Click…chunk. Click…chunk. I grab two gears and stand on my pedals. My bike lurches forward under me as I crawl up my favorite wooded climb. Rose Glen road is in some other reality. One where civilizations don’t exist—as if everyone lived in old field stone houses situated on wooded lots with clear cold creeks running through their yards. Small stone walls border each driveway—built from the same stones that support the roof of the house that sits fifty yards from the freshly paved road under my tires. It’s brisk. The sun shows through the still bare trees and every couple pedal strokes it shines warm on my covered arms.
Rose Glen is in another world, but it couldn't be more than two miles from the doors of our shop. We all ride here on our too-short breaks from our too-busy lives for exactly one mile of another world. It’s a nice effort, but not one you can’t slog up if your legs are feeling too heavy. Mine don’t feel heavy today though. I wind up along the wooded road just a mile, and then back down into the small valley that flanks the river on both sides, only to climb out again.
Spring air feels different. I’m sure there is some scientific difference—moisture, humidity, temperature—all contributing to a distinct essence of spring in the air.
Today is my favorite ride of the year: the first ride of the year without gloves. The road hums under my tires as I pedal, and for the first time since fall, I can feel it—I mean really feel it in my bare hands. It means the season is here, and that warmer times are ahead—that I survived the winter, and that getting ready for a ride is no longer a 20-minute ordeal. Most importantly though, it means I am more connected with the road below me—more connected with the world that surrounds me. By shedding the layers that a Philadelphia winter demands, I open myself to the soft breeze and the warm sun of the spring; opening me to the other world entered when I turned onto this wooded climb.
Our hands are the leaders of touch. Through them we experience the texture of our rides. The road through the tires, through the wheels, fork, stem, bars, and finally to your hands. You can feel the ride, the wind, and the sun all through your hands—and that is why I look forward every winter to shedding those hampering gloves. Through the winter I can’t help but feel space between myself and my bike. With thick fleeced bibs, balaclava, thick gloves, wool socks, and multiple layers it’s no wonder I feel out of touch. It wears me down, all winter long; as I look forward to today—the first day I’m again officially reconnected with the road.
It’s not really about the gloves though. It’s about what the gloves stand for, or more accurately, stand against. Nobody likes riding through the grey dead winter. Shedding my gloves, I know I am finally within a stone’s throw of the light at the end of the winter tunnel that is spring.
Pagans used to sacrifice a virgin to herald the coming of spring, Christians have Easter, Jews have Passover, and cyclists take off their gloves. They are all ways to celebrate rebirth, renewal, and the new life that comes along with a fresh spring season.
So shed those gloves people! I’m sure you already have—it’s over 70 degrees as I write this. Spring is here. Ride your bikes. Start panicking about your fitness levels. Curse yourself for not riding more over the winter. It’s time for all of that. Don’t let a day go where you don’t ride when you could have, because before you know it winter will be back, and you’ll be donning those same damned gloves.