A Fall Light

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Words by Danny Katz with contributions from James Bellerue. Photo: Ashley and Jered Gruber.

A low sun emits grasping orange rays through a soft, opaque blue sky. Blustering winds disperse brown and yellow brittle leaves while soon to be barren tree branches shake, click, tick, and screech. Your morning coffee offers warmth against the outside cold, smooth rising wisps of steam stored internally, for later, as you swing a leg over your top tube. Skin tenses under the first dose of a slight chill, tires roll along over those fallen leaves, bike and body casting long shadows. Warmth revealed with each exhale.

On the coast, the ocean takes on an angrier sense. Foamy whitecaps hint at that latent churning sea, a darker blue contrasts with the grey, overcast sky that typifies our Santa Barbara mornings and closes our evenings.

The season is changing. It’s a time for ambling rides over roads you haven’t touched. Lungs burn with dropping temperature and we turn to vests, arm warmers, jackets and leg warmers. Morning spins are officially predawn, and after work rides true sun-chasers.

The dropping temperature lets you know: it’s coming. In Santa Barbara it’s not so rough, of course. Surf is improving, and rides are still temperate, just a bit less so.

There’s a satisfaction to work completed in this chill: wearing warm clothes while handling cold tubes, getting to the shop in the early light, shuttering the doors in the fading sun. A time for patience. A satisfying, accomplished fatigue. 

Outside, the colors are warm, the last remaining life before winter. Fall has a sense of seriousness about it, though. There’s more darkness. Life around you readies itself for the long road. For some creatures it’s a time to power down, a sense of slowing to a near halt, the old dies so the new can be catalyzed to rebirth in Spring.

For the road racers, this means base miles. A time of patient fun, more social riding, storing potential energy, rebuilding. For the commuter, for the explorer, for others, it’s a time for inquisitive adventure, getting caught in the dark and secretly enjoying that you did.

You tolerate discomfort to reap rewards later, a mindset for the future. 

For cross racers or mountain bikers and those of the off-road persuasion, this is your time. Of hero dirt, muddy bogs, sweat, grime, learning curves, gunked up everything, bloody shins, and, at last, a beer. It’s an hour of pain on Sunday, or a few hours of chill during night rides after work. Trails return to their sticky state under a canopy of trees, branches grabbing and snagging clothing, urging you to join them, to pause and listen.

But it’s quiet aside from your tires rolling over those brittle leaves.

Welcome to the Stinner focus on the Fall.

In the coming weeks, we’ll have features from Max Leonard as he walks us through the role of gravel in cycling’s history and how gravel culture in the United States has influenced riding abroad. He’ll then treat us to a story of single track adventure through the Alps, bike packing to explore the bunkers left over from a tumultuous past. After that we’ll transition to a feature on material, the great builders of Britain and Europe and Fall making.

We have special rides planned, content featuring the textures of the season and the feelings of Fall.

Stay tuned. Fall is coming. 

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