Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Singing in the rain

At the moment my cycling is confined to the weekend as well as Mondays, when I don't work. I've had to stop riding to the office because I bought my bike lights before I understood the difference between 'commuting lights' which ensure you are seen in traffic and proper illumination to enable you to navigate safely along unlit country lanes.

I discovered this, as with most of the knowledge acquired on a bicycle, the hard way. The first time I cycled home after the clocks went back I was lit-up like a Christmas tree with flare tubes, hi-viz jacket and flashing rear light. Even my helmet glows in the dark. Unfortunately, I was dependent on a neat little Knog silicone light to see where I was going. I held my breath for most of the six-mile journey, trying to spot potholes and bends in the road seconds before it was too late. I was sick when I got home. Staring fixedly at the strip of tarmac a few feet in front of my wheel had brought on my motion sickness.

Am I first person to get travel-sick on a bike?

So, until I can afford decent lights (any advice on gloom-proof lights much appreciated) I am a weekend cyclist. Which means that, whatever the weather, I've got to hit the road. Hopefully, not literally.

Thus far, that's meant riding-out the St Jude storm, having to pedal furiously, in a ridiculously low gear to get DOWN hill in a head-wind. That said, the journey back was seriously quick! 

Yesterday, it meant looking out of the window at the pouring rain and trying to convince myself that it wouldn't last. I've developed a futile routine of checking several weather apps on my phone, looking for the one that tells me what I want to read. I don't know why I don't just have one that says it is going to be sunny every day. I'd believe that.  Yesterday all the apps had bad news. Like Marty Pellow, I was going to be Wet, Wet, Wet.
 
Still, there was nothing for it. If I'm going to finish the Ride London 100 in under the magic nine-hour mark, I'm just going to have to get as many miles into my sturdy little legs as possible. So I pulled-on my layers, plugged in my music and pedalled through the raindrops.
 
The weird thing is, once I'm actually cycling, I don't mind the rain. It's a horrible thought beforehand and a bit soggy when I'm peeling off my wet clothes at the end of the ride but during the ride itself, it's not that bad. A big plus point I've noticed is that motorists generally feel sorry for me. They give me a lot more room than usual on the road, often pulling right out into the opposite carriageway to overtake. That's not just because the extra layers make me look wider, most of them are going to great lengths not to drench me in spray. For which I thank them.
 
That extra space was useful yesterday, allowing me to ride out into the road a little and avoid puddles which quite frequently turned out to be potholes. Remember that Vicar of Dibley scene when Dawn French skips into a puddle and disappears up to her shoulders?
 
Once I'd got about as wet as I could possibly get, I started to really enjoy my ride. I pedalled through Ken Bruce (getting a not very impressive nine points on PopMaster), singing along at the top of my voice to tracks by Fleetwood Mac and Coldplay. As the phrase so nearly goes: in the rain, no one can hear you sing.
 
When Ken went home for a nap, I pedalled along to Jeremy Vine, getting cross, as I generally do, with so many of the people who take advantage of the platform provided by a radio phone-in.
 
I did hit one problem.

Water wings to be added to the saddle bag?
Last week, this was a pretty country lane in a village called Church Eaton. Currently it is a stream of unknown depth. I did briefly consider taking a run-up to it in the hope that the momentum would carry me through, legs sticking out either side of the crossbar. It's a technique that has carried me through quite a few high water marks. In the end good sense prevailed. I'm not very familiar with the lane and don't have any idea how deep it floods. I was carrying a puncture repair kit but not a snorkel.

Around three hours after I began my ride I returned home tired, happy and very, very wet. That was something else I had in common with Marty Pellow - I could feel it in my fingers and despite the overshoes, I could definitely feel it in my toes.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned as a born-again biker is that whatever the weather, I'm always glad I've gone out for a ride.

3 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about not being able to see on dark lanes, Bike lights can seem very bright, enough to temporarily blind you when you look straight at them, but they do a poor job at lighting the way when there's no other light source. As a rule of thumb I'd say you have to spend at least £50 on a bike light and if you can spend nearer £100 you'll be glad you did. I have a Lezyne Super Drive XL. From the first time I used it I wondered how I did without it. It's bright enough to make oncoming traffic dip their main beam, something that used to really get me cross when they didn't do it.

    Getting wet is par for the the course at this time of year and I find that as long as you have a dry upper body and feet it's normally OK. However, no matter how good you are waterproofed, riding in the rain long enough will guarantee you will get wet. Mudguards obviously help but good overshoes are a must.

    Have you signed up for the London to Brighton Bike Ride 2014 yet?

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    1. Thanks Toby. I am learning by mistakes and by what more experienced cyclists share with me on the road, in cafes and online. One of the most important things I have learned is to ask before pressing 'Add to cart'! My lights are a total waste of money. If I'd done a bit more research I'd have spent more but got it right first time. I'm going to look into the ones you recommend. I do have overshoes and by accident, those are brilliant ones -Endura. A step up from the Sainsbury's carrier bags of last winter. I definitely need some kind of thermal sock, too. Sealskinz? I haven't entered L2B yet - my husband is going to be in the USA around that time and I am going to go out to spend one week with him. Waiting for those dates before deciding.

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    2. I'm not sure how good the Sealskinz socks are at keeping your feet warm but they are very good at keeping them dry as long as water doesn't ever from the top. They are very expensive for a pair of socks though.

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