So once again I look out the window on a Sunday morning and I’m confronted by grey skies and patchy rain. I could have gone back to bed and pretended, to myself, that I overslept or wasn’t feeling right. Instead I pulled on my kit and prepared for another wet day in the saddle.
When I got out to Hampton Court there was only one other rider there and I was still wondering if leaving the house was such a good idea. By the time we set of there were five of us, three of whom are regulars on the Sunday ride and who were determined to keep it very steady. So not really enough to even constitute a group given that when it’s dry there’s about 15 riders out.
Riding in the wet is an odd experience for me because I don’t notice how much I sweat when I’m drenched so all wicking of moisture becomes redundant.There’s also the constant fizz of water being sucked up and spat out by the tyres instead of the gentle hiss of rubber on tarmac . Coupled with that is the constant vigilance that it requires and the heavy braking which really tires out the shoulders and hands.
Last night’s heavy rain left the roads greasy and littered with gravel and debris that had washed down. Unfortunately that made falling a greater possibility and it befell Robin to be the one who took a spill, hitting gravel and losing the front wheel. It was a heavy looking fall and it took a couple of chunks out of him and a fair few minutes to recover his composure.
From that point on I think we were all a bit edgy about descending at anything above a gentle pace until it dried out towards the end of the ride. Certainly I was busily trashing my way through my brake pads in the name of safety. I can’t figure out why my back ones seem to wear through quicker than my front in the wet. Maybe the front wheel is so slicked with water they can’t get any purchase or there’s more grit and gunk hitting the back wheel.
After about an hour or so my hands started to lose feeling as the temperature started less to resemble the last day of April and more the middle of December. It was about this time that the hills started meaning that my gear choices became a bit limited and braking a bit challenging.
My left hand was far worse, meaning I was stuck in the middle chainring with a lowest gear of 42/27 which I can manage with most of the time. Which would have been fine if I could have got down to it. My right hand wasn’t exactly co-operating either and I couldn’t find the strength in it to change down. By the time we got to Ranmore Common I was having to resort to using my forearm as leverage to pull the shifters across.
As experiments go, attacking the hills in too big a gear and trying to tough it out is not one I plan to repeat. After belting 500 metres in a silly pro-sized gear up one hill I could barely breathe and couldn’t see much either. And my knee was starting to hurt which is never a good sign. I’ve iced it since getting in and it seems to be OK now.
By the time we got to Box Hill the feeling was coming back and I was able to really attack the hill, pulling hard all the way up it as the rain eased off and the sun came out. Never have I enjoyed a coffee and chocolate cake so much. Actually I was really gasping for a cigarette which was an odd sensation and a craving that I am still indulging in small doses after rides and when I’m out with friends.
All in it was a 125km ride today but allowing for the battling with the elements it certainly felt like a longer one. I’m hoping that there’s some drier weather in the coming weeks because I’m getting tired of beign exhausted by rainfall rather than pedal strokes.