Some of us knowingly head out on the road, rain clouds threatening our fun, but continue on anyway. Others are out riding and get caught in a thunderous storm and immediately have to seek shelter. And then there are those who are prepared for anything.
I was the first group this past weekend. I knew it was going to rain, but my cycling buddy, Jared, and I had high hopes we’d dodge the storm the entire 70 miles we rode. Sometimes we’re also naive.
Through years of being unprepared for rain storms, this time I was ready. I wrapped myself in my windbreaker cycling jacket and leg warmers and packed long gloves and arm warmers. I even stuck my phone in a plastic ziplock bag.
Jared pulled up to my house with long socks and shorts. “Where are your leg warmers? Why aren’t you bundled up like you always are?” I asked. He said he didn’t need them and that if we got soaked, he’d rather have the water be whisked away from his skin than it sinking in to his clothes. In typical Jared fashion, he thought he was invincible. I know when it comes to rain, it always find us. And the wind. I’ve only ever known a headwind.
We took off on our ride. It was a balmy 55° as we raced to Parker to beat the storm. The clouds loomed above us, strategically planning on the best time to pour. I had the audacity to Instagram us with a caption of “Still dry.” As soon as the picture was posted, I felt the drops.
Not only is riding 70 miles in the rain and 42° temperature physically challenging, it’s also a mental challenge, as well. We slowed down as we descended the hills because both of us know road tires aren’t the grippiest on wet roads. I wanted more climbs just to stay warm, but the rain lashed and the wind swayed us from side to side as if it were tossing a ball back and forth between its hands.
At the beginning of the rain, I was still laughing and carrying on with Jared. We joked about people in their cars wondering what was wrong with us to be biking through this weather. But mile by mile, we grew quieter and focused on the end goal: stay warm, stay fast, get back to my house.
At Santa Fe and C470, I looked over at Jared and he was shaking. It had dropped to 42° and I became concerned for his health. Neither of us were prepared to be riding in weather that was just a little above freezing and soaking wet. I felt the water sloshing between my toes as I pedaled. My toes and fingers were numb. I could barely change gears because my fingers were too stiff.
I kept telling Jared that it’s making us stronger cyclists. I don’t think I had him convinced because I sure as hell felt weak. I also felt stupid. I asked myself, why didn’t I just stay home and go on the trainer and use Zwift? That’s safe.
But being too safe doesn’t train your body for the weather. Being too safe doesn’t teach you the hard lessons of what happens when you’re unprepared. And that’s the problem. Too many people want to take it easy. Too many people are fair weather cyclists. People new to cycling believe “training” is an easy hour around their neighborhood in sunny, warm weather. They don’t think of the hills, the miles, the ever-changing weather, the seriousness of being prepared for anything. Our friends only ever see our “happy faces” pictures; but that’s because we only post the happy shots. I could have posted a picture of Jared shaking or my wrinkled toes from being soaked for two hours.
Training for a ride like Ride The Rockies means going out adequately prepared in any element. You don’t pick and choose the days you want to ride. You ride no matter what. When it comes to the Ride The Rockies week, there isn’t going to be a day where it’s a “pick your course: rainy mountain pass or trainer.” If you don’t force yourself to experience the different elements, you won’t know what you need when the time comes. You’re not going to be prepared physically or mentally and you’re more likely to give up.
Just like when you were a kid: go outside and play in the rain.