I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who remarked about how the lay of the land is observed differently from the saddle of a bike than from the seat of a car:
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.
And I think the same kind of idea applies to the changing of the seasons. Especially if a person drives from a centrally heated home to a centrally heated office, and parks their heated car in the office basement. You couldn't get much more insulated from the seasons than that. In a motor car, only a huge change in the weather impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of the gradual change in the seasons you have been through as you gain by riding a bicycle.
I don't keep it a secret that I'm not a fan of Spring but still I'm often astonished by how surprised and delighted people are when Spring "eventually" arrives. They're kidding, right? Have they not noticed how much conditions outside have been changing since the Winter solstice?
Off the top of my head, here are a handful of small but reliable signs I notice as the seasons change from Winter to Spring. And here's the thing: most of them happened weeks ago, long before the "official" start of Spring.
- 1. More daylight on the ride
- It's amazing how soon after mid-Winter that the twilight begins to lengthen and daylight becomes noticeably longer. Rides that were previously completed entirely in the dark are now ended or started in broad daylight. (And it won't be long now before I'll be riding the whole way, both to and from work, in broad daylight.)
- 2. Peeling off a layer of clothing mid-ride
- Possibly one of the most tangible signs of the change of seasons is having to stop on the way home to remove an unneeded layer of clothing due to overheating.
- 3. Leaving the house wearing one less layer
- The next step in the warming of the weather is not wearing that extra layer in the first place.
- 4. Leaving scarf or arm-warmers behind
- The third stage in seasonal clothing transition is being confident enough to leave that extra layer and other Wintery accoutrements at home.
- 5. Pleasant patches of sun return
- Riding more-or-less the same route at more-or-less the same time each day, you get used to stopping in pleasant patches of sun while waiting for traffic lights to change or when turning from side streets. Many of these patches disappear in Winter, as the sun skulks low in the northern sky and throws shadows instead of rays. The return of these warming patches of sunlight is a sure sign that Sol is heading back our way.
- [It should be noted that there is a surprisingly short time between welcoming the return of pleasant patches of sun and the first morning you find yourself looking for some shade to stop in—an early sign that daylight saving is on the way…]
- 6. Buds and blossoms
- Everyone notices the arrival of Spring blossoms—I mean how could you miss a whole tree suddenly decked out in pink or white? But when you travel at human pace, you notice the earliest budding, the small pin-pricks of colour poking out on branches and stems, the first full flower.
- 7. "Oi! Someone's taken my spot!"
- You know the changing of the seasons is well advanced when the spot where you've been locking your bike every day all Winter gets taken by a fair-weather cyclist.
8. Bird strikes
- Yep, thanks commenters, I completely forgot about magpie season. Ah, the magpie. Such a beautiful creature, so unfairly associated with Collingwood Football Club and blamed for all bird swoop attacks (it's not the only culprit).
- As Tim points out in the comments, having half a kilo of feathers, claws and beak crash into your head isn't exactly a subtle sign of the changing season, but it is an undeniable sign that Spring is upon us.