I have followed what feels like a pretty normal progression in my cycling evolution. It started with a road bike and then a mountain bike. Then I took up Cyclocross and that changed everything.
Once I started racing I was willing to ride in real rain and I realized those clip-on fenders really don’t do the job. I can’t say we have crappy weather especially when compared to Detroit or the like. I can say that around here we have lots and lots of rides in the rain.
More than a few cyclists have a special bike they use either as a commuter bike or a rain bike or both. They deck them out with full fenders and buddy flaps. If you don’t know what buddy flaps are, then you must live somewhere dryer than Seattle.
Buddy flaps go on the end of your full fenders and just about touch the ground. They knock down the rooster tail that comes off your rear wheel so anyone riding behind you in the rain (your buddy) doesn’t get your spray in their face. Anyone showing up to a group ride in the rain without buddy flaps begins by apologizing and finishes by buying the coffee after the ride.
The rain bikes get dirty and the maintenance is far from glamorous. I love working on a bike in a bike stand out in the sunshine. Getting the drive train pristine and shiny is rewarding. Contrast that image with a muddy bike and rims coated with a charcoal colored film, brake pads peppered with sand and shards of aluminum and a chain black with grease. The downtube is plastered with mud, leaves, worm parts (really), and sand.
You get the idea...
Following the Zinn Protocol I wipe, lube and wipe the chain cleanish. I try to floss the cassette but the task is made harder by the fender hardware. My jockey wheels are caked with goo. My spokes and hubs do not shine.
In addition to the infinite options of rain jackets and pants that are pressed into service everyone wears shoe covers. I don’t mean the socks worn on the outside of your shoes. I am referring to the booties designed to DELAY the rain from getting into your shoes. They all keep you dry for a while...... None of them work all the time.
The rain dictates that you start wearing booties in October. In Washington State if it is dry in the winter it is cold so you still have to wear booties to keep your feet warm. The result is that when spring finally comes and you look down and see your actual shoes pedaling instead of booties spinning around you realize it is a sight you haven’t seen in months.
When the conditions allow you to pull the cobwebs off your “good bike” typically you hoot at how much lighter and faster that bike is compared to your fendered behemoth. Yes that day will come but it will not come soon. For now we ride in jackets, pants and booties.
But we do ride.