Sunday 31 May 2009


There is something vaguely absurd about riding in the rain on the weekend.

No, forget that.

There is something patently absurd about it.

When you have a house which is warm and dry, with everything but a roaring log fire going in the lounge room, what sort of fool pulls on lycra and a helmet and ventures out into the tempest?

Me, of course. As I get older, I can feel more screws working loose. I must have a drawer-full rattling around up top by now.

Riding in the rain is quite tolerable as long as certain conditions are met.

First, it can't be too cold. Even in the depths of winter, Sydney is never bone-chillingly cold down here in the flat lands. Sure, it can snow up in the Blue Mountains and hail down in the Southern Highlands, but here, it's balmy by comparison. If I lived in the mountains, I'd be cycling in a wet suit at this time of year.

Perversely, you don't want it to be too warm either. I always wear glasses of some sort, even if they are clear plastic, to keep bugs and pollen and flying bits of gravel and so forth out of my eyes. If it rains on a warm day, things are fine so long as you have forward motion - the wind blowing around your face stops the lenses from fogging up. However, stop at a traffic light, and all the steaming sweat rising from your face will fog them instantly. That's not a problem if the day is cold and wet. I never thought I'd say I prefered cold and wet to warm and wet. Cyclists at rest on a warm, wet day look like steam trains with all the clouds of moisture boiling off their heads.

Then there is wind. Nothing beats the misery of grinding into a strong head wind when the rain is pouring down - or more accurately, slamming into your face on a 45 degree angle from the vertical. Or sometimes blowing horizontally into your face. Again, hence the glasses.

What I really hate is that first powerful downpour after a long period without rain. The roads are covered in grit and oil, and all that rises to the surface and is slooshed around in muddy slicks. On days like that, I arrive at work with a rooster tail of oil and mud up my back, and a face that feels like it has been adopted from an oil rig worker. Eau de West Texas Crude feels as horrible as it sounds. I am not ashamed to say that I regularly pinch J's facial scrubbing stuff on wet and wooly days, and use it to remove the road grease from my pores.

But by far, the worst thing about riding in the rain is pulling on wet knicks at the end of the day. Every place that I have ever worked at has lacked any form of drying facilities. If I ever start my own company, I am buying a dryer on the company tab. You get to work in the morning, dripping wet; shower and hang the wet gear in the change room to drip dry as much as possible. It might dry out over 3 or 4 days, but the 8 or 9 hours between arrival and departure are just not enough for a thorough evaporative process.

Ever pulled on wet bathers? That's exactly what it is like. After 4 years of doing that, I had a brainwave tonight in the shower - why not pack a dry pair of knicks in my backpack on rainy days? Has it really taken me that long to think of that idea?

Like I've said before, getting old is hell. The slowing down of one's mental processes is a tragedy to behold.

The problem with that of course is that even though you might have nice, dry knicks, you still have wet socks, wet shoes, wet gloves, a wet helmet, a wet jersey and even a wet backpack.

Oh well, back to square one.

1 comment:

RebeccaH said...

BoaB: buy a just right-sized cooler (or esky, are you Australian?) and pack the lot (or just the shoes, socks, knickers, gloves, jersey). The helmet, alas, may not be practical. Surely a tough, stringy cyclist such as yourself can handle one of those strapped on the back (seat? fender?).