.. not when it’s raining it doesn’t. Nor am I postulating on the stuff that used to keep me exercised both mentally and physically. What I’m talking about here are the hard, inflexible rules hammered into any cyclist whose spent time on the road and in the rain. The kind of thing you get wrong just once, before it’s hard-wired into your cycling psyche.
Except when your daily commute becomes a weekly or bi monthly event. Then you forget and bad stuff happens.
It gets dark. Check your lights. Long day, shorter daylight demands some form of get-me-home illumination. Of the four lights generally festering in my bag, two didn’t work at all, one flashed briefly before a spectacular – if brief – fizzling death while the fourth offered a dim flashing facsimile of something that may prevent a tractor squashing you flat.
Carry spares of everything. Including batteries. It’s worth thinking of them as fitness ballast to cushion the disappointment of these also being flat. The day I removed one of my two spare tubes, guess how many punctures I ended up with? My MP3 player was then added to the ever increasing pile of non working electronic stuff. It felt like I was riding directly under my own personal Electro-Magnetic Pulse.
Ensure you always carry a waterproof. Oh how smug was I with my trusty Gortex pal nestling amongst all the other crap I cannot bring myself to jettison. That smugness lasted exactly the time it took to remember I’d failed to re-proof though laziness and meteorological delusion* The result was a small lake pooling at the elbows and wrists that gradually – but persistently – drained through to create a feeling of clammy damp.
Mudguards look a bit gay, but… they are a marked improvement on – say – flappy wet shorts rythmically slapping your thighs with each pedal stroke. It put me in mind of sharing a small, cold bath with a Bavarian Laderhosen fetishist who’d just done a line of speed. My shoes have the same porous qualities as string creating a small watersports park for Lemmings in my socks.
Don’t go offroad because it’ll be drier under the trees. It isn’t. Rather than a wet arse, I ended up with a sandy, wet arse and crazy pebble dashing from ankle to eyebrow. And a shouty bruise delivered by that tractionless combination of thin tyre and thick mud. I’m writing to the Forestry commission to demand satisfaction on the issue of who put that tree there as well.
Keep your tyres inflated. Because while there is a certain manly pleasure in rotating squashy rubber**, the downside is a tarmac faceplant caused by rapid deflation or geographical differences between tyre and rim.
All obvious stuff you would think. No more than common sense for the serious cyclist. And I too was thinking just that as spiteful rain lashed my unprotected form, my arse became increasingly exfoliated by a localised sandstorm, and my feet exhibited the first symptoms of trenchfoot.
Right at the point when I was considering lobbing the bike under a passing lorry and hitching home, the descending sun backlit hill hugging clouds and transformed the world into something Turner-Esque and rather splendid.
Deciding I could get no wetter, I headed upwards into the lightening gloom to find myself high above the house, close to twilight with no power in my lights, not much pressure in my tyres, and every inch of skin on the aquatic side of extremely soaked. The plunge home took in grass covered roads, slick, shale corners, blind bends and an immense amount of blinking.
Arrived alive, declared to disbelieving family how much I love bikes. Swapped cold water for warm and wetness outside for wine inside. Slackness on the riding front has happened again this August, and I had begun to worry that my long affair with all things two wheeled was coming to an end.
It seems not.
* It’s never rain that hard. It’s summer for Christ’s sake.
** It’s that mental image of the Bavarian. It’s got me thinking…