Would periodically wipe off the computer, to see how long I’d been out there
Rain fell on me like a junk drawer pulled from a cabinet, off its guides onto the kitchen floor yesterday. Read on Twitter that Californians think they’re riding in the rain too, but they’re not, just on vacation from the Sun. Saw another cyclist and we gave each other a, “Make it home safe Bro,” nod.
Been riding so much in it this spring, concerned I maybe experiencing PTSD, cause that wasn’t epic at all, just what I had to do. Epic means you enjoyed it somewhat and there was a triumph, however small. This ride was rote, like writing lines on a blackboard. Pedal to this corner, turn left or right, then pedal some more. If I expect to perform at my late-season goals in road and cross, then there’s no choice but to ride in all weather.
After procrastinating all morning, I proved to myself I could still do it. Didn’t want to at all and I got caught out, which is unusual. If there’s one thing I do well, it’s prepare for all conditions and last time I got hypothermic was about 8 years ago. That’s when I rode down Weber canyon in the shrub-steppe desert of Eastern Washington. A cold winter wind blew up the valley and took with it all the heat from my body. It’s an odd thing that happens there, like a reverse gravity situation where your speed on the steep grade descent is stalled by a headwind.
I lost count of the storm fronts that passed over me yesterday, but the last one dropped ice water from the sky in a hostile squall. Soaked through and cold, I knew I was in trouble with 40 minutes to go before home. In the last 20, as my hands couldn’t pull the brake lever hard enough, I cursed the loss of Hydro to a recall. If you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, then rubber pads scrapping an aluminum rim on a long descent reminded me that this bike is using an iteration of wagon wheel technology to stop.
After pulling off my clothes in the mud room and throwing them towards the washer, and feeling a bit disoriented, noticed my belly was bright pink with toes and fingers numb. In the shower, digits burned and tingled, a symptom I imagined the drug Lyrica is for.
The Gabba, Nanoflex, and Gore kit all did their job, the elements just overwhelmed them. Mother Nature reminded me again who’s boss. Guess I’d forgotten in 8 years since the last time she hurt me, what she can do.
I get a rush from mastering the elements. Being comfortable in miserable conditions with the right gear.
As I wrote in 2012 on a similar day, a focus on gear keeps us on the road during the dreariest of days, and a bike like the Roubaix I’m riding smooths the roughest of roads. The Zertz and layup, geometry, and whatever secret sauce makes the bike just roll, like a rouleur wants.
As hard as the weather is on your body in Seattle, it’s harder on the roads and with rivulets running down them, you can hit a pothole without seeing it. That happened on a fast descent, as I steadied the bike between painted white lines and cars roaring past me near SeaTac. Sequestered into a bike lane, I didn’t have much room to recover from the hit, and the bike took it without the expected carbon shudder. Wheels stayed true to the line, on track, with the rubber on the ground. Banking left away from traffic and to a steep, 14% grade, the compact cranks I’ve been struggling to adapt to also proved their worth with gearing I spun.
The S-Works SL4 Roubaix I have in to demo is built up with Force 22, a compact crank, and an 11-34 Wifli cassette. The big-ringing, muscle-memory I have was struggling to find the gear with a 50/34 setup.
That was until yesterday, when I really needed it, and again today when I’ll ride again.
The gear and bike I’m riding are all the right choices. I’ve just got to pay attention to the weather patterns and how long I’m out there. Having been humbled, I also remember how to keep my sanity in the wet. It’s like doing the dishes after a fine meal, enjoying something good takes time and effort.
Left the bike on the shed to think about what we just did together
The aftermath and cleanup of a ride like that weigh on me. I left the bike outside to think about what happened, like I was doing. The difficulty will reward me later but in the moments when I’m pedaling, that doesn’t make it any easier.
As noted above, that’s a Roubaix SL4 frameset built up with Force 22 (50/34 & 11/34) Zipp components, including the 30s wheelset. Every part on that bike I recommend and what I run for myself cause I don’t F around in the Winter with products not liked or trusted. The cockpit includes a Joule GPS and Knog lights. I run the Knogs, just like a car, as daytime running lights. The SKS longs fit the Roubaix just fine with Hutchinson Fusions at no more than 100 PSI.
Props to Padraig of Red Kite Prayer for the edits on this story