Several years exclusive night riding earned me the repute of being a vampire. That aside, there’s something strangely enticing about nocturnal riding. Swooping lanes with abandoned farm, church and occasionally military buildings taking on a very eerie presence, accentuated by the snapping of twigs and animals scurrying within hedgerows. The ideal bikes for such duties are crossers or rough stuff tourers for forest frolics or the serene beauty of a fat tyre fixed flier. Powerful Li-on/Ni-cad lighting systems are an absolute must and lamps using LED technology provide better focus. Other magical things happen too. The climbs seem smaller even on fixed with gearing in the early 80s.
By no means restricted to a particular season, the long, temperate summer nights unsullied by road salt and winter grime have obvious appeal but autumn with its rich auburn colouring and falling leaves is synonymous with new beginnings and a sense of optimism-leaving for University some seventeen years ago, rolling out the Cro-moly winter bike adorned with sparkling chrome forks, fresh bar tape, new tyres etc.
These days I do much of the winter miles aboard the Univega kitted out with full length guards, rack, frame brimming internally with Waxoyl while the bright work gets treated to periodic hard paste waxing to keep Jo and Joanna rot firmly at bay. However, the first couple of October weeks signal the last few rides on the best bikes before putting them away until March.
These days I’m less prescriptive, bright but cold salt and slush free conditions are ideal days for taking an impromptu spin on treasured steeds. The Teenage Dream’s recent revamp and super thick powder coat livery leans me in the direction of making good use of the dormant mudguard eyes-fitting full-length narrow section Maplewood items and taking to the off-seasons roads more frequently. Far from being relegated to a winter “hack” the Teenage Dream is evolving, presenting the opportunity to enjoy it more regularly.
I have a deeply fierce bond with all of my bikes but over the years I’ve learned “too nice to ride” means “I’ve developed an obsession to the point where the bike owns me” or “Shouldn’t have bought in the first place”. Of course you don’t expose your much-loved classic or top-flight road bike to the ravages of the salt monster but they needn’t sit religiously in the glass case for nine months of the year either.
Autumn and winter are fantastic seasons channelled in the right way. Far from being the dogs of doom, they present the ideal opportunity to rotate and/or tweak the fleet, send a cherished or new project frameset to the sprayer. A time to fit, or upgrade a decent lighting system, tyres, guards-hey maybe even a set of overshoes and experience different styles of riding. Just upgraded the Univega’s brake pads in preparation for some tag-along fun.
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)