Friday Group Ride #219

Friday Group Ride #219

The text came early, “Not my kinda bike morning. I’m out.” It was only misting when I rolled out of the garage, and I adjudged my ride partner a lily-livered fool. “This will be fine,” I thought.

You already know how this story goes, of course.

The mist became drizzle. The road surface went from dark to marbled to fully wet. I rode on, because that’s what you do. “Maybe it’ll clear, and anyway I’m already out,” I reasoned.

The weather continued to weather, water running down along the brim of my cap, my ankles churning in a steady spray. That’s when I said ‘screw it’ and turned into the woods. Sometimes when you’ve made the wrong call the only thing to do is double down.

The trail ducked and bobbed along a hillside. The downward pitches turned my brakes into something more like slowing suggestions rather than actual stopping devices. At one point, I ran off the trail, unable to drop enough speed to make a corner. These are the vagaries of riding road bikes in the woods.

For the better part of an hour I strung sections of trail together, winding back along the paths kids use to get home from school more slowly than a direct route might allow, snaking over toward the reservoir and then grinding the dirt track that rings its murky shallows, nodding good morning to people out walking their dogs, each of them serving up that baffled expression that says, “Why are you here?”

I rode home. In the driveway I pulled my waterbottle and did my best to hose down the critical parts, caked as they were with mud and the droppings of the springtime woods. My kit was a shambles. I smiled.

I’ve been dirtier. I’ve been wetter. And oddly, I’ve never regretted it.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what’s the dirtiest you’ve ever gotten on a bike? The wettest? I can recall some pretty soaking wet commutes over the years. I remember some muddy crashes that left me looking like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It always ups the ante when you mix blood into the dirt. I went yardsale into a stream once and lay there in the gentle current while the dog whimpered and licked my face. How could you regret that?



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  1. gmknobl

    I did an MS 150 in Cherry Hill, NJ (to Ocean City, NJ and back). 75 miles a day. This was in early October. Saturday it was in the 40s and raining. I opted to do the century route, only offered on Saturday. We were miserable but had some nice food and massages when we got to Ocean City. All MS 150s I’ve been to are nicely catered and attended. This one, the largest with around 10,000 or so people at least, was no exception. Sunday on the way back it was raining the entire time and in the 30s. The only way to keep warm was to ride. Lunch was miserable. My wife, brave volunteer she is, went to a WaWa and bought hot chocolate packets so we’d have something other than the cold catered lunch we got. Somehow they got some water heated up and fed some of us that elixir of life. No one there was expecting the weather. Other years it had been in the 80s, sometimes colder and sometimes raining but never this cold AND rain. We were soaked to the bone with wrinkly skin, nothing dry and road dirt all over everything on both days but Sunday was particularly trying. I don’t know how I didn’t get a flat.

    Miserable would be an accurate word for the experience EXCEPT we all had a real sense of accomplishment at having ridden that distance in miserable conditions while raising money for Multiple Sclerosis research. Quite a worthy cause. Check out the City to Shore MS 150. I’m sure they’ll have more, but hopefully without that type of weather. Not even the NJ Devil came out of hiding.

    We ate a hot pizza when we finished and later went out to dinner at Outback and had HOT steaks. What a memory.

    Whenever they show riders in the Giro going through cold wet conditions, especially on flat stages, I really can identify with them. “Been there; done that.”

  2. Dustin

    2010 Fools Gold, a 50 or 100 mile MTB race in North GA. I was there. I rode for 6.5hrs and covered only 30 miles before finally pulling the plug and bailing back to the start/finish line. The mica in that red N.GA clay are the brake pads of everyone. People had to walk down the hills. The first two pro riders to finish the first half (50 mile lap) begged the race director to stop the race at 50 miles, sending people back out for another 50 mile lap was dangerous. They cut the race short.

