Trust Your Gut

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What a weekend it was. On Friday evening, parts of Melbourne got a very small taste of what Queensland and other areas of Australia experienced through the massive flooding and cyclone Yasi. I don’t mean to make light of the destruction that other Australians have endured as we only saw of the tail end of Yasi, but even that was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Mrs CT and I were trying to get back into our neighborhood and the water was so high we had to park a half hour away. We walked back to our home with water as deep as our waist. I now understand how people can quickly get into trouble with these flash floods. On the lighter side of things, there’s no better reason in Australia for a party than a flash flood. Everyone was outside with their boardies on carrying a stubby whooping it up. You gotta love how Aussies embrase pretty much anything that’s thrown their way and have a hoot with it!

Anyway, I had been looking forward to my usual Saturday ride all week and nothing was going to stop me from getting out. I woke up at 6am and it was still bucketing outside. Our group decided to go back to bed and chat about reconvening later if the storms passed.

At 9am it was still raining off and on, but it was pleasantly warm and I was still keen to ride. I started riding and made it 5 minutes from home before I realised that this was not a good idea. Debris all over the roads, hectic traffic already, and my gut feel was that I should cut my losses and turn back. I called my mates who I was meeting and told them I’m pulling the pin, but all I got was “HTFU princess…you scared of getting a little bit wet?“.

I succumbed to the peer pressure and told myself I would continue a little longer and make a decision in 20mins if it kept raining. We headed out to my favorite training route (in the Dandenongs) and the weather started to clear up.

Riding up the first climb (the 1 in 20) I realised again that being out here on this day was a stupid idea. We were like salmon swimming against the current and there was bark, branches, silt and running water all over the road.

(riding up the 1 in 20, photo taken on different day)

We made it to the top and went over to one of the most beautiful roads in the dandenongs called Sherbrooke Forest Rd (below – again, taken on different day). This road is notoriously rough and I’ve often thought about how much it would hurt if you were to fall on this section of the route. It’s a great descent but everyone knows to be careful because it can be slick.

As I was leading the descent down Sherbrooke Forest I was going quite slowly (about 40km/hr) because of all the junk on the roads. I came up against a stream flowing across the road with gravel and bark built up on either side of it. I bunny hopped over it and kept going without any problems. A couple seconds later I heard that horrific crack of carbon sound and car tyres screeching. I looked back to see my mate who was following me had gone down – hard. He’s an excellent bike handler and I’ve never seen him take a fall in the thousands of kilometers I’ve ridden with him. He’s a tough cookie, but no one is getting up quickly after a fall on that cheese grater of a road.

Since the cut to the forearm was extremely deep and the injured rider couldn’t ride 50km home, we had to call an ambulance. Of course the emergency services are all over Melbourne at this moment taking care of real emergencies with all the flooding and we had to call them over to this self-induced emergency because we made the choice to ride on this inappropriate day. To make a long story short, my injured mate (shown above) will be okay and thank goodness the bike is still in good nick.

The point of my long-winded story? Don’t be a dumb-ass like we were. I should follow my own advice once in a while. I knew it was a stupid idea to ride in these conditions and I didn’t follow it. I’ve seen it a hundred times. You go riding when the roads are treacherous or it’s cold and wet out, and you’ll set yourself back 2-4 weeks because of a crash or a cold. Do I ever learn? Hopefully after this time I do.

There’s no doubt that some of the best rides I’ve had were when it was wet and miserable outside and I’m not saying that you should never ride when it’s raining out, but there are times when it’s simply a bad idea. Riding late in the day right after a flash flood – it should go without saying – bad idea. I saw this one from a mile away and didn’t listen to my own instincts. Really, is that one ride going to give me that edge that I wouldn’t have otherwise? I might be going against that oldschool hardman image that we love so much about cycling, but for an amateur like me, it’s not worth the risk.

There are inherent risks in cycling and we’ll all come off sooner or later. Many things we can’t control, but what we can control is our decision to go out riding on a day that you should stay indoors. I’m embarrassed to even admit that we were out riding on Saturday, but I hope some of you learn from my mistake.

On Sunday a reader from the US sent in some tips on riding in the rain. Impeccable timing Toby. Thanks!

Tips For Riding In The Rain

by Toby Rosen

I did a search on the site and didn’t see a post about riding in the rain, or tips on doing so. I just spent 3 hours in the cold, wet conditions we have right now in North Carolina (it’s supposed to get much warmer tomorrow though. Fingers crossed), and I thought I’d write a little about what I think is important to know/do when going out in the rain and/or cold.

1. Dress right. Wear a waterproof jacket over anything else you’re wearing (arm warmers, long sleeve jersey, etc.)

2. Shoe covers. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important things you can do. Having wet feet just plain sucks. I’m sure having waterlogged shoes also adds a little bit of unwanted weight, too.

3. If you’re going to wear glasses, wear clear ones or better yet, yellow lenses. No glasses works just as well, if not better than the other two options, but the wind can sting above 20 mph and it would be really bad if you crashed going down a hill at 35 mph because you closed your eyes. You’d never live it down.

4. Don’t wear gloves. It’s easier to grip the bars without gloves on, so suck it up and let your hands hurt a little. [CT: I disagree with this one. When it’s wet outside there’s a much better chance that you’ll go down. It sucks when your hands aren’t protected. A friend of mind went down yesterday and his hands are very badly cut up because he doesn’t wear gloves.  I’ve used to have some awesome Nike gloves with some great grippers that are made for sticking to the bars in the rain. I wish I could find them again.]

5. Don’t fill your tires all the way. Fill them to 15-20 psi less than you normally would. They’ll grip the road better.

6. Stay off of the white lines. They’re super slick and they’ll take away any traction you might have had.

7. Eat and drink on the flats. Eating while going downhill takes away from your control, and when you’re flying downhill at 30-35 mph is the last place you want to lose control.

8. Ride on roads without traffic. I know that you should always do this, but when it’s wet, I think it’s more important. You can’t stop as fast, cars can’t stop as fast, and, well, you do the math.

9. Stay home. If you don’t have to ride in the rain, just don’t go. Riding on the rollers or trainer might suck, but being injured or dead sucks a lot worse.

10. If you’re gonna go, be prepared. Be prepared with your gear, and be prepared to suffer.

11. Clean your gear straight after. Almost nothing is worse than having to replace part or all of your drivetrain.

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