Friday Group Ride #428

Friday Group Ride #428

It’s been a rainy fall here in New England, and every time I clip on my plastic fender to make the short trip to work I think of my time in Seattle and the way everyone (statistically) has a dedicated rain bike there. The number of people riding in the rain is really inspiring. Rain sucks, except that water gives rise to life on Earth, and we should probably be very careful what we wish for anymore.

I thought about rain again when I saw the storm Padraig got caught in this week in Taiwan.

Rain makes me think of Eurythmics, too: Here comes the rain again. Falling on my head like a memory. Falling on my head like a new emotion. (1983) I didn’t know what to make of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart then, and even now I’m not sure what the metaphor means in that song, except maybe that getting wet is unpleasant, but you get used to it if you’re with the right person.

I was with my mother and brother in 1979 when Hurricane Frederic hit Mobile, AL. We huddled in the hallway of our brick, ranch-style home as the wind screamed under the backdoor and torrents of rain lashed the front windows. During the night, the roof of the back porch detached itself and flew away.

The wettest I ever got on a bike was on a long commute, back when I worked downtown. I was with my friend Sam, and I recall distinctly, as we snaked our way down along the Charles River into Boston, shouting to him through the downpour, “Well, this is fine. I can’t get any more wet than I am now.”

Truthfully, I seldom ride in the rain anymore. Maybe I’ve done my share of soggy chamois schleps. I’ve proven whatever point there was to prove, and the car occasionally offers a chance to catch up on podcasts. I’m getting soft in my (not yet) old age.

What about you? This week’s Group Ride asks two questions: 1) Do you ride in the rain? How do you manage that? Does it bother you? and 2) What’s the wettest you ever got on the bike?


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  1. Scott Gilbert

    I’ll ride in the rain if I get caught in the rain but I won’t go if it is raining. There are about 362 days here in San Diego when it doesn’t rain so usually “tomorrow” will be dry. Plus I hate the fine powdery beach sand grim and oils that get into the drive train when it starts to rain here.

  2. Jon Benn

    There is July rain, and then there is November rain. Here in upstate NY, the later is no fun at all. Three diffetent weather apps on the phone helps me to stay fairly dry.

    Wettest ever-Prince Edward Island, wind driven rain off the ocean that had the taste of salt.

  3. Michael

    I will ride in whatever the weather is for commuting, and have gotten pretty wet that way, but if it is really bad, I’ll usually stop for a coffee or cup of tea. Ice – that scares me on a bike, so I’ll walk. But the wettest is definitely when riding for pleasure. I won’t leave in a downpour, but if it hits me while out there, I ride it. Usually, I carry rain gear and can stay pretty comfortable. One of the wettest times was this last spring. We had a very wet winter in Dublin and one day I saw the rain was not supposed to start until after noon. I took off without rain gear, out of hubris or simple stupid denial, and was at the top of a mountain, about to start back down, at noon. The rain was right on time. It lashed continuously on me for forty-five minutes, stopping when I was perhaps fifteen minutes from home. I had decided to not bring rain gear, and it actually felt good, in a weird way, to not fight the rain and just get soaked.

    1. Neil Winkelmann

      Getting wet is fine as long as you’re not cold. I rarely wear a jacket and don’t even own rain pants. And I ride in a LOT of rain here in the winter.

  4. Stephen Barner

    The “rule” is, if it’s not raining (much) in the morning, I ride. When I get caught in the rain, I tell myself that I’m not going to melt. The worse part is how crappy it leaves the bike, even with full fenders. Much of this is due to the miles of dirt I need to ride before reaching pavement. The chain can sound like a cement mixer after awhile, and the sandpaper sound of brake pads squeezing dirty rims can make one cringe. I have to lace up new rims every few years on my commuter bikes.

    Two wettest rides come to mind, though I’ve been thoroughly soaked innumerable times. The first was on a 24-hour ride, where it started raining at dusk and continued with only a few breaks until 10 am the next morning. The temp was around 50 degrees.I saved one pair of dry socks to put on for the last 20 miles and it was pure heaven for just long enough to be totally worth it.

