Jered Gruber asked me if I’d write something to go along with photos he and Ashley had taken, to be part of a story about weather in The Ride Journal. I thought right away about “whether,” how the word itself is a question, and I started wondering if weather is a question, too.
Weather is a question that answers itself. Weather: We should ride. We don’t ask the question, we bicycle riders, we don’t give the answer. We ride. Weather decides.
Weather is always there. Sometimes we don’t notice. I, for instance, tend to not realize when a day neither crisp nor hot is happening, especially one under an overcast sky still somehow bright behind cloud cover. Sometimes we believe the weather is divine, and sometimes we believe the weather is hell. We are wrong. The weather is neither, just as it is never not there merely because we are unaware of it. The weather is always just the weather, and our attempts to define it instead only define us and our regard of the elements (and the elemental).
I love crosswinds, stubbornly. I know what it’s like to go a little sideways through this world, to not have many true friends, to be neither widely nor easily understood, or appreciated for what you are, and I love it when I am able to gutter a ride, and on a hard ride where you are supposed to make people quit I love making people quit. But, more, I love when riders hang on, those who hang on and on and on, and in the worst of it make a joke or smile a terrible smile.
I love rain. I love snow, mud. I love a howl. I enjoy a nice sunny day to ride around in, to just be in and move through, but I cannot say that I love such weather. I might love the ride, and the people I’m with and the talks we have, and the road, and the lunch, and the feel of the sun on the back of my neck or the way it casts my shadow enormous beside and just in front of me. But I don’t love, on those lovely days, the weather itself. I don’t hate it. I hate hot days, steamy wet summer days in which sweat erupts before I take a single pedal stroke. I love the weather when it warms a chilled earth, burns away a thick brume, sublimates one form of water off the road into another in the air. I love the first giant spatters of rain that hit blacktop with a plopping sound some ancient haiku poet was the worse for never hearing. I love the smell that rises from a street as it is getting wet but is not yet fully so. I don’t love getting wet myself, but I don’t mind it. I neither love nor hate getting cold, either, but I love feeling frigidity battering against me, trying to get in, searching for weaknesses, and, when it finally breaches me, I love its relentless advance from my toes and fingers and ears and nose into my hands and feet and cheeks, then arms and legs and my whole head, and I love how in the end we meet at the old battleground of my core, the cold and I, facing off one more time for no good reason and neither of us even able to remember how all this started.
Whether weather cares about any of this, or any of us? Whether weather possesses some kind of the spiritual aspect we often assign it and, thus, knows we harbor toward it such hates and loves and mild preferences and neutralities and expectations? Whether we might somehow matter to the weather as it does to us? Not for me to say. Not for me to guess. Weather I will ride: Yes.
Originally published in The Ride Journal, Issue VIII