I woke up one morning, intending to bring the newly-rebuilt Madone 5.2 Pro to work with me so I could give it a solid test ride afterwards. Maybe play around with handlebar positioning or just enjoy a creak-free experience for a change.
Then, as the grogginess finally faded, I heard the rain. I meandered over to the window and confirmed what I already knew- the Madone would be staying home that day. It's just not as suited to the abuses of a wet ride as the titanium bike is. There are very good reasons why I have a rain bike, and my view from the window ticked off just about every one of them.
Anchorage is getting to the part of the year where traditionally a rain bike just makes sense. The beautiful and progressively warmer weather of May and June sucker you in with promises of great days to come, and then July and August hit you square in the face with cooler temperatures, overcast skies, and light rain that seems to linger for days. I should qualify that, because the last couple years haven't followed that trend. However, I've found it better to be pessimistic about the weather so you're more likely to be pleasantly surprised.
For years I abused my "nice" bike (relative term) because, as a fool with only one bike, the only other alternative was not to ride. It took a while, but eventually I figured out that having an extra bike increased the chances that I would have a clean and well-maintained bike on race day. Eventually the one spare became two, the two became three, and eventually I had a whole stable of dirty bikes in poor repair that I didn't have time to maintain. The "N+1" theory of bike acquisition does have its downside.
Initially my rain bike was just my less-nice bike. Its main qualification for the role was that it wasn't as sparkly in my eyes as the old one. In most cases, that meant I was just flogging a race-oriented bike around wet roads, caking the drivetrain and tubing with road grime. Cleaning it is much harder, as the carbon layup creates tight clearances. Fenders don't fit quite as well on its race-oriented geometry. Successive rainy rides meant the bikes just got dirtier, with only cursory hose-downs being the only attempt as keeping the layers of crud from accumulating. After a cold, wet ride, the last thing I wanted to do immediately afterwards was a thorough cleaning. Mainly I was looking for a warm shower, comfort food, and a fistful of ibuprofen. It was a losing battle, and the wear and tear meant I tore down and rebuilt bikes far more than most people do. I certainly like wrenching on bikes, but finding the time for it has become challenging in recent years.
There were more than a few tries at finding a suitable rain bike. I tried 'cross bikes, but their geometry and other characteristics didn't really do it for me on the road. The Cannondale was just a race bike, but more "aluminumy". The Storck was a nightmare to build and was just another race bike. I'd ride a bike for a season of rainy abuse, deem it unsatisfactory, rebuild it, and then sell it. Then I'd go out and make the same mistakes again.
It wasn't until I got the ti bike that I actually found something that worked well in a variety of roles. However, for all of its many advantages, the ti bike just doesn't respond like a carbon fiber race bike. It smoothly transitions instead of bluntly snaps. Although it is much more responsive than most ti bikes I've ridden and is certainly not a limp noodle designed for grey-haired MAMILs, the geometry and overall design just don't lend themselves to being "snappy". This is actually an asset when traction is less than optimal, so 99% of the time I don't mind. It performs a valuable role in the stable, one that isn't always easy to fill.
The weather and my desires for a performance-oriented ride didn't line up. Sure, I could have ridden the Madone on the wet roads, but the thought of soiling the perfect cables and bar tape, not to mention chewing up the carbon rims just didn't make sense. Likewise, fouling the clean chain and cassette with grime is kinda stupid when I have a perfectly sound alternative. Nope, I like the Madone far too much to abuse it when I don't have to.
It looked like a day for titanium. A day for longer efforts, not the quick, intense bursts I'd rather be practicing. A day for deep, contemplative thoughts as the rain drips off the brim of your cycling cap. When you ride up here, you just have to adapt to the weather and take what you can get. Sitting around waiting for a nice day will mean you don't get to ride much. My fenders and rain gear are always close at hand, because chances are I'll need them.
It could be worse. I have the option to ride or not ride, and that's something I've learned not to take for granted. A miserable ride is still better than no ride at all, and the memory of any temporary discomfort will fade in time to something more noble.
At least, that's how it works for me.
But, of course, when I walked out of my windowless office after work the sun poked through, the roads dried out, and it was a pleasant day for a ride. A near-perfect day for the Madone. Oh well, at least I didn't let the "chance" of rain stop me from riding. The way it's been going lately, there's always a "chance". The fenders and raingear sat in the car while I rode.
Riding is better than not.


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