    The other memorable soaker was a fundraiser century we rode on a tandem. Windy and 47 degrees, we cut it back to a metric, but we were both shivering and happy to get off the bike at the end. We’ve often talk about how that ride became a benchmark for how cold a rain we can tolerate on a long bike before things start looking like a crisis.

    I’ll only mention in passing, the many, many times I’ve held a fist out in front of me, squeezed hard, and watched a stream of^ water run out.

  5. Mendip5000

    Here in old England riding in the rain is a must. No way of avoiding it.

    As to the wettest I have been, there was an event that used to be called the Polaris Challenge. It was a two day self supported Bike packing/Orienteering event. Checkpoints arranged across a National Park were allocated different scores. Participants were allowed a fixed time to visit as many as they could in any order they liked, but with points deducted for late arrival at the overnight camp location. Day one was 7 hours, day 2 was 5.

    The final time I took part was in the North York Moors; can’t remember the year, but won’t ever forget the weather, especially the overnight led head to toe with my event partner Allun in a one and a half man tent trying to sleep in a combination of driving rain and wind. The wind across the UK had prompted many outdoor events cancelled as well as forcing us to ride at some very exaggerated angles across ridge paths and taking shelter behind sheep fold walls. When rain is blown at you at high speed it has a special way of making you wet both quickly and completely! Let’s just say that the French have it right; not “soaked to the skin”, more “trempé jusqu’à l’os . Yep, right to the bone…

    1. Scott L McKinney

      Aside from the wet conditions, that sounds like a great event format. There’s a similar event in Northern California that’s pursued on offroad motorcycles. Can you share more details?

  6. Neil Winkelmann

    Living in Vancouver, an aversion to riding in the rain condemns one to a winter on the trainer. But this isn’t for me. I don’t even own a trainer (and am obviously insufferably smug about this).

    Yes, a dedicated winter bike; actually my Ti “gravel bike” with 28mm road tyres and proper fenders down to within 10cm of the road front and rear. Solid, totally wet club ride his morning. For me, including to and from the startpoint a solid 6 hours. Finished completely saturated and happy. It was awesome. I love riding in the rain. As a year-round commuter, that’s kind-of a pre-qualification.

    We had gender parity on the ride today with exactly the same number of women as men out for the long version. Winter bikes, fenders, and a sense of adventure. What’s not to love?

  7. Dizzy

    I attempt to avoid riding in the rain altogether, no matter the temperature.
    It decreases vision for both riders and drivers.
    It decreases road surface tension creating a more perilous stopping situation.
    I use all the weather info at hand to avoid it and will scuttle my ride if rain is promising.
    My wettest ride? The 2013, 100 mile, Tour de Tucson.
    Anticipating sunny skies and mid-70s, I left the northeast U.S. cold behind.
    A 100-year storm blew into Tucson with 50 degree temps, winds 20 – 30 mph and pouring rain.
    The dry riverbeds were washed out giving us a detour resulting in a 114 mile ride.
    I finished, a shivering mess that took hours to resolve. D

  8. Matt

    What I want to know is with all the rain seemingly EVERYBODY but California gets, WHY oh WHY aren’t we (they?) building a giant water pipe from there to here? I hear of rivers overflowing all the time…they could just put pipes just below flood stage along the rivers, and join all those little pipes into bigger ones and finally one (or 2, or 3) GIGANTIC pipes heading west, then slowly work their way back to a bunch of smaller ones going all over the place dumping all that water all over the place here where we DESPERATELY NEED IT….I mean, if we can (and DID) build an ENORMOUS OIL PIPE clear across freaking ALASKA, this should be EASY! (not like it’s a huge deal if it leaks some either, unlike w/ oil). I keep hearing about the BILLIONS of $ damage from flooding, and here WE are trying to grow a HUGE amount of the country’s food (and grapes for wine, and, well, you know…weed for those who indulge)…just the cost of NOT having all that damage every year would seemingly pay for the pipe in a few years I’d think, let-alone all the crops that go all over the country we’d raise with it. OK..back to the regularly scheduled discussion of riding (or not) in the rain (btw, we don’t need dedicated rain bikes here in CA….just sayin).

  9. Hautacam

    Yes, i ride in the rain quite regularly … because Seattle. And yes i have a dedicated rain bike (‘93 RB-1 with magic mongrel shimpagnolo drivetrain).

