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Ride report: Distance Training #4 (2/19/2011)

Go, riders!

When our brave group of 23 riders unanimously decided to end today's ride at the 24-mile bailout point, it looks like we made the right decision. The radar image from just after the ride shows that nonstop rain was on the menu for the rest of the day -- far different from the forecasts from earlier in the day.

But we were all reminded of something important today: Yes, we can ride in the rain. Some of us might even like it, perhaps in moderation. And in this era where extreme weather of all types seems to be more likely, knowing how to ride safely in suboptimal conditions is a very useful skill. Rain during the ride in June is historically rare, but it's not unheard-of ... and given the weather extremes we've already had so far this year, it's best to be prepared for almost anything.

If you haven't done so already, clean and lubricate your bicycle. The mud, dirt, and general road debris can wreak havoc on your components. Here's a good list of 10 tips on "How to Ride in the Rain Without Ruining Your Bike."

In that list, tip #1 -- use fenders -- is one that I just started following this season, and I'm glad I did. The fender I'm using cost only about $13 (with my ALC participant discount, of course), it can be installed in about 15 seconds, it's easily removable, and it performs the vitally important function of keeping my butt somewhat dry and clean.

We didn't do any seriously technical riding on today's route. But if you do steep climbs or descents in the rain, be sure to take them very carefully ... and allow plenty of extra time for braking, just as you would in a car. And as a couple of our riders found out today, car drivers aren't always the most considerate or observant in the rain. Anticipate that drivers will do stupid things, and don't put yourself in a position where you have no escape route.

The other big factor today was the biting, finger-numbing cold, as temperatures never climbed out of the lower 40s, and there was a moderate wind out of the south for much of the morning. It's a little easier to deal with cold than it is with rain, because you can simply put on enough clothing of the proper type to deal with the cold. But if you're new to cycling (or just to cycling in the cold), the initial expense can be a little high.

My wardrobe today was a pair of lined, long-legged, heavyweight cycling shorts (bought about four years ago and used rarely); two pairs of socks; booties over my cycling shoes; a heavier-weight long-sleeve jersey; a sleeveless vest; my medium-weight (and very bright green) cycling jacket; a fleece neck warmer; water-repellent heavyweight cycling gloves; and of course my helmet cover. Averaged over many years, the cost of good cycling gear becomes less scary.

However, planning for weather during the ride in June can be more difficult than for a day like today when we knew it was going to start cold and stay that way. Morning temperatures in the 40s in June are quite common, but the difference is that the days can warm up very quickly ... to the 60s, 70s, 80s, or even 90s depending on where we are. When there's a 50-degree difference from morning to afternoon, you need to dress in layers so that you can add and remove (and perhaps even add back) clothing as the day progresses. Leg and arm warmers are essential for most riders, as is a lightweight jacket that can be rolled up and carried with you. (Remember that there's no clothing transport along the route in June -- you have to carry every item that you start the day with.)

The other factor in dealing with inclement weather is knowing when it's time for you to stop. Everyone made a good call today by stopping at the first bailout point. (If you were secretly wanting to go on, my apologies. But from the radar, it looks like things would have been quite miserable indeed.) Remember that your safety is the prime consideration, and if conditions are so bad that you're not feeling safe or healthy, then it's always the right decision to stop.

What's next? Normally after an aborted ride, I'd try to rerun it the next weekend. But many of us will be in Death Valley next Saturday to attempt the Death Valley Century (or, for some of us, the double century). There is, however, a challenging Cat-3 ride out of San Francisco on the official ALC calendar for next Saturday already. They'll be doing 74 miles to Point Reyes Station, including White's Hill and all the other interesting climbs of Marin County. Many of the same friendly faces from the Mountain View rides will be there; find out more and RSVP here.

And don't forget tomorrow's Cat-2 ride out of Sunnyvale. It's 35 miles up to Woodside and back, and the weather is looking much better than today. Faster riders are always welcome, and you'll recognize almost all of the ride leaders. Details and RSVP here.

Our next ride is in two weeks on March 5 when we'll be going on a 70-mile ride to Coyote Valley, south of San Jose. This is a change from my original schedule because I learned last weekend that Niles Canyon is going to be closed that day for rockslide removal. (This is why ride leaders check routes in advance!) The Coyote Valley ride is a perennial favorite from past seasons, and we get to experience some of the open road south of San Jose around the Calero Reservoir. Details and RSVP are here. I'm tentatively planning to use Calaveras as part of our 80-mile ride later in March, but I don't have all the details quite worked out yet; stay tuned.

Special thanks to SAG drivers Dennis and Taryl for their outstanding service in difficult conditions today. And thanks to everyone for being brave -- and wise -- and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.