Your weekend ride. It’s something you think about from the moment you start work on Monday. But it’s not just the ride you long for, it’s the process, the ritual, the peripherals.
The weekend’s big ride is an event for the day, not just those wonderful hours in the saddle. That longed-for ritual comes to extend from the morning preparation, to the coffee and banter at the café, to the blissful fatigue that sets in as you wait for your dinner to cook later that evening. The rest of weekend is planned around it, so as to optimise the beauty of this whole process. As you sit at your desk on Monday morning, the hours before and after the ride are what you crave almost as much as that pivotal time on the bike.
However, it’s what happens in the morning that’s most important. This must be perfect, per the process you’ve adapted and refined over time. This is what sets your ride up for perfection or mediocrity. If the morning’s rituals are disrupted by an unexpected task, an unwanted guest, or a missing breakfast ingredient, a sense of unease hangs over your ride.
Stumbling from bed, front of mind is the coffee. Brewed for a precise length of time, poured into the same cup each time. That cup with the most satisfying weight and mouthfeel. Any other mug, and the coffee doesn’t feel right. As the precious black fluid kicks your mind into gear, your brain immediately turns to the ride. Yesterday’s concerns over work or chores are pushed so far to the back of your conscience they don’t see the slightest glimmer of light.
You pore over the route one more time. Now on its fifth iteration, a collaborative work of art between you and your ride buddies for the day. A little tweak here to avoid that pothole-strewn road, an adjustment there to take you past that viewpoint. The weather is scrutinised; windspeeds, chance of rain, temperatures. It all matters. You need to know where you may have headwinds or where you may get wet. You visualise the ride and it becomes a part of your psyche.
Next, breakfast. The exact portion of oats, the precise volume of milk; no more, no less. A recipe perfected by you over time. You could write it down for posterity, but you know others won’t be interested. Every rider’s method is unique to them. You maybe cook eggs as well. If the ride is breaching what you’ve come to term a ‘BIG’ ‘big’ ride, then you know you’ll need the protein. Others may disagree, but only you know when an egg is deemed necessary. This is for you, this is your ritual.
Breakfast is savoured. You chew over the ride in your mind as you chew down the fuel for your legs. You consider how you’re feeling, from the little twinge in your knee as you got out of bed, to how hard you found that set of intervals you did after work a few days ago.
Next, the final checks of the bike. You know she’s ready. You spent an hour fettling, tweaking, and cleaning last night, but you can’t help but have another look, as much to ogle her lines and finish as to check the brakes, chain and shifting. You pump the tyres. 83psi, no more, no less.
One last check of the forecast. The last one you inspected didn’t satisfy you totally and so you load up a few more sites, just to verify what you’d seen.
The plan forms in your mind of what you’re going to wear; the jersey is considered with regards to weight, pocket space, and of course, colour. The shorts fall out of this decision. If you have a matching pair, then these are the go-to. If not, you consider the chamois pad; are you going for comfort or speed? Last, but by no means least, the socks. The pivotal point of the outfit. Weight, length and colour all matter. The sock is the true expression of personality, the final flourish that makes or breaks the outfit. The sock selection perhaps epitomises the morning ritual as a whole. If you’re happy with the socks, in the same way as if you’re happy with your whole morning’s preparation, you’re already at the front of the peloton.
You dress, in the same order and with the same method you have done hundreds of rides previously. You’re ready to roll, but you savour this final moment over one last coffee. The moment you’ve been waiting for all week, ready to be realised. You almost want it to last forever, to deny the gratification. We all know the best part of Christmas is when you first wake up in the morning, in anticipation of what’s to come.
You buckle up the helmet, put on your sunglasses (with the arms OVER the straps, as always), and fire up your GPS.
You pull up your socks, ensuring there’s no creases and the designs are straight.
You know you’re ready.