Thursday, October 29, 2009

All-Weather Friend

Yesterday was a horrible, rainy day, and during the worst part of it I had to go out. Looking out the window, it was rapidly growing dark and water was literally pouring in streams from the sky. On a day like that, the question of which bike to take did not even enter my mind: I put on my waterproof trench and grabbed Eustacia Vye.

It was raining so hard, that I felt as if I was swimming rather than cycling: I had to keep wiping water off of my face. Between the darkness and the rain, it all looked like an impressionist painting.

Nonetheless, the ride itself was quite comfortable. Eustacia remained stable and easy to maneuver even through lake-sized puddles. The brakes worked perfectly. The lights shone brightly. I felt safe in traffic despite the wet conditions and the limited visibility. Once I got used to the feeling of water running down my face, it was even fun.

There were almost no other cyclists out, and one of the few I did see had an accident right in front of me: While turning a corner, she rode over some leaves and her bicycle flipped sideways. I knew that this could happen, but have never experienced it or seen it. She was cycling slowly, and it still happened. The cyclist was not hurt (I stopped to make sure she was all right), but still - falling like that could not have been pleasant. It seems that wet leaves really are extremely slippery and it is important to avoid them, especially when cornering.

The fallen cyclist was riding a diamond-frame bike, with tires that looked narrow and worn out. She expressed admiration for my Pashley and said that on a bike like that she bets this would not have happened to her. I am not so sure, as I have heard of people slipping on wet leaves and metal grates even on mountain bike tires. Still, I was acutely aware of how much of a luxury my tank of a bike was on a horrible day like this. I was comfortable, whereas the few other cyclists out there looked like they were miserable - struggling against the elements as well as their bikes' limitations.

Here we are together in the rainy darkness. Not very flattering to either of us, but it captures the mood. My true all-weather friend. I must not forget this the next time I compare her to faster and more nimble bikes.

27 comments:

  1. That really sounds like a nice rain cycling experience. Not nice to see somebody fall, but luckily nobody was hurt. Wet leaves can be pretty slippery, especially if one doesn't see what's underneath. The slower, the better, especially for turns.

    ReplyDelete
  2. boy it was horrible out yesterday! I am impressed. As I drove the kids to a halloween party my *car* almost slipped out on wet leaves on a turn!!! So yeah- I feel for the cyclist. And I'm glad you had a good ride.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are wise to be cautious of slipping in such conditions, but it WAS nice, eh? I prefer the word "solid" to "tank." My cyclocross bike is "solid," albeit in a totally different way than the Pashley. With its fenders and chainguard, the Pashley can pretend it doesn't LIKE getting muddy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. There's something empowering/rewarding about riding in horrible weather.

    I really like the photos!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Steve - but "solid" seems like such an understatement. "Iron chariot"?

    ReplyDelete
  6. i always loathe the idea of heading out into the rain from the warm coziness of my house, but once i get on my bike and start feeling the rain on my hands and face, it's wonderful... a connection to the elements!

    ReplyDelete
  7. It was icky out, but my narrow-tired 10-speed (currently with 5, about to be 3) did just fine. The only thing that REALLY irritated me was the other cyclists who passed at close quarters without fenders, spattering me with their spray. I'm all for riding the bike you want, etc. but don't spray gross water all over me, please!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I don't mind riding in the rain because I do it with an umbrella. Which I highly recommend. However, wet leaves are the devil.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Charlotte - How narrow are the tires on your Dawes? I have 32mm Pancella Tour Guards on my Motobecane mixte and they do fine in the rain as well - But somehow I feel more "exposed" on that bike than on the Pashley and cycling in bad weather is not quite as comfortable. I agree about cyclists without fenders - but I think I encountered less than half a dozen other cyclists total during my entire trip yesterday!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have to admit I skipped out on the rainy riding yesterday and took the T instead. I'm really struggling with waterproof riding gear- My shell has lost its waterproofing, despite a wash in bolstering treatment, and I haven't got a good replacement yet. One funny thing- What I most hate about going out in the rain is getting my head wet. The rest of me, fine, but not my head. So as long as I'm wearing my bern "winter helmet" with no holes in it I'm relatively sanguine about getting rained on. Getting to work drenched, however is not a good way to start the day.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I had nowhere I needed to go yesterday, looked out the window, and I elected to visit the rainless city of Ember; although they seem to have their own problems there.

