The leaves in the vineyard are the color of tanned leather, not yet that hopeless brown of winter, just bright enough to glow in the muted light. Clouds the gray of slate crowd the sky, washing me in the first cold rain of fall. I allow myself a moment of gratitude for the end of the fire season.
Gravel covering the road shoulder crunches under my tires but it’s quickly muted by the white noise of the spray flying from the passing tires of a delivery truck. The smell of diesel whisks me to Europe and a rural road in Switzerland. For a moment I’m thousands of miles away, thanks to the constellation of rain, cold and lumbering truck.
This isn’t why we ride bikes.
We think of bikes as the ideal way to enjoy the perfect spring day. Pedaling feels natural in the sun, warm enough to make skin glow, the smell of spring flowers and that feeling of release that comes following winter; it’s easy to believe the wind washing over us was a product of divine intent.
But what of the rain, the cold? On a day such as this, I’m not riding for pleasure. I ride out of love. This isn’t the love of that perfect breezy day, but a truer love, the way when we fall in love with someone there comes a point when we want them in their entirety. This is waking up next to a mate—tousled hair, the old T-shirt, pre-coffee—and the value of their presence is so much greater than seeing them dressed for a night out.
Riding in the rain isn’t about cycling. Under a blue sky, the bike is an end in itself. On a day when the couch and a blanket beckon, I ride not because I love the bike or even where it takes me outside. I ride to find a destination, but one that’s not on this road, not in this county or even in this state. But it is a state I seek, just not one that appears on any map of the world.
Passing into that third hour, squinting against the shower, drops running down my nose, squeezing water from my glove after wiping the screen of the computer, I make the turn for the long way home. This is the answer. How much do I love cycling? This much.