    Some people wore completely through the braking material of their brake pads, and then the backing material as well – they had direct piston to rotor contact. Forks failed. Shocks seized. Derailleurs detonated. It was an expensive day for a LOT of people. There was a brake pad shortage in the southeast for a few weeks. The trail was trashed.

    Never again! Not worth the damage to bike and trail.

  3. Ransom

    Shortly after getting my first mountain bike. I live in the PNW, and am familiar with wet. But the abandon that comes with being a 16-year-old new mountain biker allows for a muddiness otherwise only available to puppies, pig farmers, and a specific subset of the wrestling world.

    I mostly remember getting my Hoo Koo E Koo’s tires, fenders, and drivetrain so impacted with mud that I was using the inner chainring to pedal *down* the hill between water breaks, shouting “Heeya mule!” all the way.

    Shortly thereafter I did my first mountain bike race (the Mudslinger, appropriately), in sweatpants and a downpour. I think my sweats weighed ten pounds after the first couple of miles…

  4. Peter Lin

    A few years back I did Major Taylor Century. A bunch of us from the Seven Hills Wheelmen rolled out through fog. We figured, might as well do it, since we’re all here and ready to go. About 5 miles it, fog turned to rain. 10 miles in rain got heavier and the temps dropped 10 degrees. All of us were cold, shaking and dirty. At the first rest stop, I decided to cut it short and head back, making the ride about 50 miles. The rest of the group fueled up, filled up their water bottles and pushed on. Eventually I got home and rinsed off my bike, but I ended up trashing my bottom bracket bearing. After it was all fixed, I kept the bearing to remind myself how tough it was to ride that day.

  5. Rod Diaz

    Oddly, both have been this season. I think maybe due to being more disciplined with riding time after becoming a dad. My local cycling community holds CX, dirt, and mixed terrain rides and races dear.

    First: the local Paris-Roubaix. It didn’t rain during the event. It didn’t need to. The roads were wet enough, including gravel, dirt, mud, and pig manure runoff. My glasses were useless after 5 km so I pocketed them. I had a bar camera but only occasionally I remembered to spit on a finger and wipe the lens. Useless 3 h. of footage. Lots of fun, though, even if the first hour I suffered like a dog until I found myself in the chasing group. It really looked like a long CX ride.

    The second was the week after, on a 130 km ride named after a mythical local strong man (“Mufferaw Joe”). This one had more pavement and more climbing. It didn’t rain the whole time but enough that my waterproof boots were little pools. On a rest stop I emptied about a bottle of water from them. Then the chills started from being stopped a bit too long. I was so cold that I was the first back over some stronger riders simply because I was worried if I stopped I’d be in trouble. Fortunately the last hour was pretty dry and the ride had a nice meal at the end.

    I am fortunate that there’s at least 30-50 local cyclists that I would classify as hardmen/women. Not in a “I’m better than you” kind of way but in a supportive, “you probably want wool socks today” manner.

  6. Andrew

    Well, there are a lot of these sorts of stories. Too many to remember…

    Summer 1992- a friend and I were riding from Seattle to MSP. The Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier was supposed to be one of the highlights of the trip. The night before was gorgeous, mountains everywhere, hardly a cloud. We woke up at 5am and it was freakin’ pouring rain, probably 45F down at the base of the road. I was wearing my glasses, since I didn’t want to deal with contacts on this trip. Fully loaded MTB’s with slicks, front and rear panniers. A couple of miles into going up I had to take off my glasses so that I could just see where the yellow stripe was on the road (I can basically see about 8 inches in front of my nose without them). Totally fogged in, pouring rain, freezing cold. Didn’t see a damn thing the whole way up the “highlight of our trip”. Got up nearer the top, 20 ft walls of snow, we’re getting seriously miserable, really looking forward to some warmth in the visitor center at the top. Get to the visitor center- just opened. No power. No heat. No warm food. A giant “f##k it” was uttered, and we bolted down the other side as fast as we could possible go. 10 minutes into the descent the sun came out….

