November is usually really hard. Every year I dread this month, when the clocks have just gone back, and daylight is fast ebbing to its annual minimum. The little sunlight that manages to filter through the thick blankets of damp cloud hits sodden ground covered in dead leaves and warms nothing, but it’s never cold enough to be interesting. There might be the odd patch of ice to catch you out on a shady corner, but there are no snows or frozen waterfalls to pretty up the scenery. Every day it gets darker and gloomier, and unlike December there isn’t even the mixed-blessing of the holiday season to distract from the grinding dreariness of everything. Most of the time it just drizzles, or blows, or both, and it takes a concerted act of will to get out of the door and turn a pedal. I usually spend most of my free time in November on the couch with a bottle of wine, feeling guilty and hiding from the world.
But this year I am trying a different approach. So far I have been out on two pre-breakfast rides, one night ride, and started one CX race. The latter didn’t go so well, as I DNFed after a very muddy lap and a half due to a puncture. I did at least line up at the start, though, which has to count for something, and I may well have another crack at actually finishing at the next round. The other rides have all been splendid, particularly this morning’s spin around the frosty back-lanes, watching the day dawn slowly around me. Grouse and pheasants skittered brainlessly along the side of the track, and a hare loped out of the way before stopping to observe the bizarre, wheeled madman rolling along the frozen grass. Something small and incredibly fast, a weasel perhaps, shot ahead at over 30mph as I descended into the cold of the valley, where the temperature dipped below -3°C. I climbed a reservoir dam wall to practise my CX shoulder carry as the sun rose above the distant cloud banks, before rattling down the final hill to home and breakfast. The toes on my left foot had gone a bit numb but apart from that everything seemed to be working just fine, and with the ground mostly frozen the bike barely even had any mud on it. The remainder of this month’s riding is unlikely to be similarly painless, but I’m determined to keep up this current momentum for as long as I can, and hopefully avoid sliding into the lazy despondency that November normally brings. A few more mornings like this, though, and it will definitely feel like the effort is worth it.