    Wet leaves are lubricated bearings. They are to be treated with extreme caution, no matter what you are riding. A failing of many bikes WITH fenders is that while they protect the rider (or even just the bike) they take no notice of the fact that one of their functions is supposed to be to keep from spraying other cyclists with your rooster tail. That is the reason fenders are mandatory on motor vehicles.

    Where cyclists are rare it's no biggie really, but on group rides or where there is a significant amount of commuter traffic it can be a real problem and if you ride such a bike it behooves you to take that into account and act in a civilized manner; something increasingly rare in - civilization.

    Charlotte: I'm curious, are you converting your bike to a hub gear; or are you converting it to a three speed derailer [sic] bike?

    ReplyDelete
  12. yesterday found me braving not the weather, but our lovely public transit system to ferry myself to work and back... the reason, I suppose, is multifaceted:

    1) I desperately need a bike better suited to inclement weather; as my mid-70s 10-speed to Single-Speed conversion has only front brakes and those are not the greatest even in the best of conditions

    2) I needed to remind and reacquaint myself with, and though there are others, the BIGGEST REASON I ride my bike (I despise public transport).

    and 3) I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to cold AND rain... one or the other and I am usually fine ;)

    Nice work and I am glad the other cyclist was not injured!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Giffen - Have you seen those umbrella attachment brackets that they sell in NL and DK? I want one!

    cycler - I straighten my hair, so there's no way I am letting it get wet. I scoop up the hair into a beret and that usually does the trick. I probably look like a nun or an Orthodox Jew, but who cares! A waterproof coat is a must, I agree.

    Astroluc - My loathing of public transport is so intense, that the choice is to either walk, cycle, or stay home. So cycling almost always wins. Get some rain gear and brakes, boy!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Filigree,

    I've seen those umbrella brackets, but I haven't tried one. I don't think they are a great idea.

    As I ride, I constantly change the angle of the umbrella, depending on my speed, the direction of the rain and wind, various obstacles (like tall pedestrians passing by with big umbrellas on a narrow sidewalk), the visibility I need, etc. Plus, faced with sudden hazards or extreme wind, I can just drop the umbrella and focus on steering, and then come back to pick it up after I stop safely. You can't do any of this if you attach the umbrella to your handlebars.

    I am very passionate about cycling with an umbrella because it has transformed the way I ride. Previously, I'd have to plan around (and worry about) the wheather or risk getting soaked. Now I can bike everywhere, any day.

    The key to using an umbrella like this is understanding that at low speeds, it's exactly like walking with one. You only need to learn how to steer with one hand (useful in general, e.g. for using cell phones), which isn't hard, especially if you have a coaster brake.

    I encourage you to become comfortable steering with one hand (It's easy and safe!). Then, on a nice and drizzly day, you can go on a safe, quiet route (like the Minuteman Bikeway, not during rush hour!) and try using your umbrella on your bike. (Start out slow, slow, slow. No hurry.)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Filigree,

    ...and most importantly! With an umbrella I can ride with dry hair, a nice wool blazer and my favorite scarf! Even when it's pouring rain! Muwahahaha

    ReplyDelete
  16. Well... I do have a couple bikes with proper brakes (especially my MTB) and though I do have some proper rain gear, I simply will not lock up my "nice" bikes all day in downtown Boston.

    I really do wish my company had some proper bike storage; the last company I worked for had, not only showers and a locker room, but inside bike storage!!

    And in my defense, this was only the second time in as many months I resorted to public transit... but I had to get to work :(

    ReplyDelete
  17. Now that I discovered that my Pashley has track end rear "dropouts," I don't need to worry about getting wet anymore because a warm glow of arrogance keeps the rain at bay!

    ReplyDelete
  18. BTW, my loathing of public transport (in Boston) is so intense that I haven't used it *once* since I started biking. By myself, that is. When I'm in a group without enough cars or bikes, I'll use it reluctantly.

