Ride long enough and you’ll eventually find yourself on the road, drenched and dreaming of home. Ride longer and you may find yourself dreaming of being drenched. This morning I rode away from the dry comfort of home into uncertain weather, a welcome break from endless days of sunshine and heat. The gray, dim morning– a reminder of cooler days ahead.
The first is to become one with the road surface so I don’t become one with the road surface in a physical sense.
Every rain is different and so is the character of the pavement. With so little rain in the past couple months there is a lot of stuff on the road that gets slippery when mixed with water. A few stops to walk on the road, test the friction with my boots, I can get a sense of what to expect in terms of traction. It’s not perfect but does provide clues to how to behave.
Another rule is to slow down.
I’ve talked to more than a few riders who search for tires who offer perfect performance on wet pavement, preferring a technological fix for the weather rather than make mindful adjustments themselves. My personal belief is that no tire available will allow you to ride on wet roads like you do on dry ones. You just need to slow down, replace the desire to lean hard and power out of turns with one built around keeping the rubber side down.
Visibility – my own and my appearance to others.
I’ll stay on the road until the torrents interfere with my ability to see the road ahead. If visibility drops below a hundred yards or so I pull over and wait. And if I feel things are too hectic, or traffic too congested to place myself in a visible position, I’ll pull over and wait for conditions to improve.
The last rule I have is comfort.
I’ll ride wet but not cold. The moment I feel myself begin to focus on my body, the effect the weather is having on me, it’s time to stop and regroup. And I’ll stop as often as I need to. One of the advantages of riding alone—no one’s ego is in play dragging others on beyond their limits.
Anyways, I wasn’t going far. Breakfast was first on the agenda followed by finishing a post titled, Heat, Courage and the Jack Riepe Show. The breakfast part went without a hitch but the writing was delayed.
Superman won out over Riepe. I don’t often see comic books but when I do all bets are off. Someone left a nice one at Café Lemont that I could not pass up. It’s nice to sit with a comic book when a hard rain falls outside.
Just a slight drizzle was falling as I left Lemont on a looping ride around town. A short cut across some of Penn State’s pastureland always provides some amazing views of Mt. Nittany and the valley. Rain and mist make things magical.
Watching the clouds pass, darkness in the distance, I wonder what brings me out on days that most riders choose to avoid. There was a time when I needed to prove something to myself. But now, I’m looking for something else. Maybe a more intense experience. A friend once suggested I’m a minor adrenaline junkie but my careful, deliberate approach tends to rule that out. Standing here, noticing all the details, I feel alive and on the earth. Maybe it’s as simple as that.
The rain begins to fall hard on the way home. Water is pooled on my lap where the riding jacket forms a basin. Pelting water droplets feel like hundreds of little bee stings on my chest at 45mph. The jacket and pants are soaked through and water is running down my back. When I stop to make this picture I can barely see the LCD screen. Rain soaks the camera and I leave it on when I put it under the seat so the water on the lens barrel doesn’t migrate to the inside.