Tag Archives: skyline

What makes a great rain ride, and why you’d want one

Only one other rider out on the road this morning; the man in black! Think you can see why I'm not a huge fan of wearing all-black clothing on a bike.
Only one other rider out on the road this morning; the man in black! Think you can see why I’m not a huge fan of wearing all-black clothing on a bike.
How many people go to bed hoping to wake up to really hard rain for their bike ride? Not many I’m guessing. Most see it as a good excuse to ride a trainer, or maybe go out later in the afternoon when the forecast shows a break in the weather. But my son and I? We live for such crazy days. Days when there’s almost nobody out on the road, at least nobody that doesn’t have a really good reason to be there. Days when it’s not about riding fast, it’s about simply riding. Period. Riding because you can. Riding because your bike is an extension of yourself, and life is about pushing back against walls right? Limitations are things that others can’t do, but you’re not others.

And maybe that’s it. It’s about finding something that you can excel at. The easiest thing is to pick up a copy of OSQ (Obscure Sports Quarterly) and look for a sport where you might be a big fish in a small pond. Never mind the reality; that perhaps you become a bit player in a sport nobody cares about. But cycling is no longer a section in OSQ; cycling has arrived. It’s big, and getting bigger. So how do you make your mark in cycling? How do you push limits further than others? How do you make your name?

By doing things so stupid that others wouldn’t bother to try. It doesn’t start out that way; cycling is a significant part of your life, and you simply want to do more of it. Why let weather stand in your way? You go out on rides when the weather’s iffy, and sometimes get caught in the rain, making a mess of your bike and leaving you with a feeling that it just wasn’t that much fun out there. Maybe should have stayed home. Exactly the wrong way to look at life! You’ve identified a challenge. Should you run away from it? Heck no. Embrace it! Tell the dark clouds overhead to bring it on, ‘cuz you’re ready for it.

That’s about the best description I’ve come up so far for the state of mind that finds me out there in what most would consider to be miserable conditions. Preparation is key; you need a bike that’s reliable in messy conditions (and trust me, disc brakes make a HUGE difference, not just in stopping power but also control & traction), and the right apparel. You give up on trying to keep your legs dry; the key is to keep the engine running at a consistent speed. Don’t go too fast and risk running out of gas and getting cold, nor so slow that you don’t generate enough heat to stay warm. There’s a certain amount of skill in doing that. I’d say it’s safe to say Kevin and I have that skill.

But today wasn’t quite perfect. Sure, it was raining pretty hard a few times, and a good breeze blowing on Skyline. But it eased off just a bit towards the end, and a few hours later, stopped raining altogether. A perfect rain ride finishes hard (as in downpour), and it stays raining throughout the day, so you’re deluged with people saying “You rode TODAY???!!!” That would make it the perfect ride. :-) –Mike–

Almost, but not quite Epic. Cold enough to be miserable, but steady rain, no downpour.

Another beautiful morning on Skyline!
Another beautiful morning on Skyline!
We are a strange lot. OK, maybe not we, could just be me. I go to bed, night before a stormy morning ride, looking forward to it. There’s something about being out there, when it’s really dumping, and nobody else is on the road (except maybe your son who you dragged out, and an aging airline pilot who is often smart enough to stay in bed, but not always), and the rain is coming down HARD, everything’s soaked through so you’ve already reached equilibrium (there’s no way to get either more wet or dry off)… it’s just a matter of keeping the fire going strong enough to stay warm.

An ideal epic ride would be heavy rain, temps anywhere in the 50s, and maybe a bit of wind to howl through the Redwoods. What kept this morning from being idea was a lack of really heavy rain (seriously, that’s not optional) and it was just too darned cold. Sure, 40 degrees is a whole lot warmer than the 28 degrees we’ve been seeing on some recent rides, but 40 degrees and wet? After the water’s found a way to sneak through your clothes, just before hitting the descent? That’s not part of the requirement. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to dress for that, to tell you the truth. On the other hand, I might not be too far off from nailing the cold & wet dress code, since I never did feel like shivering, never got that oscillation going when descending because your arms and legs are shaking so bad.

So now I’m thinking, maybe I have too many restrictions on what qualifies as an ideal epic ride? Maybe it’s not truly epic if I say it doesn’t need to include the really bad stuff. Maybe there are degrees of epic, and I should be going for the ultimate!

Or maybe I’m becoming mildly sensible in my getting-older age.