Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Shelter From the Storm

The other day I was cycling with a friend when it began to rain fiercely. An admitted fair weather cyclist, he suggested we stop and shelter under a canopy of trees until the downpour's intensity lessened. I explained that I thought this a bad idea. Stopping on the side of the road in chilly weather when already soaked and sweaty, we would only grow colder and more uncomfortable. Rather than shiver under those dubious trees, why not continue pedaling - say, to the nearest shop or cafe, if he really wanted out of the rain. Luckily we were close to a village, and soon enough we were enjoying the cozy interior of a filling station shop, watching the rain taper off over vending machine coffee. My companion seemed happy enough that we'd gone with my suggestion.

"Not bad," he said biting into a gooey bun. "But where do you shelter when you're out in the middle of nowhere?"

"Shelter?" It was the third time he used the word and I realised that this notion, so apparently normal to him, was not something I'd ever given much thought to. "I don't shelter from rain; I just go on with the ride!"

Fast forward to this morning, and I was ready to eat my words. Cycling alone and yes, in the middle of nowhere, I got caught in one of those flash floods - a wall of rain so dense the visibility was next to nothing; water on the road so deep I could dip my toe in on the downstroke. God knows how, but this water carried with it a rather strong current, pushing my bike in its desired direction - which was off the side of the road - as I strove to progress forward. In this manner we battled, until finally I was forced to admit defeat when a tractor came close to crossing paths with me under this waterfall, careening wildly around the bend through deep water. Cycling in these conditions wasn't safe; I had to stop until this blew over. But where?!

One interesting feature of the Irish landscape is the abundance of derelict buildings in various states of dilapidation. Like a scattered flock of unkempt, emaciated sheep, these structures pepper the landscape with an air of resignation, gray crumpling stonework peeking out of green weedy chokeholds. Their presence, while sad under ordinary circumstances, becomes a happy occasion for a cyclist in need of a bathroom stop. And so it was now that I needed shelter from the storm. Stepping over a thicket of nettles, I dragged my bike and myself through the doorless entryway and stood in the dank interior watching the road outside turn into a river. I do not have a plan for sheltering from bad weather, rarely finding myself in situations so bad I can't pedal through. But as life likes to remind us from time to time, anything can happen. Should cyclists have a strategy for this sort of thing?

Twenty minutes later it was over, and, in the feeble sunshine, I was back on my bike, contemplating this quick burst of celestial violence as I cycled home. Sticking out from under my helmet, my two soggy braids made a "thwack" sound as they hit my shoulders every time I shook my head in disbelief.

25 comments:

  1. Sounds weirdly like Pittsburgh, both in the abundance of rain and the presence of abandoned buildings.
    I typically go on with the ride, unless they're lightning. My raincape works great and I've switched to sandals. With waterproof socks they're the best solution I've found for keeping my feet dry.
    I used not to care so much about lightning either, but I saw a photo of lightning hitting the ground here (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-J8Q9nT_8l2I/U5c9HjvjaTI/AAAAAAAAJ2Q/Hu6Rmx0R7CM/w825-h550-no/lightning.png) and I've decided riding a metal bike in a thunderstorm night not be the best idea.

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  2. My worst rain experience so far was probably 2 years ago on my regular ride back home from work. I was caught in the middle of the super heavy downpour that didn't end until I got home.

    I didn't have any rain gear with me so after a short while everything was completely soaked: shirt, pants, underwear and even worse - leather shoes (took them later 5 days to dry).

    At that point I realized the same thing you did - once you're wet, it doesn't matter. It is actually more fun to keep riding than to wait for rain to pass.

    If only I didn't have a feeling of riding in rubber boots full of water...

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  3. no shelter on 1-4 hours cycling tours, shelter (on bus-stop or restaurant) if cycling a longer trip, but only if changing wet shirt for a dry one is possible because of the cold.
    Rain with daylight is not pleasant, but not too bad. But rain in the night on long Brevets is really a pain.

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  4. On tours in the middle of nowhere when a downpour strikes we/I usually seek shelter. Why not, we're usually not in a hurry. If we can't find one our tarp works well. The electrical storms are the worst.

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    1. A tarp is the sort of thing I was thinking of; might start carrying one on long rides.

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    2. With you, V.

      Per Anon's post, torrential down pours in the Midwest are usually warm weather thunder and lightning affairs. Getting off the bike and inside (if possible, unfortunately abandoned structures are not as common here) or low to the ground is mandatory.

      I've spent a couple of these storms wallowing in the cold muck thinking it would have been a good idea to get one of those shiny tarps runners use after marathons to put in my saddle bag. Of course I promptly forget as soon as I get home and dry.

      After reading your account, I calendared a trip to the sporting goods store.

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  5. For my regular commute, I just keep riding unless there is lightening. The arrival/departure times for my work are pretty flexible, so I usually keep an eye on the radar and manage to make it to campus or back home between serious downpours. Recently I miscalculated and found myself in a blinding downpour with a brand new Brooks saddle and no saddle cover. I did what I believe any rational person would and wrapped my rain jacket around the saddle. I arrived at work looking like a drowned rat, but my saddle was safe!

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  6. If I knew in advance that it was very rainy I would have the rain gear. I have taken to riding in my rubber boots if it is raining. If I am commuting to work or an appointment I do have to keep riding. But I have been caught in unexpected rain, it happens. I generally just keep going to where I need to be, maybe find shelter, a cafe, or if possible, just go back home. At least I can dry off, put warm clothes on.

