Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fall(ing) rain

Seems like the sunny and warm fall days are over (at least for now) and we have entered the rainy season. Riding a bicycle in these conditions may be a challenge, especially if you attempt it on a day like today, when a heavy downpour is joined by strong winds. Unfortunately, there seem to be no universal recipe on how to survive a really rainy day on your bike. Some prefer to rain nearly naked, knowing that they all get wet anyway. Others use rain capes to protect them from elements. You really have to experiment and try on your own. Judging on my recent experience, here is what I came up with (applies to urban cycling):
1. I would suggest an upright, urban bike with full length fenders, chain guard, lights and ideally disc or roller brakes (although some rim breaks work pretty well even when mucky and wet). Fenders are the most important. If you refuse to use them on your bike, forget about the special rain clothing. You will get soaked no matter what you try.
2. If it rains heavily and air temperature is low (32-60F or 0-15C), I wear a waterproof jacket (or something similar), a hat with wider brim (to prevent rain falling on my glasses), waterproof pants and waterproof overshoes. This clothing lets me stay perfectly dry as long as l don't race but ride slowly (which is recommended in wet conditions anyway).
3. If it rains and air temperature is high (over 70F or 21C), I normally wouldn't bother much with rain gear except maybe overshoes to protect my shoes, as they would take long time to dry and a hat to protect my glasses. The reason why I don't wear any other waterproof clothing is that when it's hot and humid I would be wet anyway - if not from rain then from sweat collecting underneath the rain jacket. Should I get very wet, I simply change my clothes once I get to the office.
4. In June/July, we occasionally get short, but extremely heavy downpours (happened to me recently). The volume of water falling from the sky can be compared to a large waterfall. In these conditions, it's pointless to try to ride a bike at all. It's better to stop and immediately look for some cover. These flash floods don't last longer than 10 min. anyway.
Having said that, I decided NOT to ride my bike to work today. It was just too rainy to enjoy the ride this morning and fallen branches and trees on the Minuteman Bikeway wouldn't make my ride any better.
Better to keep moving in rain or be stuck in the car? (Source:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Foliage season

It's still very warm, but seeing frosted grass and trees yesterday morning reminded me that winter is coming. Slowly. "Frosted grass in Boston?" you may ask. No, not in Boston but in White Mountains, NH, where I spent my long weekend. I didn't pack my bike though, only my family, although seeing the trails and roads in that area made me want to come back with my bicycle. Maybe next time. White Mountains is really the right place to spend the Columbus Day weekend, considering the colorful show mother nature has prepared for us. But if you happen to ride your two wheels over there at this time of the year, don't forget to pack something warmer. Daily temperatures rarely exceeded 50F.
Meanwhile, back in Boston, we can enjoy temperatures in even mid 70's. I inspected foliage along the Minuteman Bikeway this morning and can't decided whether it's in its peak. It probably is.

Being back in town, I had to reinstate my daily Minuteman Bikeway commute. Which means that I will be seeing more of future Lance Armstrongs (riding Cervelos with aero bars) on this popular, bumpy bike path, or even some bike creeps.
Last Tuesday I had a bike creep following me for quite a while on the Bikeway. He rode his bike right behind me, not as close to me as Bikeyface described but close enough to hear his clunky bicycle. Just in case you never experienced this, listening to a bicycle that sounds like it's going to fall apart any minute makes you wonder if there is something wrong with your own one. Plus, the fact that thanks to that clunky music you can't hear your thoughts makes the ride truly painful.

My (t)rusty old/new Schwinn Coffee (handmade in China, A.D. 2012) is still running surprisingly well, considering lack of maintenance I provide. There are some issues with this bike typical to nearly all $400 bicycles, but I have to say that Schwinn did one thing right - the looks. I can't tell you how many times I've been told by some random strangers that my bike is "beautiful", "retro", "awesome", etc. This surprises me knowing how cheap, dirty and rusty my bike is, but I can understand why it may appeal to some untrained eyes. It does feature classic looking frame, chainguard and a single speed drivetrain, plus I added Brooks B67 saddle and leather grips making it looking just a bit more stylish (and much more comfortable). Does riding a 2012 Chinese/American bike that pretends to be a classic British 70's "roadster" make me a cheater?