Thursday, April 7, 2011

Racing in the rain

I believe the older I get the wiser I get.  However, I'm sure the younger generation may call "wiser" "softer" instead with regard to training/racing in the rain.  Personally, I don't ride in the rain if I don't have to..because I really don't like it..which is primarily why I don't.  Think about it, what is there to like about riding in the rain:
a. a steady stream of water pouring into your mouth from the rider in front of you
b. reduced visibility even w/ goggles/glasses treated with anti-fog and water repellant
c. cold/bone chilling rides once you're wet (especially if you stop for even a minute)
d. you can't slow down and brake as well
e. you'll lose traction when climbing steep hills
f. you have a chance of washing out/falling on a turn
g. painted road surfaces are like ice
h. metal bridge grates are slippier than ice
i. you increase your chance of flats
j. the rain gets in your bottom bracket, wheels, computers, etc.
k. drivers on the road can't see you as well
l. your nice clean bike gets all gunked up
m. it's slower riding because of the added weight and resistance
n. etc.

I could go on and on with the list..really, it's not that hard.  But, there is probably one advantage to training/riding in the rain that trumps all of the above..and that is: it's the best preparation there is for racing in the rain..when you MUST.  I recently queried my friend, and Cat 2 racer, Jason Wood on riding in the rain.  Jason rides in all-weather: sleet, rain, snow, heat, cold, etc.    Here's what he said re: racing in the rain, "Racing in the rain and mud is more about mindset than anything.  Remember, everyone has the same conditions so if you can enjoy it you will have a mental edge that could help you."  I have no reason to believe that statement isn't 100% correct/dead-on.

Here are a few great tips that Jason gave me that I'd like to pass on as well (my comments in parenthesis):

a.  I would definitely wear clear lenses.  They fog up quickly though, so I would recommend going to the store and getting some anti-fog stuff to put on the lenses beforehand.  (Oh, little advice from scuba diving..spit works pretty good as an anti-fog solution.  Just rinse it off after spitting.  If that grosses you out, Windex works ok too)

b.  If it is cold I would wear a rain jacket, if it is warm I would not.  Being wet in a race is only an issue if it is cold.  (Every rain jacket that I've ever purchased, including Goretex jackets, make me wetter with sweat than from the rain.  So, find one that breathes well..with underarm vents)

c.  Aero booties are great for wet races to keep the feet dry a little longer. If it is really warm I wouldnt wear them, but if it is 50F or less I would likely wear them.  (Don't wear the big/bulky winter booties..they'll feel like Frankenstein monster boots when wet)

d.  Lower your tire pressure a fraction because of the gravel roads but you dont want it too low because you could end up with a pinch flat.  Gravel roads and rain make it a tough decision about what to do about tire pressure.  Maybe just go about 10psi lower then you normally do.  As long as there has been a good rain to clear all of the oil off the road, cornering on wet roads is no different then cornering on dry roads. Just be careful if it is just lightly raining, because that is when the oil just sits on the road, then conditions can be dangerous. As long as it pours, or at least rains steadily for a while before the start- the corners will be fine.

e. Steep climbs on gravel will likely be easier seated if its wet, dry wont be an issue, unless its REALLY steep then you may have a problem standing.  But, one thing I've experienced on gravel, after rain, is some spots get really really soft.  It may feel like you are riding through sand for some sections which takes good power and balance to get through it.  Just be patient in it and dont over react in these situations.

f.  I usually keep my bottles open when I'm riding so i dont have to fuss with pulling out the spout when I want to drink.  But, if its muddy/rainy I'd make sure to keep them closed when they are on your bike so they dont collect dirt and road debris in them.  (Funny, out in Lancaster PA you better have a cap that goes over your water bottle spout or you'll be drinking cow dung for the first few sips when it's raining and you're racing on their country roads.  Been there done that.)

g.  If you're racing a course like Battenkill, this is the one race I'd carry an extra tube with me- and another CO2.  (Oh, I will)

h. Practice riding in the rain when it's warm.  Work on cornering.  You can go much faster than you think.  (Do I have to Jason? ha)

Anyway, Jason is right, the only way to get better at racing in the rain is to practice/train in the rain.  Shouldn't be hard to find a rainy day to ride/train in April..so get out there.

Power ON! Coach Rob

3 comments:

Unknown said...

Sounds like I am totally screwed tomorrow. Riding in my first ever race... only been road-riding since October. Forecast is showing mid-50s and light rain beginning at the start of the race and getting heavier throughout the morning. 52 miles. I literally am just hoping to finish w/o crashing or freezing. Damned no refund policy.

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