Submitted by Jim Kraychy.
I can’t stand riding a dirty bike. Dirt means you don’t care about your bike. At the least, parts wear out faster, and replacements are expensive.
Almost as much as riding a dirty bike, I hate cleaning bikes because of the time it takes away from riding. Quite the conundrum it seems – I much prefer riding than cleaning.
In order to avoid downtime and mental anguish, I will go out of my way to avoid puddles on a sunny day, or if possible, slow way down to avoid splashing ( about 7 miles an hour or less is good ). Even will bunny hop bad looking spots. All in effort to keep the bike clean as possible.
There are several stages of mental anguish in my head when conditions become cruddy enough to start getting the bike dirty. First, rain or snow starts falling ( no big deal, nothing is sticking to the pavement yet ). Then the pavement starts to get noticeably damp ( still no big deal, not enough for anything to be thrown up on the bike ). Then the road is wet ( again, no problem, isn’t enough to get the bike dirty, still hoping to stave off the inevitable entropy ). Next, there is enough water that the tires start throwing up drops ( well, OK, maybe can get away with just wiping things down ). Last come the full blown rooster tails ( that means the whole bike will need to be cleaned now ).
On your person, you first start feeling noticeably wet through your clothes on your backside ( rear end, derriere, etc. ) from spray off the rear tire. If you are drafting in a pack, then you are getting a rooster tail right in the face ( have to clean the sunglasses now also - sometimes riding off center helps a little, but you loose the best draft and waste energy ).
Soon the feet start feeling wet: spray from the front tire is deflected off the down tube right on your feet ( have to clean the shoes now also ). Then the shoes start filling up with water ( love that soggy, squishy feeling [ sarcasm ] - worst case have to clean and dry the shoes inside and out, usually by taking them in the shower, then setting them out to dry for a few hours or overnight – but usually do that about twice a year anyway ).
Yes, obviously fenders on the bike would help some, but your clothes are still going to get wet, and the bike will still need maintenance in this type of conditions, even though they help tremendously with controlling rooster tails.
Laundry is no problem, have to do it anyway after every ride. Same with showering. Bike cleaning, however, is added downtime. Mental angst builds as the water and crud start flying, and the bike starts getting really dirty ( going to have to spend major time cleaning it now - pull the chain and cassette, drain the frame and rims, flush the cable housings, empty the seat pack to clean and dry the contents, etc. etc.). Arghh !.
However, after a time, if wet conditions continue, an epiphany of sorts is reached: your clothes can’t get any wetter, you can’t get any dirtier ( well, maybe ). And best of all, the bike can’t get any more trashed, maintenance time stops increasing exponentially, and reaches a plateau. Then the ride becomes really fun again !
Three out of many rides come to mind as memorable examples of wet, dirty experiences: the 2001 Triple Bypass ( Bergen Park, Colorado to Avon, in July ), the 2008 Boulder Roubaix Road Race ( in August ), and the 2014 RMCC New Years Day Century.
On the Triple Bypass, it rained hard the last 30 miles, all the way from the top of Vail Pass down to Avon. “Just” rain ( relatively clean actually ), but lots of it. Got soaked in about a minute, and stayed that way. Had a blast working hard going downhill to keep warm, trading off pulls in a pack of riders ( no way to keep warm just sitting in drafting off the pack ). Really enjoyed the sunshine in the park at the finish.
Boulder Roubaix is run on a mix of paved and mostly ( normally wonderful ) dirt roads in the triangle in between Boulder, Lyons, and Longmont. That Saturday morning it was raining ( by mid day the rain had stopped and skies had cleared – afternoon categories had dry conditions ). Back then, the short course was used, maybe 8 miles per lap ( ? ), and 5 or more laps ( depending on the category ).
On the dirt section, a small puddle at a right hand sweeping corner grew larger on each successive lap until it reached ¾ of the way across the road ( enough that going through the puddle would shorten the distance travelled by feet – significant in a race ). On the paved section, I remember intentionally riding in the rooster tail of the rider in front of me to try and clean off some of the dirt from my face and water bottles so I could get a drink without imbibing more crud than I had to.
