Carpe Diem, The Series: Becoming One With The Wind

cycling in rain

Paul Stevens

Carpe Diem (but in a relaxed sort of way)


cycling-in-rain-2By this time of year, we should be able to enjoy the outdoors with seasonably mild temperatures and sunny skies, right? 

But noooooo – it has been largely wet and soggy and if it hasn’t been that, it has been unusually cold and windy.  If you see any kind of joy in that kind of weather, you seriously need to get yourself horizontal on an analyst’s couch and try to figure out where it all went wrong.  There is nothing wrong with that type of weather if you like sitting by the fireside with a good book but this website is all about being fit and active.  Given the choice, I’m sure we would all accept the crummy stuff albeit in modest doses and not part of our regular diet.

Rain And Headwinds

I and my fellow Manditos (our local cycling group here in Sarnia) consider ourselves a reasonably hearty group and we have braved some less than ideal days as of late.  Rain is a non-starter as it just makes for an uncomfortable outing but we have braved the cooler temperatures that are invariably accompanied by what can be blustery winds coming off Lake Huron.  For those of you that cycle on a regular basis, I doubt that I have to remind you that head-on wind can make for a very challenging ride.  That is really a nice way of saying that it sucks and it would be much better if it just went away.

There is really no way to avoid it; it is a relentless adversary that, when it is in effect, will be all over you for 50% of your outing, guaranteed.  When it is at your back, it is nothing short of a joy ride as it is relatively easy to maintain Tour de France-like speeds with what seems like minimal effort. Thoughts of, “Yippee! Look at us, we’re really motoring!” are at top of mind.  There is however, always the piper to be paid however so you know Mr. Wind will be in your face in short order. At that time, reality bites in an unapologetic manner.

The Art Of Drafting 

There are techniques available to soften the blow, no pun intended, and these can help. When you are in group, it is common practice to switch the lead position with the followers drafting in behind. Run at the front of the pack for a set time or distance and then drop back to let a fellow rider take over.  You tuck into the back of the pack and work your way up as the lead continues to change.  This gives you the opportunity to recharge your batteries for your next turn to lead.  You try to keep yourself as low and streamlined as possible and those aero bars (not to be confused with those tasty chocolate bars of the same name) are useful for this purpose.  You will also find yourself using a lower gear selection to ease up on the pedaling effort.

Related Article: Carpe Diem, The Series: Weather Permitting

Becoming One With The Wind

Maybe the most important thing is to keep yourself in the right frame of mind.  “It won’t last forever and we’ll soon enjoy a tailwind.” Be satisfied that you are continuing to move forward even if your road speed is not where you would like it to be.  You may be a bit more fatigued when it is all done but that post ride refreshment will taste that much better!  Live in the moment and become one with the wind. Ya, right.  Let’s get this over with and keep our fingers crossed for better days!

Starting next week, we will have the benefit of getting together on Wednesday evenings with other local riders who plan on participating in the upcoming ‘Gran Fondo’ ride that will be held in early August.  This year’s event is expecting some 800 riders (!) and the Wednesday evening prep rides should attract around 75 enthusiasts, or wannabees depending on your perspective.  As was the case with last year’s inaugural event in this area, riders will have choice of 50, 100, or 150 km routes.

If you recall, my fellow Manditos and I decided that we would lay it all on the line and go for the 150 km loop.  We did the 100 km route last year with minimal damage.  Going for the gusto was decided at a pre-Christmas social gathering and yes, alcohol was involved with the expected result that liquid courage can bring.  With the benchmark being set and no one willing to step forward and brave bringing sanity to the group, the immediate plan is to figure out how to approach the day and make sure we enjoy ourselves. We’ll stay in a group, set a reasonable pace, and make sure we keep well hydrated and nourished.  Mutual encouragement will also be high on the agenda.  If the weather is in our favour, not excessively hot and light winds, we should have a fine day.

At this point, the Manditos are getting out about twice a week for 60 to 70 kms per outing.  The Wednesday evening ride will be good for another 35 -45 kms so that will bring me up to about 150 to 185 kms per week.  I’ll throw in a couple of sessions per week at the local fitness centre (some weights and stationary bike) and I think I’ll be ready for our big day.  I am not looking to break any land speed records here; my goal is to complete the ride in comfort and have fun day with my fellow Manditos and other local riders. 

Now that the need to get out on the road has been established, I still need to finish off the deck that I have been building since last fall.  Believe it or not, it is almost done and my story is that it would now be completed if I had better cooperation form the weather.  After all,  you can’t be using power tools when it is raining.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Your friend, Paul.

And remember – Carpe Diem (but in relaxed sort of way)!.

Related Article: Carpe Diem, The Series: When Weather Disrupts Your Ride

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