Thursday, October 22, 2009


People are starting to tie that word to me and my bicycle commuting. Yesterday, for instance, I rode into the teeth of 30 mph gusting winds on a day that saw 4 inches of rain locally.

I can see where they're coming from, but I don't really see it that way. There are times when I rarely commute. The two weeks prior to this week, I only rode to work one day. We have a leak in the roof and I had to be available to come home quickly if an insurance adjuster or roofing guy came by. So.... I had to drive.

This week started with beautiful weather. With a more favorable schedule I decided to try to ride to work all five days. Monday and Tuesday were great: mid-50s in the morning, mid-70s in the afternoon. No problem.

Wednesday was a different matter. Significant rainfall was predicted. It was iffy. I checked outside and it was wet but it wasn't raining. I got ready to ride, packed up the bike and set out, only to find a steady rain that increased as I rode. On days like that, I tell my wife, "Well, as long as I can get to work okay, if I have to, I catch a ride home with someone." Her reply is usually a sardonic, "Yeah. Right." She knows that if I ride to work, I ride home. So far I haven't let bad weather stop me.

When I got to work, I was soaked head-to-toe like someone had sprayed me with the garden hose. Despite the wind and rain I wasn't too cold; the temp was in the 60s. It was a pretty wild ride, the worst weather in which I'd ridden to work. At the end of the day, my nylon jacket was dry, but the long sleeve t-shirt I'd worn was soaked, so I just rode home in my work shirt. The ride home was a repeat of the ride in, except it was raining hard the whole way, the wind was now in my face, and because it had rained all day there was a lot of street flooding, up to the frame of the bike.

This morning I was better prepared. The radar showed the rain was still around, a check outside confirmed it. I dressed similarly to the previous day, except that I put a hat on under my helmet and added a vinyl raincoat under my hi-visibility windbreaker. It was about ten degrees cooler, but when I started out... no rain! So I was over-dressed and a little too warm. I hit some rain just as I got close to work, though, so the vinyl layer paid off.

This afternoon was a piece of cake. Not only had it warmed into the 70s, but the wind was at my back for a change.

Tomorrow I plan to ride, which will make this the first week in quite a while that I've commuted all five days in a work week.

So... why was I so hardcore this week? Well first of all, I had challenged myself to ride all five days for a change. My work schedule usually prevents this because of meetings I have away from my office on Wednesdays, but I didn't have any meetings this week (I was in a training class). So there was that.

When the rains rolled in it would have been easy to back out of riding, but there is something else that kicks in when conditions get bad. If I'm up to it, I like to push the envelope of conditions in which I'll ride. I won't say I would always ride in conditions like that, but it makes life interesting to challenge myself occasionally. There is the rush of meeting the challenge, when the ride is almost an adventure. I wouldn't want to do it all the time, but I like to push the limits once in a while.

And yeah, there's this: I love the look of disbelief when people in the office find out I've ridden to work through terrible weather. It doesn't bother me one bit if they think I'm just a little crazy.

Ultimately though, what it comes down to is I'm not hardcore. I'm a fool.


RANTWICK said...

Hey man, you're my kind of fool. I also thoroughly enjoy the "you didn't ride today, did you?" question. Arguing with mother nature is, well, fun.

Steve A said...

I also subcribe to the "if I ride in I ride home" approach.

ChipSeal said...

Good for you. Doohickie! While there is no shame in avoiding bad weather, there is a bit of daring-do and challenge to pressing on in spite of it.

Everyone who drove in, had significantly more delays than usual, while I would be surprised if your commute took much longer than usual. You got to experience the storm in ways few others ever do- up close and personal.

I thought you were hardcore before the rain came.

Steve A said...

I drove in via my bike commute route so I had LOTS of delays where I had to turn around instead of drowning!

I also love the "you didn't ride today" question. It's doubly nice since there's no wrong answer.

Jason Kearney said...

I'm new to your blog, but I really enjoy it.

Let me ask you this. Do you ever have people make snide remarks when you don't ride to work? That irks me for some reason. Normally, I'm pretty laid back. But when some fat, lazy guy stops by my office on a nasty day, and says, "why didn't your ride your bike to work today?" I want to say, "why don't your ride your bike, EVER?"

Still, I know what you mean when you say that you don't see yourself as hard core. I feel the same way. My commute is 19-23 miles each way, depending on which route I choose. To me, after all these years of cycling, a 20 mile ride is not a big deal. But the way some people react, you'd think I rode the Tour de France every day.

Doohickie said...

My own commute will be almost doubling at the end of the year, from about 7 to about 13 miles each way. I'm kind of looking forward to it.

Steve A said...

I'll change you. It'll make you a better cyclist. Trust me on that. But you already know it.

Re Jason's item - nobody's had the nerve to ask THAT so far!

Velouria said...

It's all relative, and the perception of hard core really just depends on the cultural norm or on the observer's own experience.

I was riding my vintage DL-1 with rod brakes, wearing a dress and high-heeled boots - and a man on a road bike yelled out "Wow that's hard core!" to me as he passed me. However, I look at him, and I think "No, that's hard core!"

My husband has been cycling to work almost every single day since he began doing it in April. Hard core? No, just more convenient that way. It is actually more of a pain to drive there form our house than to cycle. But his co-workers think he is "hard-core"; no amount of explaining the logic and ease of it will dissuade them.

So... do whatever you are comfortable with and enjoy knowing that others view you as a bad-a&&
: )

Steve A said...

Hmm. The first word of the previous comment SHOULD have been "It'll."

Dottie said...

Great approach to commuting. That keeps it fun and exciting, but not dreary or like a chore. And I say anyone who bike commutes in the States is at least a little hardcore ;)

HeidiTri's said...

I'd say riding in that rain is hardcore. I've only done that when I've had to. Like when I've biked to work on a sunny morning, then the rains rolled in for the afternoon. That's when I learned to check the forecast in the morning.

Trisha said...

I ride home if I ride to work, too, no matter what. But for a 3-mile ride I don't think that qualifies as hardcore. I always tell people that you can put up with anything for 15 minutes; it's not so bad. :)