After the race, there was a gritty kind of fine sand everywhere: in my eyes, in my ears, in my mouth, up my nose, etc. Even had a pile of it built up on top of my head, kept in place by my helmet. Also had some in my shorts, and felt like some got in where the sun don’t shine. I actually stopped at a car wash on the way home to start cleaning the bike. Used a whole can of WD-40 to flush all the grit out of the shifter mechanisms, brake levers, and cable housings.
At least that crud was relatively homogenous dirt, almost “clean” in comparison to the 2014 New Years Day Century.
January 1st, 2014 was the twelfth anniversary of the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club New Years Day Century. This ride, started by Val Phelps, was first held in 2003. It was cancelled once ( 2007 ) and had to be postponed about a week or so ( becoming the “New Years Century” ) three times ( 2008, 2011, and 2013 ) due to adverse weather and / or unsafe road conditions. ( side note: Val has since moved to Texas and doesn’t have to deal very much with winter anymore ! ).
This year, it was difficult to decide beforehand what to do with the ride, go ahead as planned or postpone in hopes of better conditions. Because of the conflicting weather forecasts on New Years Eve, it was impossible to tell which would be the better day: Wednesday ( New Years Day ), or the following Saturday ( January 5th ). One forecast called for a greater chance of snow Wednesday, the other Saturday. Not fair to people to cancel / postpone the ride on very short notice ( i.e. the night before ) either. Decided to just wing it, see what things looked like Wednesday morning at the ride start.
At least 35 like minded riders showed up by the 8:00 start time, all ready to go. Snow started falling as we got ready to ride. Just before we started off it was beginning to accumulate in the parking lot. Roads looked to be just damp, not wet enough for rooster tails. No one seemed hesitant, so off we went.
Conditions didn’t deteriorate any further until up by the airport West of Wadsworth. Saw a snow plow headed the opposite direction up on top of The Wall above Superior. Snow was coming down harder up there. Road was very wet. Got soaked coming down The Wall, continuing on Marshall and Cherryvale into Boulder. I had fleeting thoughts of turning around ( using hypothermia as an excuse ), but skies looked lighter to the North towards Lyons, so onward.
Roads started to dry out going through Boulder and North towards Lyons, and were completely dry heading up and back down Rabbit Mountain. My clothes actually dried out and I started warming up ( except for my feet – no way shoes full of water will dry completely on such a “short“ ride ), thanks to the climb and small patches of sunshine.
Things became sloppy again, even worse than before, after we turned South on CR19, when a snow squall coming in from the North East overtook us from behind..
Out there in farm country, in the oil patch, there can be much more on the pavement than just water. A mixture of the obvious water, with snow, slush, sand, gravel, Magnesium Chloride, mud, oil ( you can see the rainbow it forms in standing water ), clay, goose crap, fertilizer ( excrement – smelled like spring time out there in Weld County ), etc. makes for a perfect combination that really sticks to everything. Tastes great too ( extreme sarcasm here ! ).
We were finally able to outrun the storm using a rotating pace line ( felt like it took at least ten miles of riding in that slop ). Things dried off for us again on Riverdale, and there was a little more sunshine back at the Park-and-Ride to help warm up ( and bake on all the crud ). By far the worst conditions in the history of the New Years ride.
At the truck, all the bike clothes went directly into a big plastic garbage bag: shoes, helmet, all except the sunglasses ( don’t want to scratch the lenses ). Everything must have weighed at least 5 pounds more than at the start. I’d bet about a pound of dirt stuck to the bike.
Back at home, first a hot shower and then start the laundry. Helped to pre-rinse all the clothes so the washer doesn’t get loaded up with silt. Then the bike went into the shower ( don’t have access to a garden hose at home in the winter ), first the front then rear wheel, finally the frame. Only way to really get all that nasty stuff off is with a scrub brush and lots of running warm water.
Probably spent close to four and a half hours cleaning the bike this time, re-lubing everything and fixing my flat. But, for the chance to ride with a great group of people, screw the weather and crap on the road, it was more than worth the cleaning time. In a group of riders, everyone is in the same boat. So keep the negative thoughts out of mind ( there are lots worse things in life than a little wind / wet / crud / whatever ). No drama; turn off the brain, and just ride harder. Afterwards you will be laughing about all the dirt and wet.
Besides, riding outdoors sure beats indoors on the trainer any day. And any ride with a good group is a joy. A big thank you to all who came out for a grand soirée. Glad we didn’t wait until Saturday to ride the century, when the real snow storm arrived !