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  7. During a recent ride, my wife and I saw the clouds building quickly so we turned tail and headed home. Fortunately it was downhill all the way. The sky opened up when we were about a mile from home. The rain wasn't so bad, but the hail kind of stung. Didn't encounter any rushing rivers, however.

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  8. Well observed thank you. NI, particularly the north coast has some great rust red bus shelters that probably date from the 80s and are fantastic rain shelters

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  9. Funny you should post this story as I am just now sitting on the couch with a hot cup of tea trying to warm back up after getting caught in the worst downpour I have ever ridden in! On the group ride this evening with a new lady (her first group ride, and new to cycling as an adult. Nice way to introduce her!) and two other guys who stuck through it. We saw the wall of water coming at us as we curved around the lake and the wind just about knocked us over. Thunder and lightening in every direction, limbs falling from trees, we got lucky and found a covered picnic area to take shelter in. It was wild! I hope she comes back next week.

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  10. We have a flock of those unkempt emaciated sheeps of old houses and barns too, sitting just off the road, looking cozy and inviting as you skid up to the door and scamper in. If you're lucky, when the Raccoon or Fox explodes past you they don't leap out from under their 10,000 fleas and leave them on you and your companion.

    They always look romantic and picturesque and I can't help but feeling that maybe this is the one where when I step through the crooked door into the gloom I'll find myself in a land where it's always Winter but never Christmas and I'll break the spell and spring will come and I'll reign as King for 75 years before tumbling out the door to find I'd only been gone a minute and spend the rest of my natural life feeling like a deposed Monarch forced to live in noble anonymity. Really though, the greater risk is that after stepping over the worn stone threshold I'll will find myself staring up out of a well.

    I'm with you, ride it out as long as you can stand it and if you gotta' stop, find somewhere with a grill and a bathroom.

    Spindizzy

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  11. I congratulate you on your elegant choice of rain shelter. In the mountains of northern New Mexico, we're usually relegated to outhouses.

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  12. The rain experience depends on where you are going - I have been caught in the rain on many occasions and getting drenched on the way to work or shopping is not fun. Last summer - very hot here, I was out 'fun' riding when there was a sudden downpour, I stopped my bike under some overhanging shrubs and just enjoyed watching the rain beating down on the roads and pavements and smelling the new freshness.

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  13. I like summer rain: the water tends to be more or less lukewarm, and everybody else tries to stay undercover, so you get the road for you alone. Especially if it is a Sunday. It is possible to ride leisurely, smelling the flowers, on roads that would otherwise be crowded enough to demand fast riding.

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  14. "Like a scattered flock of unkempt, emaciated sheep, these structures pepper the landscape with an air of resignation, gray crumpling stonework peeking out of green weedy chokeholds."

    Somewhere out there and maybe under yet another nom de plume I hope you author more than a bicycle blog.

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    1. Ah that's nothing. I save all my truly poignant lines for the vacuum seal storage informercials I write on the side.

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  15. Were you wearing your Cleverhood rain cape? I would think that would be a shelter in itself, at least from what I've heard.

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    1. I don't actually own one; gave it away after reviewing it. On the roadbike I wear one of those lightweight rain jackets that crumples up to fit in a jersey pocket when not in use.

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    2. Well, I won't tell anyone.

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  16. I tend to my old boat whenever I can. I even get to "use" it once in a while!
    Doing some engine work in Jamaica Bay Brooklyn, I looked up at some ominous clouds. I thought, based on the wind they would bypass and it would still be dry. Then, lightning all around (or all round if I have to translate!).
    I thought I might be able to outrun it home. It was still pretty dry out.
    I locked everything up and headed out towards home... 1 mile on a lousy sidewalk / path lined with tall trees and a tall golf course fence! I did OK for a while, then couldn't see straight and the light show was too unnerving. I found a car service on Avenue U and Flatbush and did the opposite of 'epic' for the trip home.

    I will ride in if I know it might rain for the 11 mile ride home. I will tend not to ride if it's threatening in the morning.

    Last Tuesday was riding towards home on Kent Ave near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Hear the psssfsssfssfss of the front tire air leak. Slowed down in the bike lane, turned onto a shallow shallow driveway curb cut with a metal edge. Front was fine, rear slipped out from under me and instantly, at 3 mph I was on the ground due to the wet metal. Road rash on the calf, right upper ribs hit on the crest of the driveway. I can't sneeze for a while. Still changed the flat. Putting the big messenger bag back was fun.

    Best way to prevent rain . . . carry the rain gear at all times.

    I LOVE Vacuum Seal storage infomercials! But wait! There's more!!

    vsk

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  17. I used to avoid riding in the rain; then, on the Last Midwest AIDS Ride, many years ago, I rode about 40 miles in soaking weather. Shortly after that, I started putting fenders on my bikes and carrying at least a rain cape...but sometimes you do need, as Dylan said, shelter from the storm.

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  18. Well, I guess you've got to post about something, rain is good. If one has cycled much at all there are always rain stories, whether commuting, racing, or touring, folks love to share their rain stories.

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  19. Where I cycle around the villages of South Cambs and Bedfordshire in England, there are some good sized church porches you can shelter in from weather. Last time it was hail storm!

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  20. Looks amazing as always!..Bikes are tricky to store!.bicycle racks

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