My plan is, I don’t really want to get the bike too wet (if at all) and I certainly don’t want it on the road while there is salt. It may sound a little bit anal about the wet bit as a bike is going to get dirty at some point, and when does I will no doubt relax a bit and say the only shiny bikes in the world are those that are not used. I love my totally clean gunge free chain though… I thought that not going out in the rain is no real problem because who goes on long trips in the rain.
That is why getting a new bike in the middle of winter is not the best idea if you have such tendencies to like shiny things. But what is the point of the bike if I just leave it for months until the summer and so I made myself get out of bed at a silly early hour this morning with a 40 mile ride in mind. I checked the weather all week and it was going to be misty and cloudy all day and then afterwards the coldest week on record with the whole of the UK suffering ice and snow and, if you read the Daily Mail, the end of the world. Saturday it would have to be then, ice = salt and that is not good.
It was windy when I looked out of the window, the weather report on the computer said it wouldn’t be – so I believed that more than I believed my own eyes when I looked out of the window. It was not going to rain the computer said, but stepping outside there was a bit of drizzle. Again, I believed the computer over the feeling of wetness I was starting to feel. I pondered if it was a good idea and thought again, I don’t want the bike to get wet and dirty but at the same time I want to use it. Get over it, after some trips it will no longer be shiny and I can relax, about time to make a start on that journey.
The wind was blowing the wrong way, coming from the East instead of the West. This is normally a bad sign during the week as I bike to work in the West which means biking home again means I have the wind behind me which is what you want after work, get home fast with minimal hassle. Today though this was quite a nice thing as the route I had in mind was a loop with one side being along the seafront while the other side had a bit of a hill. With normal wind conditions I would have to go out along the seafront and then back inlind going up the hill. With the wind the other way round I could go clockwise, the chosen way.
A nice but hard trip over to Brighton, the wind was present but not too much of a problem just more of a pain. I stopped along the way to adjust the saddle height. Being the first real trip on the bike up until now I had not found my preferred positions for things like saddles. It niggled me that my existing bike used each day for work felt like a comfortable old boot, I just sit on it and pedal away and if I pedal long enough I would get to my destination. The short rides so far on the Royal had felt more like I was perched on top of it instead, holding on, and not part of the bike. If I pedaled long enough I would get to the destination but at a cost. Was it the drop bars or the saddle that looked like it would do damage to your backside if you were not careful?
That was part of this trip really, to get to know the bike, to mold myself and the bike (although I expected the molding would be more on my part). To see if I wanted to replace the saddle with something more friendly looking!
Getting through Brighton takes a while in a car, strangely it takes just as long on a bike I found out. I had the choice to make, do I go the hillier way through Brighton to cut a corner off or do I keep to the flat of the seafront and turn left at the Palace Pier? The flatness of the seafront won (even with the wind, but it wasn’t really coming off the sea so I thought I would gain little) but I wished I had chosen the hillier route. Not only would I had been able to use the controversial new cycle path (costing millions and gaining little for both cycles and cars) but I would had missed all the traffic and traffic lights. It was all about starting and stopping, getting slowed down by cars and generally taking what felt all day to get out the other side.
I hit Falmer and the hill all the way down to Lewes, you can do some speed here although you have to be careful as the cycle path is just a footpath that bikes share and so with that the quality is suspect in places and it has the tendency to dip up and down. With that plus the rain, which had now changed from drizzle to some serious rain, I got nowhere near a good speed. Sure, I got to the top gear (a ridiculously tiny rear cog) but got not even near the expected 30mph which previous rides had shown is easy to achieve in the right conditions. This was clearly not the right conditions, rain, wind and the road surface all against me. Even still, it was a nice and still fast ride after climbing uphill all the way from the seafront to Falmer.
The rain was really serious now and as I took the road down to Newheaven it was clear to see from the newly formed lakes in the fields and the road itself that the ground could not cope with this fresh rain on top of a pretty wet December. It made the ride a bit more interesting but wetter at the same time. I was enjoying it though, I looked down and the bike and chain no longer had its brand new shininess which made me feel a lot better. I had also had a good share of hills both upwards and downwards and the it felt I was now fully in control of the bike. I back didn’t hurt, my legs didn’t hurt and amazingly my backside didn’t even.
Newheaven had a serious uphill section on the turn along the seafront and back towards Brighton. Bottom gear was used to great affect but I was slightly worried that for this ride all I was carrying was a pump (puncture resistant tyres but why tempt things), a small toolkit and a banana. If I was going further, overnight even, my luggage would double the weight of the bike, do people get off and push quite a bit?
The wind on the way back should be behind me and it didn’t fail. Not strong wind but enough to make cycling just a case of turning the pedals rather than a fight against the elements at the same time (ignore the rain, I had lost the feeling in my feet and hands quite a while ago). No fantastic speed but that was the same for the cars too and so I was keeping up with traffic until I got to the cycle path and some massive hills, downwards. Again, I couldn’t take the best advantage due to the rain and the bad surface of the shared footpath. Maybe staying on the road would had been better but I did notice that the cars were not moving that fast either.
I had a break outside a cafe and undercover on the undercliff walk. To bypass some pretty nasty hills into Brighton I thought this would be ideal, all flat along the bottom of the cliffs all the way into Brighton. It warned that you should not use the path in bad weather and I can imagine waves coming over the top quite when the weather is not the best. I ignored the fact that the weather was not the best, the choice between very large hills (going upwards) and being swept out to sea it was a no-brainer to take the chance of being swept out to sea.
This is where it is clear someone was having a laugh. I didn’t want to get the bike wet, I certainly didn’t want to get salt on it. The waves were indeed coming over onto the path, but I dodged them. I was doing good speed on the flat, even over the pebbles thrown over the sea wall. Good job too as water has to go somewhere once it has swept over the seawall and it is clear it happens a lot by all the drain holes in the seawall. But water can only move so fast and so most of it stays on the path. A small puddle or two not such a worry, but as I zoomed through the water it was massive lakes of salty sea water soaking me completely from the knees down. Not just wet, but soaking, really soaking, maybe I would be less wet (and cold) it I had stood in the sea! Mind you, it was exciting, completely flat and nothing to stop you apart from the depth of the water.
Cycling back through Brighton was non eventful, and I had made expected time even with some long’ish breaks. The bike had finally been broken in and felt much more comfortable. My backside did not hurt one little bit, and that in itself was the biggest achievement.
The bike is no longer shiny and when I got home I poured over a bucket full of non-salty water over and left it standing in the rain for the rest of the day. Suddenly I wanted it to rain on it, strange how things work out!
Note – photos are blurred not down to my shaking but mist and general dampness on the lens. A feeling I was well aware of myself too.