    Hard to judge the wettest i have ever been on a ride —we are so often wet up here, and i regularly share the bike lane with ducks paddling in the puddles — but a strong contender was the Saturday morning “feats of strength” ride before the sscxwc in Portland back in October 2009 or so. Water was already a couple inches deep in places on the way to the ride and the rain never let up. My buddy and I stopped in a coffee shop to warm up on the way back afterwards, and after about 10 minutes the water dripping out of our clothes had pooled into a puddle a good 5 feet across. I didnt feel any drier, just warmer.

  10. Hans L

    I try to commute every day, so there are definitely days I get wet. In the Mid Atlantic summer rain is frequent (esp this year) and pleasant. With young kids I’m also fairly time-constrained so mlif it happens to be raining when I have a block of weekend time to ride, I will usually ride anyway. In the warmer months, anyway. Rain in the winter is not that much fun. If it’s raining hard and below 40°F I’ll probably drive; I have lots of gear, but have not found anything that truly keeps me dry for more than 30 minutes of riding and freezing wet hands are no fun.

    I do have the SKS Velo 48mm removable fenders, which aren’t as good as true full fenders but are probably 80% as good — and I love being able to take them off quickly for repurposing my bike — e.g. for CX racing like today.

  11. Aar

    My current rule is to never start a ride when the road is soggy, it’s raining our about to rain hard. Drying roads with no rain forecast are frequently acceptable. In my 20s and 30s, I’d ride regardless of weather (except icy roads) and sometimes rode especially because it was downpouring.

    I’ve had too many wettest rides ever to isolate just one but my most recent was in a pop up thunderstorm that spawned tornados and straightline winds. It was on a huge group ride that fractures into small groups. My tiny group was one of the few that finished. We had to dismount multiple times to cross both downed trees and downed power lines (no BS, no exaggeration). Most of the other groups took shelter on porches and called spouses/Uber for rides back.

  12. Steve Courtright

    The issue I have with riding in the rain is how it affects visibility, becoming worse both for myself and for vehicle drivers. I commute a fair amount (Chicago) and as the years go by I have become a little less apt to ride when the sky threatens.

  13. David

    I used to live in Seattle and commuted in the rain, but rarely rode for fun in the rain. Now in Denver its sunny most of the time, and I seem to have a reasonable tolerance for rain risk- if the prediction is less than a 40% chance I’ll ride. But I draw the line at cold- I hate riding in the cold. Cold is for skiing.

  14. Parker English

    It seems all of us remember extreme drenchings. I’m like those who take some care in trying to avoid them now, but accept them as not entirely unexpected when they come. And who appreciates modern protective gear.

    The drenching that stands out most for me was in 1965. With a summer free of academics, I set out from Portsmouth, Virginia to visit an old girlfriend then in San Francisco. On a three-speed, upright bicycle then known as the English type. Except for several years as a paperboy, I had little experience and no knowledge of what that meant. Roughly a hundred miles from Knoxville, I’d been drenched for several chilly hours on a divided highway with a good paved shoulder, US route 11, when the driver of a semi pulled over and offered a ride. With mixed feelings, I rode with him into Knoxville; and then biked over to the University of Tennessee where a sympathetic RA let me use a dorm room for two days of rest and recuperation.

    I wound up accepting two more rides on that trip, about five hundred miles in all. Each, for what I thought were good reasons — the second was to avoid biking across the Salt Lake Desert. And learned not only that my planning sucked but also that Lewis and Clark would’ve laughed if I’d’ve applied for their expedition.

  15. Dan Murphy

    Ride in the rain? Nope, they don’t pay me enough.
    Sure, if I get caught in the rain on a hot summer day, it can even be nice, especially after the storm blows thru and the sun comes out. But, 40* and raining is misery and gives this 64-year-old a good reason to take a rest day.
    The wettest, soggiest day was the 2003 Vermont 50, without a doubt. Epic wet day, especially for the slowpokes like me that would normally take 7ish hours. I think it ended up being 9+ hours. Luckily, it was actually warm out, otherwise I know I would have bailed.
    Hats off to you bike commuters out there. These’s a guy I see here locally that is out in any weather – and he’s no kid.

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