Bicycling (South Africa)
THE LAST RIDE BEFORE WINTER
THE LIGHT FROM long winter days filters through the groves of yellow trees. We ride golden highcountry singletrack with a kind of ravenous urgency, like animals storing fat for winter. Highaltitude singletrack in the mountains lives on borrowed time. We never know it’s shutdown day until after that snow comes. Only in retrospect do you realise you’ve ridden those private, isolated trails for the last time this season. Then, like wintering moose, we shift to a lower range, where the rain shadow from the Continental Divide shields the low, semi-arid foothills from most storms. There, even in January, south-facing trails can be swept bare by sun and wind, bonehard soil frozen but rideable, while miles to the west, the dense conifers hold their snow tight. We do not mourn the temporary loss of those high summertime routes. Spring will come. Snowdrifts recede, and the trails reveal themselves again. They are never the same as we left them. We discover that we, too, have changed. Muscles lack the strength we recall, and that line threading those trees seems narrower. It all returns in time, trails and skill rebuilt by repetition. But now, inching up the climb, our thoughts are of the present – of this one, possibly last, ride. At the summit, we stop and look west, seeing the clouds grow darker as the storm gathers strength. Then we’re off, disappearing into the trees to find the start of the descent. Down we go, faster now, until the track is a dreamlike blur. Only later will we recall this ride, with other remembrances of summers past, and dreams of springs to come.