A tale of two weather fronts

5 01 2020

It was the best of rides. It was the worst of rides.

For 27 years, my Sunday mornings in Fall and Winter had been occupied by road hockey. 

So when our little pick-up game met its demise in October after being on life support most of the previous year, I was at loose ends.

What better way to tie them up, though, than to get on the bike.

Road hockey’s loss has been my cycling gain.

Getting on the bike in the same time window once dedicated to chasing around an evil orange plastic ball helped ease the pain of losing something that had been a part of my life for so long. It’s also helped keep me in better riding shape, which will hopefully pay dividends when riding season begins in earnest next spring.

After a slow start because of a nasty flu that waylaid me for two days but had lingering repercussions for more than two weeks, my newfound freedom to ride has coincided with a six-week stretch of dry Sundays.

The seventh Sunday, though, was anything but.

Still, the streak must go on was my thought as a cold rain started to pelt down during breakfast.

Perhaps over-optimistically, I’d put the word out earlier in the week to convene a rare winter’s group ride. But with the weather turning increasingly nasty as departure time approached, that would be unlikely.

There was one other —Flying Oakes — still willing to have a go.

When a ride in questionable weather is nigh, the hourly forecast on weathernetwork.com is your closest friend. It foretold the steady rain of early morning would diminish to showers by 11 a.m.

Around here, that means the rain will actually settle in for the whole day, or we’ll get sunshine.

For the first 40 minutes of our ride, we were definitely getting the former.

200105-Dickens1

Are we having fun yet?

Mr. Oakes was throwing daggers.

“We could just turn back,” he said.

It’s never fun to start a ride in the rain. Especially in winter. But once you’re wet, you’re wet. The worst part is over. The rest of the ride is just a matter of survival.

By the time we traversed the Port Mann Bridge, the skies to the southwest were brightening. Ten minutes later, the rain stopped. Twenty minutes after that, the wind picked up and the skies actually started to clear. We could see our shadows.

But then the wind kept picking up. 

When we crossed the Golden Ears Bridge, the halfway turnabout of our adventure, the gathering gale blew us down the other side.

Off the bridge, the wind crossed our westward path. It almost blew us into the ditch.

After a pitstop for a beer we climbed back aboard our bikes in the midst of a new squall, and steered them straight into the icy wind for the final leg of our journey.

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Beer stop. It’s definitely a porter day.

It’s at this point I began a raging internal debate: which is worse, riding in the rain, or riding in the wind?

While our Strava records will show an 18 km stretch of mostly flat road and dike, it felt like we were chugging our way up a 7% ascent. Even with beer in our bellies, our spirits flagged. 

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The final insult: waiting for a long train to pass. But at least the sun is out.

My fingers, encased in soggy winter gloves, froze. I was riding with a broken spoke in my rear wheel. What icy hell was this? 

200105-Dickens4

This was New Year’s Day. It was sunny and 12 degrees.


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