Rule #9: If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
Fair-weather riding is a luxury reserved for Sunday afternoons and wide boulevards. Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work.
As a year-round cycle commuter, out of all the Velominati's rules, Rule 9 is my mantra. And Rule 5. But then Rule 5 is for everyone right?
OK, so if you believe John Ruskin then 'sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.'
Yes to sunshine, yes to rain, wind.... oh yeah sure, there's nothing I love more than furious pedalling to move at approximately walking-pace.
And snow? So pretty when it falls from the sky, how funny when it tickles my nose. Then it turns to ice. Remember that bit where Bambi's on the ice? Yeah that's me. Every year. Except I'm clipped into my pedals. Every year.
Living in England, I don’t have the luxury of saying ‘I’ll wait until the weather’s better’. I might be waiting an hour, a week, months, who knows? Life’s too short.
This December we have had the pleasure of unseasonably high temperatures but also permanently high winds in the South of England. The wind is my long-time nemesis, but last weekend I defiantly looked at the forecasted gusts of just under 40mph and headed out for a ride anyway. That monthly Strava Gran Fondo badge wasn’t going to earn itself so I was committed to 100km.
Living in a city centre, we are somewhat sheltered from the elements, but out on the open heath land of the outskirts of the New Forest there's nowhere to hide. The first climb of the day, a subtle, steady grind, never worth more than three or four gear changes, became a monstrous peak worthy of inclusion in one of Simon Warren's Top 100s.
I wrestled my bike away from the ditches that the over-enthusiastic road camber seemed determined to tip me into and grinded the pedals to the summit - only to be rewarded with a slight descent which demanded just as much effort as the climb.
The shelter of the trees was my far-off oasis, beckoning with loving arms and whispering leaves. With streaming eyes I somehow made my way into the sweet relief of the forest. The ups and downs of the road didn't matter now that the trees would protect me.
Reaching my old favourite roads around Beaulieu felt like a victory against the elements. Wiping away the tears from my windswept face, I stopped to commemorate the day with a picture at St Leonards Grange, dismounting to sidestep a rather suspicious-looking and rather large horse (I'm braver than the elements but not brave enough to risk a kicking).
It was here that we saw our first fellow cyclists of the day, a club ride making it look easy. Damn them and their drafting. I call it cheating.
I don't follow, I lead and that's what I did.
I felt pretty smart as I led my long-suffering boyfriend around an old familiar loop with the wind helpfully propelling us from behind. How I chortled at the poor old chap struggling the other way, gripping the handlebars, head down.
'It's harder this way,' he shouted.
Clever me for coming the other way. Until the next loop where I took a wrong turn and we ended up coming back on the same road which was about as easy as cycling through porridge. Of course I tried to imply I'd taken us the hard way deliberately. Remember Rule 5?
After a stop at the beach to admire the angry waves under a moody sky, we headed for home, kindly aided by a wind that for once was in our favour. Reaching the shelter of the apartment block, however, I dismally noted the number on my Garmin. 99.14km. In the face of adversity, failure is not an option but having faced up to the gruelling wind, having come so far, my laps of the car park felt like victory laps (rather than 'oh hell I've miscalculated my 100km route' laps).
With my 100km Gran Fondo badge in the bag and my trusty Beast safely locked away (you name your bikes too, right?) it was time for hot chocolate and a leisurely scroll through Instagram, catching up with the rest of the world’s weekend adventures, ignoring those in places where it’s summer and feeling a sense of camaraderie with those badass ladies riding out through wind, snow and floods.
They say winter miles make summer smiles but there’s a unique sense of satisfaction that comes from conquering the elements.