Straight on at roundabout


Water, water everywhere
July 13, 2010, 6:03 pm
Filed under: Rambling nonsense

Today it’s boiling hot – 27 degrees and muggy.  It’s just as well that I’m laid up waiting for my achilles tendons to settle down otherwise I’d probably be thinking about riding something stupid like the South Then North 600 from Derby.

Strangely on a day when my garden has turned brown I’ve been day dreaming about rainy days on the bike.

Funnily enough, I don’t at all mind the rain; well not much anyway.

A dry hot day

Just to check that it’s not a case of selective memory I’ve been looking back at my diary for the last couple of years (yes I do write up a lot of my rides) and in general rain doesn’t get mentioned much as a problem.  Although in a couple of cases it is was the defining characteristic of the ride.

Often rain is just an intermittent British drizzle.  On days when you’re out in it, all you have to endure is occasional 20 minutes of thin rain.  Just 20 minutes and it’s over for another hour after which it restarts.

Of course weather is rarely that conveniently predictable.  Sometimes the drizzle lasts only five minutes – so you are left with the uncertainty of when to stop and to put on the rain jacket.

Or the gap between downpours varies greatly and you are left with the difficult decision of when should you stop and take the jacket off.

And unless you can afford a kings ransom on the most technical of jackets, most people will want to wear their jackets as little as possible.  Even my best jacket gets might warm on the inside and after a few hours the condensation build-up on the inside makes the idea of protection from the rain irrelevant.

This has a particularly nasty side effect on longer rides.  On the 2007 PBP I found myself wearing the jacket for several days on end and despite frequent changes of underclothing I started to get pretty ripe.

At one point I stopped in a small village to top up my supply of painkillers in a local pharmacy.  Like all French chemists, it was permanently occupied by a small group of old ladies who seem to be hanging around for no particular reason.

When I walked in, as happens at any point on PBP, I was met by the usual battery of appreciative comments.  Then came to moment to pay for my ibuprofen.  When I unzipped my rain jacket to get my wallet, my group of new found admirers all took a comedy step backwards; such was the potency of my smell!

Most of the time though, my notes only complain when the rain strikes up an alliance with a driving headwind.

For example, riding the Oxford Poor Student 200 in January 2004 I remember watching the water flicking off my front wheel – but instead of flying up in a straight line, it turned back on itself as I ground out 60K in a straight line.

And the worst rain comes in buckets, with a wind and for several hours.  On the Brian Chapman last year I rode out on the second morning into mid Wales and reached a control before Newtown where I was totally cold.  In fact getting back on the bike was a blessing because I could generate some body heat again.

However, the effect that rain has comes down to preparation.

Brian Chapman was a misery partly because I left my rain booties back at the start – my mid afternoon on the first day my feet soaked.  And feet don’t dry out.  The only way I got through the night was to borrow the plastic bags wrapping two loafs of sliced bread at the Anglesea control which I wore under my socks.

On another ride my morale was lifted considerably when late in the day I found a fresh pair of gloves and glove liners in my pack that I hadn’t realised I’d brought with me.

And finally, the trick is to keep going.  The biggest impact rain seems to have is when you get out of it.  Whilst exposed you survive by simply grinding out the miles, but getting into shelter means you have to go back into it.  My darkest rain moment have come when I’ve had to leave a dry and warm control to face the elements again.

In short, be ready for the worst; but if you thought about it too much you’d never ride.

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