…Because Cycling in Bad Weather is Automatically Bad@$$ or Alternately, How to Make Sure You’re Riding in the Rain.
There was no way we were riding this morning. It was 36 degrees (2C I think) and it had rained earlier. In fact, the internets said it would continue, on and off, all day long. I was certain I would be putting in my 45 minutes on the trainer.
Then my wife called Mike on a fluke. Not only was he riding, he was just a mile from my house. I threw on my cold weather gear and out the door I went.
Starting out it wasn’t too bad but thankfully I’d made a last minute decision to throw on my Sugoi Zap jacket. Four miles in the mist that had been collecting on our glasses turned to rain. Slow at first, but it did crescendo.
Then nothing. The glasses went back to misting, the water collected and dripped off our helmets. I used my forefinger like a windshield wiper so I could see. Now my legs were cold and wet. My upper body was toasty though so it was tolerable.
We talked about taking our toys and going home but I said something uncharacteristically badass. “Well, we’re already out here in it anyway, let’s just do it. If it opens up, we can head back post haste.”
Fast forward ten miles and we’ve only got three to go. I’m snug as a bug up top but my legs are chilly. We turn the corner – only two miles to go and my buddy Mike, I swear to God, says, “Well, it looks like we’ve got this one in the bag”. Dude.
A quarter mile later it opened up again. Seriously. Who says that before you hit the driveway!?
I pulled into the driveway with 17-1/2 miles at a 14 mph pace on the mountain bikes. And I chuckled as Mike got out of the saddle to pull away…. He still had two miles to go, on dirt roads.
Ah well, it sucked but it was better than the trainer. Besides, riding outside in crappy weather is automatically badass – and we actually managed a good pace. No drafting. I’m calling it double badass.
After five years of cycling I had developed, at least somewhat, that classic cyclist body. Legs like tree trunks and an upper body that didn’t exactly impress. Not that it was bad, let’s just say I lacked that classic V-shaped upper body.
I want to be very clear: I am not looking to be a perfectly proportioned, perfect-body human specimen. At 47 years-old, I simply don’t care to put in the effort and give up the pizza. Better, I don’t care if anyone else likes it or even agrees. I spent the first half of my life trying to be someone that was pleasing to others, in one way or another. I’m going to spend the second half having fun. Counting calories down to the last one, meticulous workouts designed to perfect my body… There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not for me. At the same time, I embrace a very simple concept: If you want to make your gut look smaller, build up your shoulders and pecs!
That out of the way, I am always looking for free speed on the bike. I also look for ways to be as comfortable as possible on mile 90. Finally, while I’m not interested in perfection, I am interested in “much better than average”. It’s well known that studies suggest non-weight bearing activities can lead to weak bones. While the case can be made that cycling, at least in the real world, isn’t as non-weight bearing as some like to make it out to be, I’d rather be safe than sorry. Capisce?
Now, being a bit of a realist, I’m not going to blow my money on some kind of ridiculous contraption to aid me in attaining my goal – especially when I know that what I need is quite simple; Push-ups. Hands and toes, push on the ground, repeat.
I started a little more than a month ago. Unfortunately it’s worked a little too well and I’ve put on a few pounds as a result. Thinking as a lopsided cyclist, those few extra pounds will hurt on the hills. Thinking as a balanced cyclist, those few extra pounds will help on the flats and downhill sections – and that’s what is really important. My back is stronger, my shoulders are stronger, my chest and arms are stronger as a result of doing push-ups for a little more than a month. We all know about the extra weight, but consider; I don’t ride a road bike like most people ride mountain bikes or hybrids. I ride low on the handlebars. The extra strength allows me to ride a little lower in the drops and it allows me to ride comfortably, longer. This is all good.
And let’s face it, Chris Froome may very well be an awesome cyclist but his spaghetti arms make him look like a living caricature. I have no desire to look like that. Of course, if I was making half of what Froome does to ride a bike, well you can call me spaghetti man.
So after a month of doing daily push-ups (all five weekdays, weekends off), I couldn’t be happier. I feel good, I look better and I ride more comfortably. Yes, I might be a little slower going up a hill on a bicycle, but I can work through that. What really matters is having a decent balance and being happy anyway – and I can’t be happy with spaghetti arms.