Monday, May 23, 2011

Training - Rain

I'm a bit tired right now. With rain forecast for the weekend and a kind of "must do" race (I'm inclined to do Somerville) potentially taking place in the rain, I decided that I should train outside.

One issue with the rain is traction, or lack thereof. Last year in the Nutmeg State Games I could barely keep the bike on the course. I attribute part of this to the tires - they seemed to harden quickly, the resiliency burned away by UV light.

When I first started racing someone pointed out that if you squeeze a new tire you get some waxy stuff coming out of the tread. That's some kind of wax mixed into the rubber to help prevent UV light deterioration.

The tires I had didn't have such treatment and felt like wood within months. Nutmeg happened after that so the tires felt pretty slick by then.

The other day I bought some new tires, tires that felt pretty grippy to my traction-detecting fingertips. I wanted to test them today in the rain, see how they work.

(Eventually I'll do a review on them, but for now they'll remain anonymous.)

One minor obstacle to the ride - my rear tire was low. I changed out the tube before I remembered that the tube I just removed simply needs the presta valve tip tightened after inflation. The valve doesn't seal right without that but otherwise holds air fine. I discovered this in California but haven't ridden the wheel since, and over the course of a few months it totally slipped my mind. I remembered only after I quickly changed out the tube (which, due to the tall rim profile, requires an 80 mm valve stem).

Tires properly inflated, I set off on a damp, drizzly, gross day. Whenever it's like this outside I think of Johann Lammerts in the Tour du Pont - in the intro it's pouring, he's sitting on a bus, chewing on one of those plastic swords that they stick in drink fruit (or was it a toothpick?), looks outside, and turns to the camera.

"It's weather just like in Holland."

And so it was.

It was misty out, some drizzle now and then, with wet roads, gray sky, and generally miserable out.

I rolled out with my heavyweight loadout, pump under the top tube, a full bottle (mainly for weight) in a cage. I carried my spare tube (with 80 mm valve), tire levers, multi tool, tire levers, and extra chain link in one pocket. I carried my wallet and phone in a ziplock bag, and ate the dinner (a PowerBar) that started out in my last pocket.

For gear, in this mid 50s F ride, I had a long sleeve base layer, a wind vest on top of that, and a long sleeve jersey. Bib knickers for the legs, simple shoe covers (not booties) over Sidis on my feet. Some mountain bike gloves for my hands (full finger), a cap under my helmet (to deflect water), and I was set.

The first and steepest hill on many of my rides is the ride out to the street. The complex has a good minute of climbing to get out and I've sustained as much as 300-400 watts getting up the hill.

The tires felt good, no slipperiness, no little skids when I pressed down on the pedals. I wiggled the bike's tail a bit, standing, to see if it'd skitter sideways.

No go.

The tires felt pretty good. I did my hour loop, the one I call the "Quarry Road Loop", no real problems. I pushed a bit initially, holding over 160 bpm for a while, but after 15-20 minutes I backed off into the 155-158 range.

I tried to go around corners a bit fast, exaggerated rocking the bike when standing, and generally explored limits in a controlled way.

The tires seemed fine.

On the way back I did a short sprint loop. The heavy wheels took some work to get going but I got into the meat of the 53x13 before I got distracted by the shifting (or lack thereof). The chain kept rolling off the 12 and back onto the 13. It felt good to blow out some carbon (a car term) but the chilly temps, efforts, and the setting albeit invisible sun all pushed me to get home.

As I usually do after a rainy ride I quickly degreased the drivetrain, washed the black brake pad mud off the rims, and did a little dry/detail/lube job once the bike looked clean. I used 1.5 liters of water I had sitting in bottles in the garage plus the full waterbottle on the bike - I didn't touch the latter once during the ride.

It takes only a few minutes but it makes a huge difference when I get back on the bike.

Tomorrow it's supposed to rain again. I'm kind of bummed because I want to race at the Rent.

But the skies insist on opening up, I'll be out there again, testing the waters.


Dunte said...

Posts like these are my favorite--your words seem reserved, like you're whispering a story to an old friend over coffee (on a rainy day, no doubt).

I kept anticipating that suddenly those tires would give.

And hey, keep playing in it and you might find you love riding the rain.

Aki said...

What an eloquent comment. Actually the Missus even commented to me about it. Ironically I quietly typed this particular post as she fell asleep next to me.

The rain, yes, it's not terrible. It just takes more time/energy - more attention to the road, more prep before the ride, more clean up afterward, more potential for long term problems (like my feet were wet - on a 5 hour ride that'd have created potential blisters etc).

The ride itself, not bad at all.