Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Day in the Rain

It was raining today. And it was cold. It seemed to be the perfect day to check out my rain gear/techniques/attitude. And believe me, all three are important if you want to excel at long distance cycling.

I decided to ride Zeke down to Tunnel Hill, then take the bike trail to Harrisburg, after which I would ride back home. It should be a great day! Nearly 70 miles with about half of that on the road, half on the trail, and ALL of it in the rain.

I recently purchased a new rain coat. I already have one of the clear ones (the plastic kind) which keeps the rain out but allows the inside to become sort of a makeshift sauna. I also have a BellWeather nylon jacket which keeps some of the rain out (as long as it's not much more than a light drizzle) and doesn't completely soak me inside with my own sweat. I wanted more. I wanted a coat made of a more technical fabric. One that keeps the rain out AND allows the sweat to escape. I have one now (at least I think I do). Today was the kind of day to test it.

I also recently purchased a pair of Addidas Climaproof wind booties. I coated them with silicone spray to increase the rain resistance. We'll see if that works or not on today's ride.

The new gear was exactly what I had wanted. When I returned home, my jersey was still dry - no rain, no sweat. And my shoes were only a little wet, not soaked as they would have been without my new booties. Yea for gear that works.

Riding in the rain also takes different techniques. It takes longer to stop, and metal surfaces (grates, railroad tracks, etc.) and painted lines can be as slick as ice. Leaning the bike is too dangerous. Turns have to be taken easily and usually slowly (unless you're Lance and trying to win the Tour).

Finally you have to develop your rainy ride attitude. It's easy to ride outside when the sky is blue and the wind is light. Riding on a cold, gray, rainy day is hard. The fun-o-meter can dip pretty low after a while. But unless you are satisfied with 2500 miles a year, you'll have to ride in the rain/dark/snow sometimes. It's all about knowing that on a rainy day, after about 15 minutes, you are as wet as you'll be. Assuming that you're not dressed in cotton (the death cloth) and can keep warm, nothing much changes after that. It's all about adjusting your attitude.

The bike trail is crushed limestone. Today it was a little soft due to the wetter than usual weather this year. Riding on it was like riding on the beach in sand. I run a CatEye Velo 5 on Zeke, and it doesn't average my miles per hour. But every time I looked at my cyclecomputer while on the bike trail, it only said 13 or 14 mph. Needless to say, today wasn't a good day for setting speed records. It didn't matter, though. I took Zeke because he is extremely stable and sure footed, he's just a little slow thanks to his wide soft tires and heavier frame.

In Harrisburg I stopped in at Matt Gholson's house. We spent about 30 minutes on his porch talking "bikes". It's always refreshing to spend time with a cyclist who enjoys riding his bike. (As opposed to cyclists who enjoy owning a bike.) He brought me up to date on all of the club "stuff" as well. (I'm not able to come to the meetings or rides because of my schedule.) I'm extremely pleased that he and Jeff and Mindy have come on board to lead our club this year.

It was a great rainy day to be on the bike. Next time it rains, saddle up and try it for yourself. I'll bet you'll be glad you did.

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