Cycling Sources #6, ‘Spoiling for Spring’

Back in the 1890s, the average cyclist had even more reasons to look forward to spring than his or her modern counterpart. In the winter most of Britain’s un-tarmacked roads turned into muddy quagmires, which at best made cycling more difficult, and at worse nigh on impossible. The coming of spring (in theory) signalled a period when dry, easterly winds and warmer weather again made British roads hospitable for cycling. With the clocks going forward today, there seems no better time to publish this article from Cycling, which first appeared in 1894.

‘It is just about this time of year that a great craving for spring comes over the cycling world. With all the seasons except spring the change is so gentle and imperceptible that it causes no great commotion; we even glide into winter with comparative equanimity, and write the worn and subverted quotation, ‘now is the winter of our discontent’, rather from time honoured custom than any real feeling.’

About to enjoy some (not too muddy) roads. Source:

‘There is no such Platonic sentiment about a cyclist’s craving for spring; weary with winter, and particularly with such a soft road winter as the one we are at present suffering from, his craving is that of real hunger, that haunting visions fan into mad desire for the day of dry roads and sunshine. We all, even the least imaginative of us, have more or less clear glimpses of these visions,- dry, brisk winds that come charging along over the fields and the commons, licking up every drop of moisture from the sodden roads, turning the heavy surface into dust as fine as flour, lifting it, and throwing it about in its mad glee.’

‘Budding trees, that strew the land with a fairy tracery of delicate green, and border the roads with one long repeated promise of summer glory. Frisking lambs, crying on the hills; birds announcing tunefully with from every wood and hedge, that winter is going, so that even the blind may know; and over all, the brilliant sun, growing in strength and majesty every day.’

Henry Ward Ranger, ‘Spring Woods’ circa 1895-1900

‘It is then that the most played-out rider feels something of his early zeal, that the club-run is best attended, that riding is most consciously the best,  the most delightful pleasure in the world. May these days quickly come; may the sharp east wind blow its fiercest and do its noble work, may the sun shine long and brightly, and tempt with its blandishments the lady primroses forth, for even the mud plugging there cometh satiety at the last, and we are all spoiling for spring.’

Cyclist from 1897 (perhaps spoiling for spring). Source: