Rider vs. Rain

Rule #9: If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

I can still feel the thunder like a base drum as I nervously waded through the city streets, our group ride abruptly interrupted by a flash flood. During my first century, the sky opened up at mile 65, beating water on our backs, the ultimate test of our commitment. I placed in a Gran Fondo climbing competition on a cold, dreary day in the middle of Pennsylvania and I will forever think of Tour de France rider Bobby Julich when I throw on my black rain jacket. He sold it to me at a bike swap because the manufacturer cut it too short for the Schlecks.

What is it about the rain? Why does it have an almost mythical quality when we’re on our bikes? Sure, anyone can pedal effortlessly under the warmth of the sun, but it’s the dark, stormy days that test our cycling loyalty.shoesSome riders passively pedal away the time on a trainer, but the real guts and glory are claimed by those who take on mother nature when she’s at her worst. When you ride in the rain, you develop a mental toughness that some of the physically strongest riders lack. This toughness bests a Strava crown and separates the hard men (and women) from the every day riders who will skip a group ride when there’s a cloud in the forecast. There’s no better prep for wet race days or rides than surviving the elements when they test you on every level. Practicing to perform begins in the rain.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices, right? While I can dress for the coldest, most bone-chilling winter rides, I’m never comfortable riding in the rain. My neoprene booties turn into twin pound cakes and pedaling is like swimming in a pool of jello. My chamois inflates like a life raft and every swig of water I down tastes like a gravel and salt smoothie. On top of this, I can’t see a damn thing through my glasses and my fingers slip with every shift. Despite the near-constant shivering and obsessive thoughts of hot chocolate and steamy showers, a twisted voice in my head urges me to soldier on. Maybe this is just another flavor of the suffering we’re so drawn to as cyclists. We may not be pushing ourselves to the brink on a steady climb, but rain is another means of testing our ability to push pain aside and dig a little deeper.

Every time I shove crumpled newspaper into soggy shoes and work a toothbrush into the frame’s tiny crevasses that collect grime and grit, I swear this will be my last wet ride. Yet something always calls me back, convinces me to throw on Bobby’s jacket and give it another go. It will be better this time. Some of the best adventures happen in the rain.

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