Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Counting Belgian Points

My riding group informally/jokingly awards Belgian Points for riding in bad weather.  Forecast for this morning was 80% chance of rain at 6:00 a.m., so chances of a scoring ride were promising.  Last night I was on the fence about riding in the rain.  Then something set me off and I got psyched for a rainy ride.  I went to the garage and got out my rain bike, a 1975 Mondia, purchased recently and outfitted with a mishmash of new and old parts and topped off with full Honjo fenders (a Brooks mud flap on the front fender) -- very classy looking if not quite perfectly fitting yet (the fit remains a work in progress).

I had faint hopes for a 4-hour ride from 4:00-8:00 a.m., but a four-hour ride in the rain didn't appeal.  Riding partners promised to show up if no rain, but with the forecast we had, I knew that I was probably looking at a solo ride. 

Sure enough, Todd (at 5:25) and Floyd (at 5:42) e-mailed that they won't be joining me, but by then I was already on the road.  I was up at 4:00, but five hours was not enough sleep, so I reset the alarm to 5:15 and went back to sleep, unsure that I'd get up then or at any other time early enough for a pre-work ride.  My daughter helped.  She got up at 5:10 and crawled into our bed, whereupon my wife asked groggily/grumpily: "Are you getting up or not?"  I got out of bed, taking that as a hint, also feeling somewhat resentful for being kicked out of bed as well as grateful that someone is looking out for my training.  I got dressed for the rain and decided not to eat since I would be riding slowly and for no more than a couple of hours.  Weather cooperated, it was raining already when I left the house at 5:25.

This was my first ride on the rain bike.  I had to get used to everything.  Old fashioned skinny brake levers way out there at the front of the bars; friction bar-end shifters, with attendant front derailleur rub and rear derailleur rub, which I fixed with small adjustments of the levers; deeper drop bars than I'm used to; and center-pull brakes.  Rain quickly went from light to medium.  That didn't matter much as I climbed Tunnel/Skyline.  The rain was warm (high 40s) and I was comfortable in my rain jacket, booties, cap under the helmet, and fleecy tights.  As I crested, I wasn't quite so comfortable.  Water was getting through my tights and descending felt chilly on my upper legs (try knee warmers under tights in heavy rain?).  But it wasn't too bad.  The rain intensified again, as the dawn began breaking through the heavy clouds, and visibility improved a bit.  It became easier to see runners and walkers on the road.  There were no cyclists.  I felt morally superior for riding in bad weather, while fair-weather riders stayed in bed.

Aesthetically, this ride had little going for it.  The fog and the rain reduced visibility significantly, so the usual views of Oakland, the Bay, and San Francisco just weren't there.  But it was a meditative ride:  sounds of rain falling on the road, on the puddles, on the bill of my cap; birds waking with song and tree frogs, too; visions of cars crawling out their garage holes...

I rode out Skyline and turned around at Keller.  Descending Joaquin Miller at nearly 40 mph into heavy rain, my cheeks and lips were smacked and bruised by giant raindrops.  By the time I got home I'd been out in the rain for almost two hours.  Arrived just as my wife was returning from walking the dog.  She apologized for kicking me out of bed and kissed my bruised lips, but I said, "Thank you."

As for the bike, with a nod to My Fair Lady, I have one thing to say: "My bike planes in the rain..."


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