Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

08 August 2016

Like Another Day Of Riding In Europe--Well, Sort Of

In addition to Paris, I have cycled in other parts of France, including the Alps, Pyrenees, Loire Valley, Normandy, Alsace and Vosges.  I have also pedaled through other European countries:  England, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.  

Something occured to me today:  In all of those places, I never felt as tired after a day of riding as I sometimes do after a day of cycling near my home.  It didn't matter whether I was riding through hills and mountains, through valleys or along sea coasts:  Even the days I spent climbing the Tour and Giro peaks didn't leave me as spent as a day of riding up North American peaks.

Now, you might be thinking that it has to do with the excitement I feel about being in another country.  That certainly is true:  I savored the experiences of riding through medieval villages as well as the streets of the capitals because they were different and because I knew that I might never see them again.  On the other hand, when I ride to, say, Point Lookout, I enjoy it but I know that chances are that I'll be doing it again fairly soon.

But now I realize something else about riding in Europe leaves me less tired:  The sun, even in most parts of Italy and Spain, isn't as strong as it is here.  Most people are surprised, as I was, the first time they look at a map or globe and see, for example, that London lies at almost exactly the same latitude as Calgary, or that Rome is actually a degree further north in latitude than New York City.

Not only is the sun less intense in most of Europe than it is in most of the 'States; it is also more likely (except, perhaps in some of the Mediterranean regions) to be shielded, partially or wholly, by clouds.  


Which brings me to today's ride--on Arielle, my Mercian Audax.  It started sunny, but about an hour and a half into it, the sky thickened with cumulus clouds.  They even darkened a bit, but there did not seem to be an imminent threat of rain.

And the day warmed up to 31C (88F):  not a "scorcher", but a couple of degrees warmer than what we normally experience in this part of the world at this time of year.  Normally, that combination of cloud cover and heat means one thing:  high humidity.

skin protection cycling
From I Love Bicycling

Except that wasn't the case today.  The weather reports said we won't experience high humidity until the day after tomorrow.   If what I felt during my ride is any indication, those reports weren't lying:  Even though I was riding in higher gears and at higher RPMs through much of my ride, I wasn't sweating nearly as much as I would expect.

Back to the sun:  I slathered myself in sunscreen before I started my ride, and I brought a vial of it with me.  But I never used it and didn't notice any burn at the end of my ride.  In fact, one way I know I've absorbed a lot of sun on my skin is that I feel sleepy afterward.  At the end of my ride, however, I had the energy to play with Max and Marlee, and to make dinner rather than order it.

The best part, though, is that I rode longer than I intended:  I turned a 120 kilometer (75 mile) ride into 165 (a little more than 100) by making a couple of "wrong" turns.  Furthermore, I rode up a ridge and over a couple of chains of hills I wouldn't have encountered had I stuck to my original plan, such as it was.  In fact, I spent an hour and a half doing nothing but riding up and down hills.

Near the end of my ride, clouds parted and the sun shone brightly.  Even with my fair skin, though, it didn't sap my energy.  It was almost like extending my European trip by another day!


  1. This place here in western Finland is as far north as Fairbanks, Alaska. But this city is surrounded by the northern-most wheat growing region in the world. Europe is heated by the Gulf Stream. People in the US think that places in Europe are further south than they actually are.

    Global warming is going to effect us more that a lot of places. Already we have birds migrating up here that were unheard of only 20 years ago. And invasive species of insects are starting to be alarming thinking of our forests.

    On the positive side, the part of the year when studded snow tires on bikes are required is getting shorter and shorter.


  2. Leo--Americans indeed don't realize how far north most of Europe actually is.

    Global warming is affecting Europe not only in animal migrations, but in human ones: Some of the African migrants, for example, are fleeing droughts, which are probably a result of global warming.

    You can grow wheat all the way up there? Hmm...Imagine what it would be like if you could grow mangoes!

  3. The joke here is that Finland will become an exporter of coconuts. Other surprising crops are sunflowers and strawberries that get almost as big as baseballs. This far north (64 N latitude) we have 22 hours of bright sunshine a day. Of course that also means 22 hours of darkness a day around Christmas. This is a land of extremes.


  4. Leo--Finnish coconuts? That sounds like the name of some band of hipsters who are trying to be ironic!

    Sunflowers and strawberries. Hmm... Sounds good to me. One of these days, I have to come up that way to experience the long days (or nights) and northern lights.