  7. Pat O'Brien

    About 12 years ago, my wife and I were riding and turned around at about 18 miles from home when the storm clouds began to form over the Whetstone mountains. We made it back to town when it started to rain and took shelter on a porch at the main gate of Fort Huachuca. The storms were all around us but the rain had stopped, and with only 4 miles to home, we started riding again. We rode right into a monsoon thunderstorm. The hard rain and wind were bad, but the lightning was in the distance, so we rode past the gas station instead of pulling in and taking shelter. The last two miles were something. We couldn’t see very far, the lightning started to hit very close, and roads began to flood. When we turned into our neighborhood, we rode through two low spots where the water was six inches up our wheels. When we finally got to the garage, we were amazed that we didn’t crash and our hair wasn’t standing on end. All we could do is empty the water and grit out of our shoes, watch the storm out of the garage door, and laugh. But, we never rode in a storm again.

  8. Rob A.

    This spring, my fiancé was training for the Boston Marathon. I joined her on her runs up to about 14 miles, then decided I’d be better off going for a bike ride while she ran. We were visiting my parents in Pennsylvania and went to the Schulkyl River trail. What started as a light rain became a down pour.

    The trail shut down for construction at a certain point and I was forced out to the main road. I managed an hour and half ride before determining it was just too dangerous to be on road. In that time, I was forced to ride through a puddle that was axle deep because my brakes wouldn’t stop and the cars weren’t giving me way out into the road.

    It was a noble effort. She definitely bested me with a 3 hour, 18 mile run. I think I managed 20 in an 1:20 on a bike. I didn’t know that kit and shoe covers could become so waterlogged.

  9. Bikelink

    Pouring rain 20+ years ago in an east coast (ECCC) collegiate road race in early spring. Finished (didn’t get dropped!) then stood around chatting like an idiot for too long. By the time I had to roll a half mile to the car my teeth were chattering so hard I almost couldn’t do it…sat in heated car with someone’s parents for a half hour until I thought I probably wouldn’t die.

  10. August Cole

    I rode through one of Lexington’s meadows this Saturday morning, ended up on North, which is a sublime road. Passed Willard’s Woods and sped by, but I couldn’t shake that inviting trail into the early morning shadows. When I turned around, I rode through the park for a while and and eventually popped out onto the asphalt stoked. It’s a bit like how my skateboarding used to be, this style of riding. You cruise on the paved road from dirt spot to spot, stringing together one session to another, trying not to crash or piss anybody off.

    Bikelink – Was that the West Point race in 1997? Had one like that back in the day there during college… Took a few days to get all the road grit out of my teeth.

  11. Author

    August, I suspect you crossed some of my tracks.

    As it turns out, I gave myself another of these wet, gritty treats yesterday. The sun was shining when we rolled out at 6:30am, and the weatherman had promised a lovely summer-like day. Then it started to drizzle through the sunbeams. Then it clouded over and rained on us for a couple of hours. Squishy shoes. Sodden chamois. Grit from head to toe.

    Still pretty glorious.

  12. spiff

    I did TOSRV in Ohio, on Mother’s Day weekend. It rain’s every year. The first hour went fron drizzle to face stinging rain. the bike had watter it in for a week.

  13. andrew

    Muddiest rides have been the last few UK mountain mayhem and sleepless in the saddle 24 hr events. wet and claggy, bike had to be de-mudded several times around each 12 km lap. A couple of pounds of mud were scraped off bike and myself. Globs of mud clinging to the hairs on legs and arms. Only one gear usable as mechs won’t work anymore. Clods of earth stuck onto boots so thick that toe studs were covered.

    Not as much fun as it sounds, especially at night.

    The wettest I’ve felt was coming off North York moors during heavy rain on our end to end trip. The windchill was so bad I nearly crashed from shivering. A cut in half space blanket shared between my wife and I kept us warm enough to continue our trip, but we nearly gave in.

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