“Start as you mean to go on..,” they say.
“First impressions last..,” the received wisdom points out.
“Is it just me, or are you becoming a bit of a soft fair-weather cyclist..?” the voices in my head taunt me.
It was with this subtle-as-a-sledgehammer common sense ringing in my ears, and the fear of a mince pie and red wine related pudgy double-chin developing, that I found myself out for a ride in near biblically wet New Year’s Day weather conditions. I wasn’t alone, I might add, as two of my regular cycling companions were compelled by their own cocktail of complex reasons to decide that this was a good day for a swift 30 miles; though it has to be said that we didn’t see a single other cyclist out on the roads.
So, are the voices right? Am I becoming soft?
It’s fair to say that I have developed a habit of avoiding the rain where possible, though here in the north of England that’s not always practical. The vagaries of the weather are many and complex, and I’ve written all about the various pitfalls here, here and here (proof, if it were needed, that we British love a good moan about the weather).
My approach to cycling related weather forecasting can be summarised in five easy steps:
1. Use all the mobile technology at your disposal to cleverly work out the weather forecast using a selection of smartphone apps. Some simple maths should allow you triangulate the precise conditions for your locality.
2. Dress accordingly for your ride.
3. Look outside for the first time and notice it’s raining (I’m referring to winter conditions in my little corner of Lancashire here – other geographical conditions are available).
4. Recalibrate your kit (put a waterproof on and warm your gloves on the radiator).
5. Delete smartphone apps. Grit your teeth. Ride.
Having said all this, on this New Year’s Day here in Lancashire, technology was not required. The sounds of the wind whistling through the trees, rain clattering against the windows and seeping under the back door, and conditions of near darkness at 9am told their own tale.
“This is not cycling weather”, every fibre of my being told me.
“Get out for a ride and show them you mean business this year”, the voices in my head replied.
Exactly who ‘them’ are is unclear, but I resolved to show them nonetheless. Extra credit to my friend here who arrived at the agreed meeting point wearing a selection of rather nice Christmas-present cycling kit and, frankly unbelievably, no waterproof jacket.
I could already feel the water seeping into a variety of cracks and crevices and yet here he was taunting the weather gods with a light winter long-sleeved top. I looked at the sky, scanning the heavens for the source of his optimism.
“Is there enough blue-sky to make a pair of trousers for a Dutchman?” the cry would have gone up from a variety of old-timers I know – a slightly bizarre saying relating to whether or not there’s a chance of imminent fine weather. I didn’t need to risk baffling my companions by asking.
No, there was not. At the risk of over-complicating this odd aphorism, we couldn’t even have fashioned a small hanky for him.
We quickly agreed a route, swapping black humoured remarks about our impending demise, in keeping with the black skies, and the black mark against the name of whichever of us it was that suggested a New Year’s Day ride to blow the cobwebs. The cobwebs were already well and truly blown and we hadn’t even covered a mile.
Three minutes down the road my mate accepted the evidence of his eyes, ears, and by now very wet torso, and ferreted out his waterproof. I mistakenly mentioned the Dutchman and his trousers; as I’d suspected, no-one understood.
But we rode our thirty miles.
This New Year’s Day we really showed them; we started as we meant to go on; we made a great first impression on 2015; and importantly, we quashed any rumours of softness and fair-weather behaviour for another year.
Can I go back to riding in dry weather again now?