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Posted by on Jun 29, 2011 in Bicycle Culture, General | 15 comments

THIS ISN’T AMSTERDAM


Friday, June 24, 2011: I leave work a little early to get home and let my dogs out. Itʼs hotter than
heck, with high humidity and a forecast of scattered thunderstorms. I jump on my bike at
5:10 PM to head to Critical Mass, which puts me on the road in peak Friday afternoon
traffic with a bunch of tired, cranky, distracted motorists. Itʼs a four mile ride to the
Orlando Critical Mass starting place. Thereʼre gusty winds, and some mandatory
sections of crappy bike lane to get through, then, mercifully, the end of what passes for
“bicycling infrastructure” here. Itʼs me and the road, which I am happy to share with
several hundred motorists. Parts of my ride I would have considered crazy-dangerous a
year ago, and which were terrifying the first time, then exhilarating the second time, now
just feel ordinary. (Thank you, Cycling Savvy!) Well, ordinary with a bit of  “Wow, this is
fun!”

The weather is looking pretty “iffy” when I arrive. When itʼs less than perfect, there is
usually a much smaller, more hardcore group of riders, which is indeed the case here.
This particular mass is a memorial ride for a 20 year old cyclist.

http://407fixedgear.com/2011/06/mass-in-memoriam-friday-june-24-500pm.html

I would estimate that there are about 100 riders, of which maybe half a dozen are female. It appears that they are nearly all in their 20ʼs. Except for me. Also, I am utterly lacking in tattoos, but I do have a few age spots, if that counts.

There is light rain soon after we start, then moderate rain after a couple of miles. By the
time we reach the I-4 and Ivanhoe interchange, it is raining in earnest. For some
reason, the ride pulls off into the small space under the overpass, which appears to be
more for a cigarette break than anything else, since we are already wet. After a few
minutes, the ride resumes, with a deafening crack of thunder just as we pull out.

We ride down Orange Avenue (downtown Orlandoʼs de facto “Main Street”) in the storm. I
have previously ridden a vintage Raleigh with fenders for a Critical Mass in the rain, and
found that it did absolutely no good, since no one else had fenders. There is no way to
avoid the rooster tails of dirty water from the bikes in front of me. Sheesh, itʼs not like
anyone would put fenders on a fixie or a track bike or anything else for that matter. Iʼm
riding a Kona Dew Deluxe, so throwing up my fair share of road spray as well.

 

Kona Dew Deluxe

Look, Ma, no fenders!

We have all seen those videos on YouTube of the Dutch riding their bicycles in the rain,
which are held up as a shining example for us. This is just like that, only we arenʼt riding
heavy 3 speed clunkers with fenders, and we arenʼt holding umbrellas over our heads,
and we arenʼt riding really slowly, and we arenʼt tediously making our way through some
complicated, segregated intersection with multiple signal lights for different users, and we arenʼt in a
gentle shower, but a serious storm. Weʼre not too worried about being “chic” either,
although I am wearing a pair of shorts with “Harlot” embroidered in red on the rear.
http://www.harlotwear.com/houlihanshort.htm

We encounter an outraged motorist when we turn on Robinson. He pitches a complete
tantrum at his momentary inconvenience by laying on the horn and yelling, continuing his performance
even as he eventually passes us. Whatever.

As the Mass turns north onto Summerlin to head to Willʼs Pub, I decide to continue on
Robinson and go home to feed my dogs. The storm, which has been going on the whole
time, kicks it up a notch as I head east. Planes are not able to land at OIA. I am hit by
sheets of rain, the streets are flooding, and thank goodness there isnʼt much traffic on
the road. It is dark as night, except when a flash of lightning illuminates the sky. The
rain stings my face and burns my eyes. I am riding in the left lane, as the right lane is
submerged. Torrents of water are rushing into the storm drains, which are overwhelmed.
There are signal lights out. On Primrose, just south of Anderson, the water is at least
6 inches deep, and my feet are alternately submerged with every downstroke of the
pedals. Strangely, the water is warm as bath water, heated by the hot pavement. I am
nearly thrown off my bike by gusts of wind and torrential rain. I feel like whooping and
hollering, although I restrain myself, but I am laughing as I pull into my driveway. I feel
like Iʼm ten years old. This ainʼt Amsterdam, but itʼll do

15 Comments

  1. awesome write-up, Diana. it’s just a little rain. this is part of what it means to be Floridian. i had a nice shower on my ride home as well, although i think i missed the worst of it.

  2. Nice post. I had a similar experience once while riding through a small town in CT during a downpour. No storm drains that I can remember, and no chance for standing water as it rushed down the hills in white water streams. After an initial period of being cold and miserable, I started playing in the rain splashing through puddles and roadside storm runoff feeling very much like a kid again. I wouldn’t seek out such a stormy ride again, but the memory of the fun and the sense of play has stayed with me ever since.

  3. You are hard core!

  4. Wow, you are a machine! I would have wussed out at some point. :)

  5. Nicely done, thank you very much for the bicycling smile, even though I’m just sitting here reading about your trip.

  6. Diana, great article! Sounds like you were having a blast!

  7. Maintenance geek that I am, I’d be estatic with the thought of doing a teardown and relube of the bike when I got home.
    2009 Seattle to Portland ride, my pardner and I did 102 miles in the rain- started out with a lightning storm- progressed to driving hard rain. If all you’ve ever rode in is blue sky and tailwinds- you need to go out and get really miserable at least once- it’s epic.

    • I threw my wet clothes in the washing machine, put on something dry, and within minutes wiped down the bike, and cleaned and relubed the chain. I try to keep my bikes clean, ready to ride and well-maintained, so I was surprised recently to have a problem. It turned out to be a chunk of dog fur (I have samoyeds) caught in the chain!

      A partner who is willing to ride 102 mles in the driving rain with you is a treasure. Of course, someone willing to teardown and relube bikes is pretty good, too, I imagine.

  8. wow. really great article. love your perspective.

  9. Great report, Diana!! I bet there were several different feelings you went thru during the entire ride with the different riding conditions.

    • Yes, Stix, I went through a whole range of emotions, ranging from “this is fun” to “this is REALLY, REALLY FUN!”

  10. Perfect recap Diana! After you turned down Robinson home, we took a few back roads across 50 and rode through the alley behind Mills. The puddles, or should I say rivers of water, were definitely deep as each stroke of the pedal had my feet submerged. I was surprised how well my hybrid did in up to a foot of water, never wavering. When we stopped at Wills Pub, some riders continued in the rain to Lock Haven and home. I stayed at Wills with a few other riders having some great conversation. It was funny to see some stripped down to their underwear. It must have been an interesting site for the other Wills patrons not knowing what we went through. After about 9 PM, the rains stopped and the weather for the ride home was perfect.

    • If I had known I could have been riding through flooded alleyways and hanging out and drinking with a bunch of young guys in their underwear, the dogs could have waited! But since I am old enough to be your grandmother, it seemed best for me to ride on and not “dampen” your evening.

  11. Please explain “rain”; So Cal is a desert. :-)