Thunderstorm Racing
0 comment Sunday, July 27, 2014 |
I'm developing a new ad hoc sport that just might become the rage this summer. Thunderstorm racing. With disturbing frequency, DC has been hit by late day Thunderstorms, usually starting sometime between 4:30 and 8:00. Pretty much every day, I leave work somewhere in that window.
Lately, the trend has been to look up from my computer at my window somewhere in this timeframe. I look at the brick wall across the alley (no corner office for me yet), and notice that it looks very much like it did in the winter months. With some simple calculus, I determine that this appearance is due to the darkening clouds overhead. I cannot see the sky directly, so I get up and walk down the hall to a window overlooking L street. From here, my suspicion is confirmed, it usually looks like hell is about to break loose outside. I then briskly walk around the office, warning my fellow bike commuters that it looks like hell, and they'd better leave if they want to make it home dry. My duty done, I head back to pack up and begin my own race.
At this point, you have two choices, run for it and try to make the 20 minute ride home before the skies open up, or sit tight for an hour or three more at work until there is a clear spell. The latter no longer appeals to me, so I've been opting to race the past few weeks. Today I actually made it before the clouds broke loose, and made it to a dinner engagement on time and mostly dry.
Yesterday was a different story, however. I made it to the bottom of the hill at 18th and Florida before the lightning and thunder were matched with commensurate down pour. This only makes the race more intense, since I always falsely believe that I can somehow minimize my exposure to the elements by pedaling as fast as possible. I was doing just that, and had finally made it to within a half mile of home, and the relative safety of a bike lane when I had a close encounter with another cyclist.
He too was racing through the storm, on a vintage Raleigh no less. I had to slam on my brakes to avoid the car pulling into the bike lane in preparation for a right turn. The Raleigh rider also slammed on his brakes, but the half inch of water we were riding through had other ideas about allowing his old brakes to work properly. Unaware of the drama behind me, I was a bit surprised when I was hit from behind, not injury hard, but "what the hell" hard.
The guy was very apologetic, and made sure to blame the rain and his brakes. I rolled my rear wheel through a revolution, and it was still true (Scott Taylor at Salvagetti's is a great wheel builder, btw). I told the guy, "no harm, no foul", and rode off, seeking no further delays while the rain was still going strong.
I'm actually somewhat appreciative of the guy who hit me. The occasion compelled me to do a quick check-up on my bike, and I discovered a crack on the left crank arm where the spindle puts a pressure point on the downstroke. I'm sure it should be replaced before I blow it up on a climb, or other high torque enterprise, though I'll just ride gingerly for now.
So long story short, racing a brooding thunderstorm is fun, exciting, and can lead to unanticipated results, like being thorough at bike maintenance. If clouds are thickening, and you are about to leave work, I highly recommend it.

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