The moment before rain

The cloud cover is low, and whipped cream shaped dark clouds are threatening to explode.

Surroundings peaks have again fallen in love with these heavy and huge moist masses, which too frequently transform our rides into real nightmares. Rain, a real winter contender, which we must avoid at all costs, sometimes, forcing us to sacrifices, such as the so-called home trainer… Rain, this so rare ally that we wish we could have the support of during our long and hot summer rides. An indomitable element that we cannot control.

For this ride, my imagination would conduct me to choose mountain bike. After such a long time, cruising  roadie style along paved roads, the return of spring offers magical forest scenes, which we cannot find anywhere else. No fixed goal, no time to beat; the bike tied up onto the car, here am I cruising to reach my departure point. Once parked and the freshness of the air tasted, I need to face the truth: the atmosphere is almost as loud as moist. One of these atmospheres which makes us wonder if we have selected the correct layers to protect us during the ride, the fear of overheating being as present as the anxiety of freezing. Tires’ pressures adjusted and shoes on, bag strongly tied up and helmed attached, the moment has come. It’s about time to leave behind us our doubts, to move forward and ride our usual trails, which may be so different after the latest pouring rains.

Though the first meters are easily done, it’s with a slight apprehension that the first climb of the day arises. A continuous and steep trail made of sand and gravel stones, which usually  gives a poor rolling efficiency. Tires are slipping and squealing and I have to extend my look to select the appropriate gear and avoid vicious rolling stones. The same ones which know better than anything else how to stop you.

Previous frustrations, excitements and countless hours of stress are now weighing a lot on my shoulders. And this extra but invisible weight has to be carried uphill, same as the rest of my body. My bag carrying loads of water isn’t responsible for this insidious feeling that something different than my only equipment is struggling against my ascent. My body, bruised by the relentless bites of frost, is yelling at my brain to stop and turn back home. And then happens what has to happen: I quit the effort and eventually get off the bike. Now comes the frustration tainted with irritation, flowing into my body like a slimy fluid and weakening my motivation like a needle would pierce my fingernail. This is not the time to stop though, but the climb by foot is now a new ordeal. Like the one you get on your desk day after day, files and folders gathering and piling up too fast. I climb, with the jawbone strongly tightened up, a dark look  towards the top of the climb. Stones are still rolling under my feet, and I know that it would have been somehow easier to stay on the bike and cling to this known mantra: “shut up legs!”. I’m alive, and I have made a mistake, no need to avoid this assessment. My breath short, I stand up a little bit and stop the climbing. My sweat is now starting to drip and run throughout my backbone, increasing this unpleasant feeling of cold. It is about time to raise my eyes and look around, to open this bubble of selfishness which has been mine for the last ten minutes, and let the wind whistle throughout the green, yellow and brown leaves of the surrounding trees. The time to get bike on the bike, my look is already sharper and going further, my pedal strokes are getting more fluid. Contraction is now giving way to a secondary breath, more lively and bright. The ground passes  ahead of my tires’ knobs and is not enduring anymore; holes and small soil movements are being used to improve the flow of the gesture, to be more flexible and quick. Twenty minutes later, my breath still too short and tainted with a blood taste, I can face a thrilling truth: the time to get down has come. The scenery, which is yet the same since the start of the ride, transforms itself into a swirling carousel full of pastel colors. Branches and obstacles are being avoided with the ease of a ballet dancer, even though I am ceaselessly wondering if the practice has been long enough. The hard and unpleasant ground of the climb now turns into a real game carpet. It is now time to jump, drift, and grip on everything which would cross my tires’ way.

The scenery, which is yet the same since the start of the ride, transforms itself into a swirling carousel full of pastel colors. Branches and obstacles are being avoided with the ease of a ballet dancer, even though I am ceaselessly wondering if the practice has been long enough. The hard and unpleasant ground of the climb now turns into a real game carpet. It is now time to jump, drift, and grip on everything which would cross my tires’ way.

It is 10h23min; I have been riding for only one hour and ten minutes, and made only fourteen kilometers. I am way too hot for such an outside cold. I lean my bike against the pavement and sit heavily on the floor.

I lift my eyes and look at the threatening clouds. Not the same as first ones of course, since they look like running away more quickly than the wind could carry them. But they are moving and whirling around the mountains.

I smile; I have been riding with all I have. I can’t wait for the next ride.