Wednesday, July 23, 2008

There's more to life than comfort

"What's the weather doing there?" My wife was calling from Baltimore or less. She's in the neighborhood of MD for a week.

I looked at the dark green and yellow mass on the weather radar on the computer screen, and at the silver lances of rain splintering on the parking lot.

"It's misting," I said. No point painting a grim picture when I was going to ride anyway.

The temperature hovered in the mid 60s. The rain thickened.

I wore my tee shirt under my jersey for extra insulation. It would also increase my cargo payload at the grocery store if the shirt was on my back instead of stuffed in the dry bag on my rack. I had a please-don't-kill-me-yellow wind vest in a plastic bag on the rack as my last trick if I got too chilled.

With tee shirt and jersey, the rain and wind just felt pleasantly cool. Silver, the snorkel bike, cruised easily. It feels very calming. No point getting all jacked and jumpy. You'll never sprint that swing set.

A little discomfort tests you. Over the years I have sailed, paddled, climbed, hiked, biked and skied in a wide variety of conditions. Sometimes it was part of a race. Other times I had a fixed schedule and had to take whatever weather I got. Sometimes the weather ambushed me. It's handy to know how much you can take, and how you perform under stress, before a real stressful situation comes along. But that means you have to train. You have to choose discomfort the way you choose to lift weights or ride intervals. Push the margin of conditions a little.

Today I felt pretty fine for about 12 miles, as far as the grocery store. I parked the bike under the shelter where the shopping carts are stored, tied on my cleat covers and went in for a couple of essential items for the evening's celebration of a dry house after a wet commute.

The air felt chillier when I came out. I loaded the bike and set off across the parking lot.

For a cyclist, there are several ways to exit, depending on traffic. One sandy path leads out onto Route 28, where I can use the traffic light to help me turn left onto Route 16. That only works if I have a red light buddy to trip the treadle for me. Otherwise I just wait for a gap and run the light.

In light traffic I can ride right out the main entrance/exit to the parking lot onto 16, unassisted by a traffic light. If there are a lot of cars on 16 and going in and out, one or more motorists will always get impatient, convinced they could make a hole shot better than anyone pedaling a bike. So I avoid that option unless things are very quiet.

Plan C takes a route diagonally out the corner of the lot almost at the 16-28 junction. That way I can assess the traffic and either cross 16 directly or queue up at the 28 light. I hadn't done it in quite a while, though, so I chose the wrong hole through the trees and shrubs. I had to ride up and over a three-foot berm. I dabbed at the top.

The last three and a half miles was a bit of a slog. It's mostly down hill, but I felt the dampness and chill. I didn't want to stop to dig out my wind vest.

Home was all the sweeter for the effort. The comfort is so much more comfortable.

1 comment:

Matt Boulanger said...

This reminds me of something I learned when working outdoor gear retail- there's great gear out there to suit almost any outdoor activity, but none of it will make the actual rain drier or the hills flatter. Full fenders help you avoid the black stripe up your back, but you'll still get wet in a deep puddle. I switched out to the Chacos today for commuting footwear as the sneakers have finally become too saturated to push it for another day.