Both Leif and I are from much colder climates; Leif is from Sweden and I’m from Minnesota in the United States. We’re used to cold and snow and weather that doesn’t invite cycling for months out of the year. This doesn’t mean cycling doesn’t happen in those climates, it just changes significantly for those who chose to ride year round. Different bikes, different clothing, different terrain. Very different mind set.
Part of the attraction of Tuscany for Leif was the longer cycling season. And if you’re from the north it truly is a year round season: It’s only the clothing and often your speed that needs to change. When I came here I didn’t cycle but really really really enjoyed what is in my experience a pretty mild winter. Now that I ride I appreciate that warmer winter season even more.
We’re very lucky, we know this. We have many friends who have to stay inside during the winter and use a trainer because of work schedules and less daylight hours, or simply because they have a great dislike for being cold. Since we’re in the off season our schedule is super flexible and we can ride at the driest and warmest time of the day. One of the perks of our kind of work.
While I suppose this could be classified as “riding outside the season” this is the perfect time to see Tuscany in a whole new light. The cooler temperatures are a welcome respite from the melting heat of summer. Fall is the smell of wine fermenting as we ride by a farm, the chatter of workers picking olives in a grove and the swift change of colors as the vines and trees prepare for winter. Winter itself is another kind of ride. The air is scented with wood smoke from the many houses that still heat with wood. The trees may be bare but we can see the shape of the hills clearly and trace the change in soil and climate from one valley to the next. Coffee breaks take on a whole new meaning as they mean warmth inside and out. We may come home cold and wet, but we also feel incredibly alive.
For now we put on our long pants, long sleeved jerseys, warm socks and gloves and hat and head out just as much as before. When the temperatures really dip down, like into the single digits (Celsius) we’ll break out the long underwear and super warm accessories and ride a little more carefully on those wet and/or frosty roads. But we’ll still be outside riding and enjoying the warmer days with bright sunshine but also the those other days, bitterly cold wind in our faces as our toes and fingers go slowly numb…because this is the way we’ve always known winter to be.