    ReplyDelete
  19. > You only need to learn how to steer
    > with one hand


    Um yes. "Only." : )

    Astroluc, no worries. I have the luxury of a chaotic work schedule, so I seldom need to park my bike outside for 8hr stretches. Plus I do sometimes get car rides from the Co-Habitant.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Filigree -This looks like a winning combination to me:
    http://www.spaendoncksport.nl/product_info.php?products_id=129
    and
    http://www.senzumbrellas.com/en/media-exposure/

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great post! You hit on two things that really struck me in my recent rainy commute. One, if you can get used to rain on your face (enjoy it, even) the downside of the rainy day is gone and the rest is lovely. Two, I found myself going quite a bit slower, which made for a more pleasant ride in many ways. I think in better weather, I carry some sense of how fast I "should" be going for exercise or manliness or who knows what. With the rain, I slowed way down and enjoyed a route that had become a blur to me previously. As for steering with one hand, I'm not so sure about that. More power to those who can, but this broken clavicle is going to make me a both-hands-on guy for the foreseeable future.

    ReplyDelete
  22. At the risk of sounding like mechanic-geek curmudgeon, it's the geometry of the Pashley more than it's weigh which gives it the stability. Yes, the weight will factor into it - inertia and all that - but the relaxed angles and upright seating play a greater role in making it so stable. I haven't worked out the math, but I believe the Pashleys' center of gravity is considerably lower and further back compared to something like a road bike.

    This talk of wet leaves reminds me of wa-a-a-ay back in my younger, BMX riding days when my friends and I would look for the leaves piled alongside the roads and do the longest skids we could through them. Sure, we fell a lot but we didn't care. We were young and our bones were made of rubber :)

    *note* I'm glad to hear the other rider was OK

    ReplyDelete
  23. ". . .center of gravity is considerably lower and further back . . ."

    Thus with a higher *polar moment* of inertia; meaning that while it will resist initiating a skid, it will also resist correcting for it.

    "We were young and our bones were made of rubber"

    I remember an interview with skateboarder Arlo Eisenberg. The interviewer noted that his style had changed to something more, well, stylish, as opposed to the radical big air tricks he became famous for, and asked what brought that about.

    Arlo replied: "A funny thing happened when I turned 30. It started to hurt when I fall."

    ReplyDelete
  24. Mr. Cranky - If you look through my posts May - July, I was riding an upright hybrid "comfort bike" while living in Austria. Curved step-through frame; center of gravity definitely low and in the rear; 40mm tires with tread - but a fairly light bike with aluminum tubing (I am guessing 30lb or so). I did not feel good riding that bike in the rain at all. Can't describe it technically, but it felt unstable, especially when riding through puddles, and was considerably worse at cornering than in dry weather conditions. The Pashley on the other hand feels absolutely the same to ride in the rain as not in the rain.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Beautiful pictures! They convey the mood perfectly. It's also raining hard in Chicago, kinda a coincidence, I'm no meteorologist. I've been worried about slipping on leaves all week, trying to be extra careful. Having twice slipped on my side while riding my Oma (tracks and ice) I'm sure that the leaf scenario could happen easily, no matter how sturdy the bike. At least in the winter I can put on my studded tires and not worry about it.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hello,
    Im new here, so I may need to be directed to proper area to post. If so, please help me. I wanted to ask info about 1985 Schwinn Le Tour Luxe. I own a 1985 Le Tour Luxe, bought it brand new, in 85 or so. Its a Sky Blue Color, and very nice. I wanted to know if it was a Japan, or USA Made Schwinn???
    It matches all of the views of the Schwinn Le Tour Luxe in the 1985 Schwinn catalog. I have found the SCxxxxx Serial number Under the Crank Bottom, and right there, just below it, is the numbers 840 stamped into it. Also, there are numbers stamped on the rear dropout, which confuses me all the more. Id appreciate any help. I wanted to know if its a Greenville, MS made Schwinn, or a Panasonic Schwinn, or a Giant made Schwinn. I doubt the Giant, no mention of Giant on the bike. Most posts Ive read regarding this year Le Tour Luxe, states they were made in USA Plant. But Id like to know for sure. Please help?/ Thanks, Ray

    ReplyDelete
  27. Ray - Unfortunately, I can't help with such information. But if you join bikeforums and ask this question on the Classic & Vintage subforum, you will probably get an answer within a couple of hours!

    ReplyDelete