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Blog / News

BLOG: Bitter And Sweet

Shannon Williams

It took a long while to arrive, but it looks like winter is finally here.


It arrived in a hurry; we didn't have the progression of lower temperatures that we typically get throughout the fall. We went from 70 degree rides to 30 degree rides. It was certainly a bit of a shock to the system for me. Somehow, every winter I have to re-remember my clothing choices for certain temperatures(I usually have it perfectly dialed by mid-March, just in time for nice weather).


Anyway, we went out for our first legitimate 30 degree ride last week. I was reminded of two things. The first is that it's easy for me to see how people just never get in the habit of riding in the winter. It's very easy to just put off that first cold weather ride and ride the trainer. Or...have another cup of coffee and pick up a book and a second helping of breakfast. Soon enough, it's been a couple of weeks or a month, the holidays have come and gone, and riding becomes a new year's resolution instead of something that you've been doing every day. After you get out that first day, though, you remember that it's really not that bad. Clothing is really good these days. You can stay warm at lower temps and for a lot longer than used to be possible.  And...there's definitely something to riding in winter. Being out on the quiet cold roads feels a bit more like an adventure. You feel like you've really done something when you're finished. But you have to get out that first time.


The second thing I remembered...well, this is going to sound weird, I know. But it has to do with a line from a Tom Cruise movie(it feels weird just typing that).


Stay with me. The movie is Vanilla Sky, and the line was a bit of a throwaway. At one point early in the movie, Jason Lee's character is trying to make the point to Tom Cruise's character that Tom Cruise can't appreciate how good his life is because his life is all so good. He says, "The sweet's not as sweet without the bitter". I have no idea why anything from that movie stuck with me(although, in my defense, I have to say that that is one of the better Tom Cruise movies), but it did and I like it.


For instance, if you've never been really really hungry, food can only ever taste so good. You can't appreciate it as much as a person who has starved. That's, of course, an extreme example, but there are smaller ones as well. I was recently talking to an old friend who went on a vacation to Boston, and he mentioned that the best part of the trip was just sitting on a friend's porch, reading and enjoying a quiet morning. Now...if his whole life was reading on a porch, he'd probably go insane. But against the relief of his crazy, busy, loud life, those moments of quiet and calm were wonderful. They were, well, sweet.


Another great example of sweet/bitter is riding in the cold.  You want your couch to feel like absolute heaven? Go ride in the cold for five hours. You will come home and THANK HEAVEN for the warm room where your couch lives. You will appreciate that couch and the pillow that's going under your feet like no one has ever appreciated furniture before. Normal things that you have in your house every day suddenly seem amazing because you did something kinda hard. You added some bitter to your life, so now the sweet is much sweeter.



I used to go to an open water swimming club in northern California. I would say that I belonged or that I was a member, but the truth is that I was a total tourist-I could barely make myself get in the (very cold)water at all, much less do any real swimming. Every day was a battle-I'd sit on a bench in the locker room for an embarrassingly long time, trying to come up with excuses not to go in. More often than not, what got me in the water was the thought of the shower afterwards. They had this amazing shower room-the water was scalding hot and the water pressure was unbelievable. It made suffering in the super cold water worthwhile.


One day I was talking to one of the actual members and I mentioned how much I loved the showers. He chuckled and said, "Those are just normal showers, man. They just seem great because anything would seem great after being in that cold-ass water".


It's a pretty neat trick, if you think about it. Making the simple things in life seem extraordinary.


Have a great winter. Add some bitter to your life-you won't regret it.