I don’t make the schedule, and I don’t have a coach, so what I ride depends on when I get invited or when I feel inspired. And so it was on Saturday morning that the second cup of coffee lit the touch paper of motivation and sent me out into the rain. My wife was like, “You’re really gonna ride NOW?” The drops bounced off the pavement. The sky rumbled. And I said, “Yeah. Some days you just gotta get shitty n’ gritty.”
This is not tough guy stuff. There are a lot of conditions (e.g., hot and humid) that curl my tail between my legs and find me slinking into a cool, shady spot to pass the day. And so, rather than “tough” I would characterize my choices as “pig-headed,” “reckless,” or “so starved for some sort of cathartic suffering that I’ll gladly hurt myself to find a small measure of peace between my ears.”
When I exited the garage, the rain was merely a drizzle. “This is for me,” I thought. Not too rainy and the whole road to myself. By the time I reached the bottom of our hill, the drizzle had become a pounding and the wind fluttered my jacket like a tall sail in sudden squall. I pushed on.
Shortly though, my derailleur began skipping under load, and that struck me as odd, given it’s a Di2 contraption, meant to auto-trim. I dismounted to see if something was caught in the cassette or in the jockey wheels. Nothing. I rolled the chain over a few times, and it engaged smoothly. I got back on and had the same problem. Fortunately, I was coming up on my local bike shop, so I stopped in and stated my problem, whereupon Jim pointed out that my rear wheel’s thru-bolt was partially disengaged, allowing the wheel to float back and forth a centimeter or so. These are the obvious things you don’t see in the wind and the rain.
By now the precipitation was approaching biblical fury, and my bike shop friends bade me sit a few minutes while the radar sorted out the yellows from the greens. This struck me as good sense, but eventually I gave up on giving up and headed back out to meet the day.
Speaking of the forecast, it’s worth saying the whole day of rain was projected to be something like a quarter inch total, a mere moist trifling. What I was encountering was more like a half-an-inch an hour. The bike path I rode out of town was awash, at least an inch deep in running water in some spots. Still, I was protected from the worst of the wind, and once you’re wet, well, you’re wet.
My original plan had been to spin out the path, pick up a trail to push a few miles further on, and then to circle back on a cinder road through the woods. It became clear pretty quickly, though, that the woods would be off-limits, unless I wanted to be that guy who leaves a rutted, muddy mess for everyone else. Thus curtailing my ambitions, I rode on, watching the beads of water dance across the brim of my cap.
I love this shit really. Sure, it takes a little extra motivation to force yourself out the door, but once you’re there, in the weather, it is just the sort of transcendent, transgressive thing I like to do. The absence of other cyclists lifts my spirits, as if I’m out here for them. The relentlessness of the conditions crowds out all the frivolous garbage that would normally be swirling between my ears. There is only pedaling and reveling in the stupidity of continuing onward.
At some point, reality intrudes though, right? In my case, enough water and sand had run down the front of my tights that my Gore-tex cycling shoes were filling up with hypothermic nonsense. Did I mention it was 40F? Details.
And so I reached the terminus of the bike path and turned for home, motivated by the anticipation of hot coffee and hotter shower. The slow grind back up the hill to my house only piqued my desire to end this stupid boondoggle, and then I did that thing where you strip naked in the basement to keep from befouling the house, dancing nude up through the kitchen to the stairs and then the bedroom, to the groans and guffaws of your wife and kids.
Later, my wife said, “How was that ride?” And I said, “Pretty perfect, thanks.”