Until today, I avoided the commencement of a recreational (non- commuting) ride when precipitation is actively falling. I think it’s that lingering mindset that inclement weather should be avoided because that’s just what everyone does. Apparently I’m still working against that to some extent. I’ve commuted in all kinds of Nebraska weather and I’ve never been upset about getting rained on during a ride. That said, for some reason I’ve always told myself that I shouldn’t leave for a ride if it’s already raining. This morning, I decided that was silly and left early for work so I could do a quick 10-mile loop to include 3 miles of gravel. I should have gotten up earlier for more miles but I was unsure how muddy the roads would be and how that would affect my bicycle.
I was inspired by those hardy souls who crushed the Mid South despite incredibly muddy conditions. I don’t want anything to keep me from riding. Except like, tornadoes, lightning, hail; things that could hurt me and are out of my control. Rain and mud can’t hurt me. Therefore they shouldn’t keep me from riding.
The internets suggested it would rain through the morning. But I wanted to ride. I put on my rain pants and rain jacket and stuffed my work clothes into some Super Saver grocery bags to keep them dry in my almost-waterproof Swift Zeitgeist bag. I chose my singlespeed Surly Straggler for its fenders hoping that the 38mm slick tires would provide enough float and traction for wet gravel. I turned on my lights and pushed off.
It was about 50 degrees and with very little wind. This felt good after wearing full rain gear inside my home for too long. My first 3 miles is sidewalk along a busy road so, it’s less than therapeutic. But after that section, I turn off the pavement for some gravel meditation. These roads haven’t been graded following the late winter freeze/thaw cycles so they are very smooth, hard-packed dirt with most of the gravel pushed to the sides. This makes for a nice smooth riding surface and also had not soaked up much of the rain. It was solid but just a bit slimy.
The water flowing from my fenders soon became gritty and grimy. It dripped heavily directly down onto my brake calipers. This made for some unfortunate music as the gravelly bits ground between the brake pads and rotors. I tried dousing the calipers with water squirted from one of my water bottles but I soon discovered this was futile. Oh well. Everything else was delightful!
After a couple of mild hills, I had to shed my rain jacket to cool off. The rain was more of a light mist at this point anyway. I stopped briefly to strap the jacket onto my bag. I began again, harder now to make sure I didn’t cool off too much. Two more hills and the gravel flattened out for the last mile before the final 4 miles of pavement. I easily maintained a comfortable cadence. When setting up this singlespeed I happened to get lucky selecting a great gravel gear on my first attempt without much research. Easy enough for most hills around Lincoln. Hard enough to maintain a satisfactory speed for flat cruising.
From the end of the gravel to the end of my ride was a combination of sidewalk and bike path along busy four-lane urban thoroughfares. Again, not my favorite. Uneventful, but still good. I sprayed some more water on my calipers as I rode up to the back door at work, dismounted and gave the bike a good bounce to mitigate the amount I might transfer indoors. I leaned the bike over a bit to inspect (admire) the thin layer of muck I had collected. I’m glad I rode.