The weather forecast had a 100% chance of rain, but that didn’t stop me.
Basically, I have two rules for cycling in the rain; the first rule is more of a Pirate Law, a suggestion rather than an absolute. Rule number one is, “Don’t ride in a lightning storm.” That’s a pretty straightforward rule but sometimes my gung-ho, can-do attitude gets the better of me and I go ahead and ride under the crackle of electricity and the boom of thunder anyway. Life is all about risk versus reward and I can’t tell you how many hundreds of hours I’ve spent outdoors in thunder storms. Hey, I’m bold, not bright!
The second rule is, “Don’t cycle in the rain if the sun’s not up,” a rule to which I am far more likely to adhere than the Lightning Rule. Cycling in the dark and the rain is just too risky, and I know what a devil of a time I have seeing at night in the rain whether I’m driving my car or riding my bicycle. We can only ask so much of others and I think relying on people being able to see me under that much adversity is to accept a risk that far outweighs my reward of self-satisfaction for having endured hardship and utilized a Calorie burner rather than a fossil fuel hog for self-propulsion.
Around 8:45 a.m. on October 26, 2018 I’m setting out for work beneath a sky free of snap, crackle and pop and a sun that had risen over an hour earlier. Having both covered rule number one and having made arrangements with my wife to pick me up from work and tote me home if the wet stuff persisted past the end of my work-shift at 7:00 o’clock I set off in high spirits, knowing that I was ready to face the elements.
I’m ready to face the elements meant that I was ready for my nine plus mile jaunt through the constant but light rain in the cool but bearable forty-five degree Fahrenheit temperatures. I was ready, and so was my ride. While I am dressed garishly in a bright yellow raincoat and loud and proud chartreuse/neon-yellow gloves and shoe covers my bicycle has three front and three rear lights that can flash with great intensity in intermittent, semi-sporadic, nearly random non-patterns. Plus, I have another bright white flashing light on the front of my helmet and a red flasher for the back. If I had any more lumens I might be mistaken for a patrol car.
Wait, did I say might? I mean I was. Again.
A dozen year ago bold, bright flashing bike lights had just hit the scene and one evening as I cycled home on a dark, cold well after the sunset Iowa winter evening a car approached from the north as I cycled in that direction. As the car and I neared one another he stopped.
Apparently, the driver saw flashing blue/white lights and, uncertain of what it was that was coming toward him, decided that pulling onto the shoulder and waiting for me to pass was the most prudent thing he could do. I waved as I passed and tried not to let my inner smirk show. I mean, come on! I’m just a dude on a bike heading home in the night.
Fast forward back to 2018 and it’s Yogi Berra’s, déjà vu all over again time as I slowly wind my way up a hill to a T-intersection and a big, bold, red octagon facing my way. A car approaches from my right, the driver sees my flashing front helmet and single 800 lumen bike light and, though I have a stop sign and he does not, freezes like, well, a deer in the headlights.
Dumbstruck, the septa or octogenarian stares at me as I reach the stop sign, signal my intent and turn. I’m glad he saw me, and I carry on convinced that I have taken adequate measures to ensure being seen by motorists as I meander through the residential streets of Cary, North Carolina. Of course, confidence isn’t always well placed as I had reinforced once again less than fifteen minutes later.
With less than a quarter mile to go I am winding through a neighborhood where youngsters are on their way to nearby Weatherstone Elementary. This time I have no stop sign as a black BMW SUV approaches his stop sign on Belrose Drive. It is obvious that the driver is distracted as he begins to roll through his stop sign and I hit my brakes hard as I simultaneously shine my flashing helmet light directly into the BMW’s windshield. Startled, the man hits his brake and stops, his vehicle halfway into the lane and I shake my head in disdain as I cycle by.
He passes me with a conciliatory, penitent wave a short time later and I shun him with my self-righteous silence. ‘Be careful!’ I silently shout at him as I pedal the last minute to work.
My day is uneventful and since the rain keeps customers away in droves I check with my coworkers and then slip away early, leaving at 5:30 rather than my scheduled 7:15 and cycle home in the continuing rain, lights blazing and eyes and mind on high alert.
Be careful out there, some folks are busy doing everything but driving as they sit behind their wheels.