Summer offers few excuses not to ride, and heat is not one of them. When temperatures soar, motivation must come from within. The body feels lethargic, the legs weak, and the heart faint from pumping over-warmed blood through a swelling body.
Once on the road, a sizzling sun beats down mercilessly on an extended back, bent over the top tube of a burning bike. Steam rises from blistering black asphalt, drawing sweat from feet already on fire from the pressure of stiff soles cleated to rigid pedals. Semi-breathable leather cooks toes until they swell and swelter.
It is mid-day and comfort will only come when the sun starts to fall toward the horizon. The air is stiflingly still. Through the radiation, a rhythm must be built to create motion from a body begging for somewhere to cool off.
Thoughts of jumping into cold water sneak into a struggling mind. There must be a way of escaping this unbearable, unbreathable air.
A red light waits ahead. Dread turns into apprehension as a realization of standing still next to broiling cars becomes a reality. Hanging back, helplessly hoping the light will turn green to save one from the agony of overcooking, is all that can be done.
The light won’t cooperate. Unclipping for a rest is the only way to reserve enough energy to tolerate the acerbic assault and set the wheels spinning from a sweat weighted dead standstill.
Moving far right, there may be fleeting relief from sparse shadows of shade cast by trees lining the road. Cars grumble as engines struggle to run in temperatures too hot even for moving parts.
Refreshment takes the form of a swig of warmed-over water contained in a plastic bottle perched in a metal frame. Rationing it hasn’t worked too well. With a parched mouth, lips taut to the point of cracking, and desiccated skin, guzzling is hard to avoid.
Fighting temptation to squirt water all over one’s face can only be achieved by focusing on the ride. Carefully closing the water bottle to preserve every last drop, it is wiggled back into its cage for when dehydration makes muscles ache and cramps set in.
The light turns green and nothing seems to motivate a body saturated with heat. As the bike begins to roll wobblingly, droplets of sweat drip from the brow, tickling beet red cheeks. A sopping shirt shifts slightly on a dank back, sticking to soaked skin. Short grippers gouge distended thighs. Fingers bloat in half-fingered gloves, cutting circulation to rouged fingertips. Dust settles on arid eyelashes.
None too soon, leaves begin to rustle along the road. Dirt and debris take off from the street, striking calves caked with smeared grime. They sting like little darts deflecting off of one object only to strike another. And the whirlwind of a change in weather begins to make its presence known.
A hill ahead looks foreboding. Mentally, there is nothing tougher than climbing with an almost liquidless body. But, the wind kicks in, making the air easier to inhale, and the audacious cyclist dutifully slides back on the saddle to dig in.
The summer wind blows without coolness. Air settles like the retained heat of a blanket, feeling almost as if someone had aimed an overpowered hairdryer at bare skin. Humid hotness swirls in crescents, then circulates like a bee buzzing around a blossom. There will be no shivers today – only warmth in the wind.