I don’t really like riding in the rain. I used to have a rule that if it was raining before I started I was not riding. It is an after shock from having raced when I was younger and having ridden in just about anything. I once even rode my road bike in a snow storm. Completely jammed up the gears with snow.
I don’t mind the rain as much if I am already riding and it rains. Besides what are you really going to do about it. If your twenty miles from home then the only alternative is to ride or call your spouse. Usually I ride (no reflection on the spouse but she has a life too).
The worst part of riding in the rain, by the way, is when the water starts to get in your shoes. Soggy socks and cycling are not good. It’s all squishy.
Anyway, I have had the “no starting a ride in the rain” rule for about 15 years. I realize that if I am going to ride RAAM then I am going to ride in the rain so I should get used to it, right? Chances are good that during the 3,000 miles across the country it might rain.
The question was how to start the reconciliation with riding in the rain. Enter cyclocross racing. A cyclocross bike is, literally, a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. Imagine a regular road bike with mountain bike tires and you get the general idea.
Cyclocross racing is the fastest growing segment of the bike market right now. Ironically it is older than mountain biking and originated in Europe as alternative fall and winter training option. It’s huge in Europe.
A cyclocross race takes place in a field, on dirt path, and around a closed course. There are almost always obstacles you must run over or climb up while carrying your bike. There are LOTS of tight turns so you are always braking and accelerating. There may also be sandtraps and other hazards designed to challenge your bike handling skills and fitness.
The laps are about a mile to two long. Each lap takes about 7 to 10 minutes to complete. In the races I have done you race for 45 minutes, FULL OUT!
The races take place in the fall and the winter so add in cold and rain and mud, as well as a bunch of other dudes who want to beat you, and that explains why it can be a challenge to get out of the car at the race site.
Anyway, I have now done two of these races. It rained during both of them. There were puddles, big puddles. There were sand traps that some guys had to get off their bikes and run through. My feet got soaked, so did almost every other part of me. My lungs hurt, my legs screamed, I crashed (only once and it was stupid), and I was totally out of my league.
But you know what, I am totally hooked. It was a blast. I think I was born to do this or something, even if my mud related bike handling skills stink. I want to do it again. The are races for every weekend for the next two months. I want to go.
The other good news, it’s easy training. 45 minutes of full out going as hard as you can training in crummy weather that you would never get if you did it on your own. And, I didn’t even notice the squishy shoes — until I had to take them off.
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