I will admit, my first thought when writing this was to just type in “Don’t” and leave it at that.
Training in the rain is still a bit of a novelty to me. Up until this year, I had only ever enjoyed my hours on the bike in a southern California wrought with drought, i.e. 70 degrees and sunny virtually every single day.
Between my freshman and sophomore years at UCLA, I probably could count on one and a half hands how many times it had rained in the area, and rarely was it ever a torrential downpour.
This year, not so much. According to the National Weather Service, in January of 2017 alone, the total rainfall almost equaled that of the entirety of 2014-2015.
Even as I write this, it is pissing rain and a balmy 52 degrees outside of my Aunt’s house in Solana Beach, a suburb north of San Diego. Meanwhile it is 68 degrees and sunny in my hometown of Washington, DC. Something’s not right. There’s a glitch in the Matrix. This aggression shall not stand, man.
Alas, the health of our state depends on the recent inundations, and, to its credit, the rain has given the Santa Monica Mountains a much-needed boost in color. With the surrounding hills now so rich and green, training rides I’ve done a hundred times seem completely new.
So, what has this meant? In short, coupled with my stint in Belgium and wintry Spain, I’ve been consistently wet and cold for what seems like forever, and I’d like it stop immediately, si’l vous please.
This looks unlikely, however, and so I’ve had to get used to some soggy hours in the saddle.
So, here are some tips next time the heavens open up in your neck of the woods and you just can’t be kept from going outside.
1. Accept that you’re going to get wet.
In the pilot to Seinfeld, George expresses his concern that Jerry’s clothes will be dried too much while they wait inside a Laundromat. Jerry explains that clothes can’t become too dry, that once they’re dry, they’re dry. “Just like when you die,” he elaborates. “Once you die, you’re dead.”
Conveniently enough, the same logic applies to becoming wet! Obviously, there are various gradations of dampness, but at one point, you’re wet, and whether you spend another 30 minutes or 3 hours in the rain won’t change that. Give yourself permission to be grumpy for however much time it takes to reach that “fully soaked” threshold, and after that, just let it go, and give in.
2. Embrace your imagination and the epicness therein.
You’ve now given into the reality that you’re going to get wet. Great! Time to promptly toss away that reality for a newer, more thrilling one. If you’ve ever watched a Spring Classic, you’ll know that, more often than not, they occur in weather hardly suitable to even walk or drive a car in, let alone race a bike. Yet, inevitably they still happen. These are the races that always produce the most beautiful and stunning images. The grimaces are a little more pronounced; the riders are clearly uncomfortable; yet all this does is add to the inherent glory of the sport.
There is a level of pride cyclists take in their unrelenting passion for going out and hurting themselves, rain or shine, sleet or snow, and being able to return to their house, soaked to the bone, bragging about how all you lollygaggers stayed in watching day-time television. Put to rest the rumors that cyclists are becoming soft, and embrace the hard training like the pros that would make Sean Kelly proud. Today, this rainy day is your Classic, and you are winning.
3. Ride with company. For your health.
Many social theorists have suggested that mutual hatred can actually bring two people closer together than a mutual love. But why settle for one form of bonding when you can settle for both! Encourage friends to come join you on your next ride in the rain. You both love bikes, don’t you? Check. You both hate the rain, yes? Check. If anything, this is just a perfect opportunity to get even closer to an old mate than you thought possible, right? Check-a-doodle-do. Pass the hours talking about how much sand you two have in your teeth, or have a competition to see who can get the longest mud streak running up their butt by the end of the ride. A day of suffering can seem infinitely more pleasant when you have someone right there next to you, eating as much kicked-up dirt as you are.
4. Saran wrap and plastic are your friends.
Nothing—NOTHING—is worse than reaching into your back pocket on a long ride to discover that the snack you have been craving for the past hour has disintegrated due to infiltrating water on account of a poor wrap job. If you’re packing foods like store-bought bars, or something of the like, typically you don’t have to worry about water seeping into the packaging, but if you’ve gotten creative and made your own rice cakes, don’t let all that DIY work go to waste! Be excessive—nay, neurotic—about your plastic bag usage. Make sure everything is in a hermetically sealed airtight container to ensure your in-ride meal doesn’t resemble hospital food for the elderly. And this extends not just to your food, but to you too! If you don’t own a pair of rubber/water-resistant shoe covers, or something akin to this, wrap your socks in saran wrap, put your shoes on, then wrap your shoes in saran wrap as well! Not only will this keep your toes nice and toasty, but, if done right, it should be able to keep your feet dry for much longer, and ensure some extra comfort. Just be sure not to add too thick a layer around your socks, as this can cut off circulation and cause a lot of discomfort.
5. Prep for a great return.
One of the beautiful aspects of rainy rides is it makes coming home that much greater. If anything, it makes coming home the highlight of the entire ride! You get to peel off your kit, take a nice hot shower, and wear dry clothes for the first time in what seems like forever and a half. Take advantage of this feeling. Either the night before or the morning of a ride you know will have inclement weather, prep your house for your soppy return. Lay two towels right at the door so when you enter, you can use one to stand on so you don’t track puddles throughout and the other to dry yourself off. Ready a plastic trash bag (see tip #4) by the door as well, into which you can immediately dump your wet apparel. On wet days especially, getting out of your kit as fast as you can will help prevent gnarly saddle sores. How bad can saddle sores be? They can cost you a run at a Grand Tour victory. So be pro-active! Next, prep one of your favorite, post-ride recovery meals so you can get some protein and carbs in you immediately. I like to have a bottle of Herbalife24 Rebuild Strength with almond milk already shaken and ready chilling in the refrigerator, so when I get back, I waste no time in mixing. I then hop right in the shower, warm myself, and then cook up a nice meal of either baked salmon or chicken with a variation of beans, rice, and raw spinach. Simple, delicious, and nutritious!
Hopefully some of these tips will help you get through the next time you find yourself outside in less than ideal weather! Get out and ride happy, folks!