Monday 28 February 2011

The end (of the winter) is nigh

The Central European winter drags on for months, and to a cyclist on a mission to cycle around the Czech border it can seem never-ending. But now, on the last day of February, I can finally see the end in sight. The sun was out in Prague this weekend, and for the first time this year I could feel some heat from it. Soon, I hope, the daffodils - and the hemlines - will be rising.

Like the ice at the Czech Yacht Club, the winter is receding

As an Englishman I’m accustomed to long autumns and long springs. Here in the Czech Republic, though, the transitions are abrupt. The heat is switched off usually sometime in November and back on again in April. I call it binary weather.

The winter does have some advantages, I suppose. It has given me time to plan my route and to clean up and service my bikes for the season ahead. But it’s not easy being a bike blogger in these parts at this time of year. I simply don’t have much to write about, as I’m not doing much cycling.

It’s not the cold that’s the problem - I have the clothing to keep me warm(ish) on the bike even when the temperature is below freezing. It’s the slippery surfaces that thwart me. This winter has been particularly bad in that regard. The snow has been lying on the ground so long it has gradually metamorphosed into sheet ice. As my fellow Prague bike blogger Grant found to his cost last month, it’s not a good surface to cycle on. Now, I’m glad to say, it’s thawing fast.

One thing I do try to do in the winter is stay fit. I’ve learned the hard way that doing no exercise only leads to agony when I get back on the bike in the spring. My love-hate relationship with spinning continues. And, for the first time ever, I’ve been doing strength training, inspired by some helpful advice posted on the Loving the Bike blog. It’s all good exercise, but it’s no substitute - physically or psychologically - for cycling.

The next stage of my circumnavigation of the Czech Republic runs from Aš down to Nýrsko in the west of the country. It’s mostly fairly low-lying, so I’m hoping to be able to cycle it in April. That should give me plenty of time to complete the three remaining stages before next winter sets in.

I just hope the summer is not such a wash-out as it was last year.

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