An Episode in My Journey from Fair Weather Weekend Warrior to All Weather Daily Rider
Last Sunday was my wettest day ever on the bike. It was probably not an epic ride by most peoples’ standards, but, for me, was like nothing I’ve experienced before. You see in recent years, I have been a once a week fair weather rider. I had been lacking in energy for a few years since becoming a parent, and not feeling capable of getting up early to ride before work. But I managed to drag myself out of bed a couple of times feeling like crap to discover that, once I was out on the road, I felt good and had the energy, if not the fitness, to ride.
So I started getting out more, and felt much better, and less tired, for it. I have been riding almost every day for the last few weeks, and the weather has been mostly nice. It’s early spring, so still a bit chilly in the mornings, but Sydney is not generally known for extremes of weather.
I have not been a fan of riding in the rain, despite being reasonably well equipped to do so, and have never ridden in really heavy rain. In Winter, in particular, I try to avoid it because, while I don’t mind being a cold or a bit wet, I’d rather not be both at once. But with my newfound enthusiasm and motivation for cycling, I have found that I’d rather get wet than not ride, and am therefore still enjoying riding, even when it’s raining.
The weather forecast for Friday was for high winds and heavy rain, but it never really materialised. There was a bit of rain on Friday and Saturday, and so there was a reasonable chance of getting wet on Sunday. It was a bit cold, and there were rain clouds about, so I decided to wear my rain jacket and winter gloves.
My route for the morning was my Watsons Bay Run. Most East Sydney cyclists will know the key part of the route, which is the run up “Heartbreak Hill” to Vaucluse on the Harbour side of South Head, followed by the descent down Hopetoun Ave to Watsons Bay. Once at the bottom, you turn onto the oh-so-steep climb back up on the ocean side of the headland, before heading back down Heartbreak Hill and on home. For me, it’s a ride of about an hour and half (which, due to time constraints, is about as long as I get to ride at the moment).
As I hit the base of Heartbreak Hill, all of a sudden the rain started to come down pretty solidly. I kept climbing and, as I reached the top, I thought, “Ah, this isn’t so bad.” I was a bit wet, but I was warm from the climb, so no big deal. As I headed down Hopetoun Ave, it really started to come down. The rain was streaming off the front of my helmet straight down my right ankle into my previously dry shoe. But this didn’t matter because shortly after, as I rounded the turns on the descent, my front wheel began repeatedly filling both my shoes with the standing water that was quickly appearing on the road.
By this point, I was revelling in the challenges of the weather and thinking about pros racing in similar weather for hours at a time. It was good that I was feeling this way, as the weather was about to throw some more challenges my way. I arrived at the bottom and began to slowly work my way up the wall-like climb back to the top of South Head. The first couple of hundred metres are sheltered by houses, but past them you are right on the edge of the cliff tops. It was at this point that I discovered the icy ocean wind that was blowing. At first, it was a headwind which several times gusted so hard as to almost stop me in my tracks. The icy sting of the pelting rain on my face and the sound of it smacking into my helmet had me wondering if it was actually hailing. As I made it to the top, where I then turned side-on to the howling wind and horizontal rain, the gusts continued. The wind twice hit me side-on so hard I almost fell off my bike.
Riding along the top and back down Heartbreak Hill, I saw several other cyclists taking refuge in the great stone bus shelters that are characteristic of the area. “They’re soft” I thought to myself – or smart. So was I hard or stupid? By that point, I wasn’t going to get any drier sitting in a bus shelter, and I was still having fun. I could not have been much wetter (despite my rain jacket), and was finding novelty in the fact that whenever I hit the brakes, my gloves would fill up with water. I still had another tough climb to go on my way home, Latimer Rd, that runs from Rose Bay up into Bellevue Hill, and I wanted to hit that with warm legs.
While only a short ride, this was quite an adventure – and quite a learning experience.
What I learned today:
*I still love riding, regardless of how shitty the weather is.
*There is no such thing as waterproof gloves if it rains hard enough.
*Despite all the mesh and the drainage, cycling shoes can still fill up with water.
*Rain booties would be a good investment.
*Not only would wearing a cap under my helmet have looked pro, but it may have at least slowed down the steady stream of water running off the front of my helmet from ending up in my socks.
*While very un-pro and not something that will ever be seen on my road bike, mudguards would have kept my bike and I a lot cleaner and drier.
*I may need new brake pads.
So what does this mean? I’m now an all-weather rider. I no longer have any excuses for not getting out of bed for a ride - except that my shoes are still wet.