Be Careful What You Wish For


I just looked at the weather forecast for this coming weekend and guess what it says: yep, rain both days. Is our epic winter a good thing or a bad thing? There’s an old Buddhist (or Taoist) story that you may have heard before. An old farmer, who had worked his crops for many years, one day had his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses and was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The next day military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

Other than last January 2016 being pretty wet, we’ve had it easy for the past five years with very mild and dry winters. Whether you consider it karma, global warming, or a sign of the Apocalypse, we are having a near-record year for moisture. That’s great for the drought, agriculture, our gardens, and wildlife. But it’s hell if you’re a cyclist. Well, maybe. Multiple rides in Valley Spokesmen and Grizzly Peak Cyclists have been cancelled this winter due to rain; in Different Spokes we don’t even bother to list rides. (Is that because the other clubs are full of optimists and we’re pessimists?)

But even for cyclists rain and cold are neither good nor bad. It certainly doesn’t prevent people from riding in Seattle or Portland. Rain is just a fact of life in the Pacific Northwest. It’s as much about mentality as it is about the weather. If you like riding your bike, then riding your bike when it’s raining can be made endurable if not pleasingly pleasant by the usual: appropriate raingear, lighting, and choosing suitable routes. For years I commuted to work even when it rained and I developed an amenable attitude. But it wasn’t what you probably think: it wasn’t being stoic, rather it was exactly the opposite, i.e. looking forward to the freedom of the wind and rain on my face and being outside doing one of my favorite activities. I’m not preaching becoming a hardass and ignoring the cold or damp; instead I’m advocating being prepared so that you minimize those niggling annoyances and can focus on the fun. I mean, what’s the point of complaining about what just is?

I’ve been riding a lot this winter. I’d like to fantasize it’s about being a hardass and “training”. But the truth is that I like riding whether it’s raining or not. There is a vernal waterfall in Moraga that you only see when it’s raining hard; I love riding past it and feeling the spray. Riding by the local creeks has been amazing this winter too. What were near-dry arroyos are now curtains of water flowing through reeds. And with some of the road blockages, on the bike I can slip by and enjoy it all by myself without being pestered by cars.

However there is one thing I don’t care for: having to clean my bike after a wet ride. It’s another chore, one that I used to attend to diligently but now instead often just throw the bike in the workshop and let drip-dry. If it ain’t broke, I don’t fix it anymore!