Okay, today wasn't my first commute in the rain. I've ridden in some pretty heavy rain to classes, back when I lived on my university campus. I even had one or two lightly drizzling rides back when I commuted 11 miles two days a week to a part-time job a year or so ago. But today was the first time I really had to put my rainy day plans to the test. I'm taking summer classes at my university, while living four miles off-campus. To add to the fun, I had to make the commute twice today, once in the early morning so that I could help produce a radio show from 6-8, then back to get my school supplies and back out to school and back. For the first ride, I took my nice touring bike, since it was kind of dark and I wanted some lights. For the second ride, I took my "new" commuter bike, which is really an old Schwinn Le Tour "III-speed." It now wears flat bars and a three-speed Sturmey wheel, hence the name.
My clothing choices seemed to be right on the money. I stayed warm but not too warm. I got very wet, especially during the second commute when it was raining harder each way, but I stayed warm and comfy. The touring bike was of course fast and comfy, with low gears that easily flattened the reasonably large hill that I have to climb if I take the shortcut through the campus of a local private college. The new commuter was lots of fun. The gear ratios seem just about perfect for the riding I have to do through the rolling hills in the area where I live. They're a bit high for that hill, though, so I took the long way around, adding a few minutes but avoiding the steepest part of the hill. Unfortunately, this made me get to my class only just in time, so I had to go to the classroom before changing out of my wet and incredibly dorky-looking riding clothes. The new bike rides well, but I didn't tighten the axle nuts enough before riding, resulting in the wheel slipping and rubbing against the frame (and in the hub adjustment going way off, grrr) before I stopped by the LBS on the way home to fix it. The saddle is also WAY too hard for the more upright position I ride in on this bike, but maybe I'll get used to it. Also, plain rubber block pedals rule for commuting short distances.
I learned some interesting things today:
1. Slick tires kick up a LOT more spray on pavement than knobbies. Makes sense when you think about it.
2. A knobby front tire at low pressure soaks up bumps and turns the short section on a dirt and gravel road from a jumpy, bumpy ride into a smooth-as-silk experience.
3. There's something deeply reassuring about the steady "tick-tick-tick-tick-tick" of a Sturmey-Archer hub coming through the sound of rubber on wet asphalt and rain in the trees along the MUP. It's a nice combination of the natural, wild and fearsome with the mechanical steadfastness of a good bike and hub. It made for a very pleasant ride. I've heard people complain about the ticking noises that gear hubs make. Me, I really like that feature. I also like the look and feel of a straight chainline. I'm even more convinced that I want to build a commuter with a Nexus 8 hub now.
4. 8 miles of riding in the rain will make you wet. Another 8 miles of riding in the rain will make you REALLY wet! Still, I'm better adjusted than I was a few months ago. Wet is good!
Anyone else have some good rainy rides lately?