyway]. Although built like a tank it's not so heavy as you would imagine and feels really solid beneath you and rolls well too considering the standard Marathon plus's.
      Any questions - or pic's - just ask.

      Andi

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    2. Many thanks Andi greatly appreciated

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  25. sounds like a gym membership might put you in better spirits? it's time to embrace the new you that loves to exercise! you'll soon learn that it's not just the cycling but working out in general that makes you happy.

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  26. V:"Yup. Especially if you're trying not to let knowing what is likely to sell and what isn't influence your content."

    This is what eventually made me come to the realization that I can't make art my job. But I still try and do it for fun as often as I can convince myself to paint. It's extremely hard to get past the ego of it all. I'm sure you already have it on your bookshelf, but Art and Fear is a good book about this subject.

    Are we ever going to be able to see your art (or a link to it)? I for one would love to see your paintings, though I would understand if you want to keep those parts of your life separate.

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  27. I'm afraid my art is NSFW : ) But I'll post some sketches if anything bicycle-related emerges. I have a couple from a year ago here.

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  28. Peppy (the cycling cat figure model)January 24, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    Yes most of it is me posing nude.

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  29. Looks like Beautyberry! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beautyberry

    Any chance of you taking the pneumonia vaccine? My Dad did in his 60's and hasn't had bronchitis or pneumonia for years (he's 80+ now).

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  30. They might be beautyberries. I saw them at the arboretum this fall and was totally amazed... I had never seen a berry that color before.

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  31. Awesome pics,my friend! I'm the same way,every winter,almost exactly,LOL! Then I make me get out and ride. Works for me,maybe not for everyone (that's ok...what works for everyone usually doesn't for me,it equals out). And lookie here-Blogger let me in to comment,cool!

    I've been reading,my friend,just been unable to comment. Hope your week's off to a great start :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  32. Hmmm, I like the instagram pictures, their modest little peeps of spontaneity, impromptu notes, celebrations of beauty. Would not the Emily Dickinson of pressed flowers cherish the lovely first two pictures of this post?

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  33. Velouria said...

    "I may be in "SoCal" in March, though that is still a long way off!"


    Hey, if "SoCal" equals "LA", you can borrow any bike in my garage! I'd imagine biking in LA would be a VERY different experience for you. :-)

    Deb

    (P.S. "Reply" button still not working in Safari.)

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  34. Thank you for this, today especially, it brought a bit of warmth to an emotionally draining day. I fell off the bike wagon late last summer, going from 4-500 miles a week to less than 100. Partly due to a couple of early season injuries and part me losing my direction.

    In gearing up for another semester of adjuncting- to support my painting habit- I organized my bike shop. I felt the simple pleasure at looking at my 'pretty bikes' and had the urge to ride. There was little salt on the roads as we had not yet had any real snow. It was a good reminder of just the things you were talking about- how good it makes my entire being feel to be on a bike, alone.

    I decided to ride through this mild northeastern winter and went out after a storm on my single speed cyclocross bike. It was great fun, even when I went down on a bit of ice. In my little shop, I found a pair of 700x35 Nokia studded tires that someone left. After installing them on Saturday I have put around 150 miles on them, they are amazing in the snow!!! I feel invincible on ice and will not be 'riding' indoors this year- or maybe never!

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