Monday, July 25, 2005

I'm Going to Get So Wet

At 3:57PM, at work, I wrote:

I am going to get so wet riding home! Take a look at the Minneapolis radar as of 4:00PM. We're more or less at MSP. (as always, you can see a bigger version by clicking on the image).
Minneapolis Radar July 25th


I wasn't worried. I had my Carradice rain poncho and the rain cover for my Bell Metro helmet. By 5:40, when it came time for me to go, it was raining hard but there was lightning locally. I stalled for about 10 minutes and then decided to go anyway. I put the raincover over my pannier, put on the poncho and helmet, and waded out into the parking lot.

It was raining like a bastard. I put my luggage on the Marin, took the plastic Target bag off my Brooks seat, saddled up, and rode off.

Geez, was it raining! It turns out we set a new record for rainfall for this date, and the worst of it, more than an inch, fell between 6:00PM and 7:00PM, right when I was riding. It was discouragingly dark out and I had only my red blinky light on back. I rode down Lexington and my glasses were quickly fogged over and spattered with rain. I coasted a bit, and discovered that the rushing water along the curb was deep enough that it would splash my foot on the bottom pedal.

I rode up towards County Cycles. The water was coming down the street so hard that a car's floormat went floating downhill on the stream. It's hard to describe how hard this rain was coming down; it's as hard as I've ever seen, a tropical downpour, and certainly as hard as I've ever ridden in. The water was pouring down the street and my front tire was kicking up big splashes which inundated each foot in turn as the crank went around.

Down towards County C I rode the brakes to clear the rims in case I needed to stop. I splashed my way across the intersection as the light went yellow, probably providing a startling and hilarious tableau to the awaiting motorists as I cruised through with my poncho, splashing up water like I was a motorboat, a view they could probably barely see through the belting rain and swishing windshield wipers.

It's hard to say if it rained harder as I went south, but the water was halfway across the lanes so passing cars splashed me. I could feel the resistance of 2-3 inches of water as I rode through it. By the Roseville High School the wind was suddenly cool and the fog on my glasses cleared, though I couldn't see very well because the helmet rain cover and poncho hood conspired to pour a constant stream of water into my left eye. I waddled over to the left turn lane at Larpenteur and headed east and home, my lame attempt at signalling hindered by my thumb being hooked into my rain poncho. I rode home and parked behind the house and sloshed in, leaving puddles all over the back porch, entryway and kitchen so that Geneva came out with paper towels and mopped up, complaining, though the floor's cleaner now.

How did the gear perform? The poncho soaked through, the Jandd front bag collected half a cup of water and got its contents wet, and the helmet rain cover worked great (and made a funny noise in the heaviest rain, so that I thought maybe there was hail). The helmet, as is true with most helmets, could use a longer visor. My rear pannier, with a rain cover, kept all its contents dry. One day I will write about this pannier although all it will do is annoy you because it's a great unit but isn't made any longer.

The poncho might work better in the yellow plastic version. I bought the waxed cotton version out of misplaced nostalgia, having bought some waxed cotton rain pants in the UK for a wet motorcycling trip twenty years ago, which worked great and which I still use for occasional bouts of downhill skiing, but plain old yellow plastic wouldn't soak through like this cotton did.

I need to get another Ortlieb bag mount so I can use the Ortlieb handlebar bag on the Marin. I think it would have been more waterproof on this day.

You know the funny thing about this? It was kind of fun. I was just laughing at some parts as I rode along, at the absurdity of it, of being unabashedly out in the rain when people in cars were running through the parking lots getting soaked to cower in their cars, at my sopping shoes, my silly poncho, at the weird joy of just getting wet and enjoying it. I've done it before, camping, where once it rained so hard that the label washed off my bottle of Wild Turkey so it looked, with its corked top, like a bottle of moonshine. It's been years, though, and there was a real lighthearted joy to the ride.

As I update this, at 11:15PM, it's gorgeous out, cool, with dropping dewpoints, gentle breezes and our windows open. Tomorrow sounds like it will be spectacular. I might even ride the Atlantis to work.


Anonymous said...

Looks like I am too. I made the strange decision just this morning to take my rain coat *out* of my bag because I haven't used it in a long time. Bad timing.

Matt said...

It's 5:40 and I'm about to go and there's lightning about, so I'm going to wait a few minutes. I have a pretty comical oiled cotton rain poncho I'll be using for the first time this year.

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