Saturday in the Rain

This Friday I had a little extra time and energy so I laid out my Kit, gear and nutrition in preparation for the morning’s ride.

Good thing too.

Saturday I launch myself out of bed after letting an hour expire post alarm in snoozeville. I’m doing the rundown in my head to calculate the elapsed time required to make it to Miami City Hall in time for the group ride start. The math says maybe…

so I say YES…

and its Kit Up, Pump up, and Go!

The Legs are feeling fresh so my mood is positive and my thoughts wander to the Black Point sprint. How will I position myself, who will I mark; I can’t burn myself up bridging the gap to the lead sprinter this week. As I am cruising through the bowels of Overtown I notice my….

My bibs…


Inside Out!

Ok… now I am in crisis mode.

It is not like no one will notice.  In a group ride cyclists are nuzzled up, one behind the other close enough to see the crack of your arse if you happen to be wearing white cycling shorts. My brain is busy snapping pictures of every conceivable location where I might find sufficient privacy for a full strip down. That’s right, when you wear bibs you can’t just drop your trousers and pull them back on. No, that would be too easy. The shoes must come off, the Jersey must be removed and then, and only then can you remove your bibs. Now it’s no secret that cyclists don’t and should not wear underwear so as it prevents chafing, so my mind has now flash forwarded to a public strip tease and a potential arrest on charges of public nudity.

I did find a private locale and so escaped public embarrassment. More time is lost, the clock is ticking.

I arrived in time to hear the last of the group leader’s riding instructions communicated at the beginning of every ride. The Everglades Bicycle Club has been doing a great job providing organized leader lead rides at various levels while providing some basic training to ensure everyone’s safety. We roll out and ride south.

And the rains came.

The first few drops quickly turned into a steady heavy tempo of sorts.  We rode in organized fashion for about a mile until we stopped at the intersection of Ponce De Leon and SW 88th. “Does everyone feel safe to continue?” the lead rider shouts. I have come to realize that Miami riders don’t like rain, at the mere mention of it they scatter like cats for the safety of shelter. These guys were no different and everyone was opting in for opting out.

“I came to ride”, I replied. Making the right turn on 88th I looked over my shoulder and confirmed I was on my own. I smiled as the memories of riding in New England in the eighties came streaming in while swimming through the water pouring from the sky. If you didn’t ride in the rain, or the snow for that matter, you severely limited your riding potential. Additionally, I used my bike to commute to work and so the choice was already made; “Necessity being the mother of invention” and all. I remember many rain soaked rides on my way to and from work in some pretty horrendous conditions in a time when performance apparel consisted of wool tights with suspenders, a wool ski sweater and a windbreaker. Polypropylene was the base layer material du jour and Gore-Tex was in limited use at a price that placed it way out of reach. “Wear what you have”, Peter Mooney would say.

Yeah, I have had some pretty cold wet rides in my day.

The best advice I can give you is to take a hot shower as soon as you unclick and dismount.  Drink plenty of warm liquids when you can because if you wait for the chill, you are toast.

So after 30 minutes of swimming in this soup of a rainstorm I am rewarded for my stubbornness when the sky opens up and the sun begins to shine through. I am thoroughly pleased with myself and continue the tempo pace heading towards Black Point. Rounding the corner and riding towards Bayside I look up and see a huge, looming, grey mass, a virtual wall of rain in the distance. After a moment of self doubt and thoughts of self preservation I think to myself….What would Jens Voigt do? And so I forge ahead toward the darkness as a small group of three riders pop out like they are exiting some sort of space portal. The lead rider salutes me as if to say, soldier on. Another hour or so of this madness had me returning from the abyss and ready for a latte.

Starbucks is the café of choice for cyclist in Old Cutler Bay and frankly there are no other options. The floor sports a wet trail from cyclists who have come before me. I comment on the rain to a lady cyclist in queue who replies, “at least my bike is washed”. I retrieve my latte and venture outside to enjoy the brew with a Honey Stinger waffle. These things are delicious and will fill the void when gels are no longer of interest.

I listen with curiosity as three cyclists discuss the drudgery of cleaning their bikes. The conversation was initiated when one gentleman confessed that he has never cleaned his chain. The others offered up what sounded like they were forced into slave labor to perform arduous tasks of disgust.

Seriously, I cannot believe what I am hearing.

First, Google “Clean a bike chain” and there are 20 YouTube videos ready to explain the process in detail.

Second, these men of a mature age are complaining about the effort required and mess created by simply cleaning their machines? I force myself not to comment as I know it will come off as arrogance and so remain in polite silence.

We are talking just 10-30 minutes once or twice a week. It is worth the trouble and made easier when you use the right tools and when it is performed regularly. In manufacturing it is called Preventative Maintenance. Even more important, you become closer to your machine, you know its condition, and you gain an understanding of how it operates.

So when you ride into the abyss, it will be ok because you know that you are not alone.

I Never Ride at Night without Lights

A couple of weeks ago I was returning home from a ride on The Key. It was already dark and the rain diminished visibility even further.  Miami rain can be intense. We will see 3-4 inches in an hour, 8-9 inches in a day when other cities may not see 2-4 inches in a month. When I lived in New England, rain was a daylong – weeklong affair of grey skies and drizzle. A place where storm talk delivered 2- 4 inches in a day. This is Miami, when it rains, visibility is reduced to 10 or 20 yards. Even the erratic, unpredictable, and irrational Miami motorists seem to take caution when water pours from the sky.

Less than a half a mile from home I ride past a single speed hipster without lights. Well folks… sadly it is in my nature to pass judgment on people when they demonstrate a total lack of basic common sense. Not very gentleman like I know, but honestly, would you drive your car at night, in the rain without lights? I have learned to keep these thoughts and impressions unexpressed in the name of civility and self preservation.

He rolls up on me at the next traffic light and exclaims, “I better follow YOU the rest of my ride!”

I don’t respond.

I just hung my head and looked down as the water runs off my helmet, along my visor and down to the tarmac looking more like water from a faucet. I knew what he meant though, I run a Serfas Thunderbolt on my seat post and a TSL-250 on my bars. At times like these I fire up the Raider I have attached to my helmet. Pedestrians and motorists complain, jest, and rant but I can be seen. I am visible. I am alive. Anyway, I love the Raider. It is light, bright and easily attaches to my helmet.  It is my plan B for when the Thunderbolt wanes and augments it when I need it most.

I am in decision making mode. He must think me rude as I have not made any verbal recognition of his presence. “Be the change”, I think as I reach up with my left hand, detach the Raider from the helmet and hand it to him with my right. He gives me a puzzling glance but quickly snatches it from my hand and fumbles a bit while attaching it to his seat post. “How…?” he begins.  I interrupt, “Just turn it 180 degrees… It’s rechargeable with USB “.  “Thanks”, the traffic light turns green and off he went. I roll to the left turning slowly so as to observe his departure. It is a damn bright light. Within only 50 yards you could not see him any longer. The Raider is the only thing that betrayed his very existence. “THANKS”, can be heard from the distance.

I smile.

At 200 yards I can still see the Raider.

Have I mentioned that I love that light?

Last night I rolled out while the sky was still that unmistakable Miami blue. Four miles out I reached down to fire up the Thunderbolt. I left it at home on the charger. With no plan B, I picture myself riding The Key without a rear light through the road construction on Bear Cut Bridge or the darkness created by the mangroves on the way to the Tennis Center.

I turned home to pick up the Thunderbolt. I never ride at night without lights.