Badass by Association: Winter Riding

Badass by Association: Winter Riding

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To me, there is nothing cooler than riding in awful weather.  It automatically associates you with the Spring Classics, held in wet, wind, and rain, over the the worst roads you can imagine.  There is no image of cycling that I love more than of a tough Belgian Pro dressed in knickers, arm warmers, cycling cap perched beneath their helmet, grimace upon the face, and rain pouring from the skies.

The only good thing about winter and spring training is the fact that simply climbing on the machine that day means you are an automatic badass.  Hell, you don’t even have to ride hard, just being out means you’re awesome.  But I’ll be honest: I never ride harder than in the pouring rain, the drops of water dripping off my cycling cap tapping out my rhythm like a metronome, looking down at my knee warmers and shoe covers and imagining I’m cutting my teeth as a Pro on some godforsaken road somewhere in Belgium or Northern France.

Today was actually a beautiful day, but it was cold, so I dressed in my warmest gear and headed out on the road, Badass by Association.  It’s one of the Rules.

I even took some shots of myself, Dan O Style.  How did we satisfy our narcissistic self-portrait needs before cell phones?


// Folklore // The Rules // Tradition

  1. @Marko
    They’re pretty sweet, huh? I love being able to pop my sunglasses in the vents. Maybe I’m just a weirdo, but I get really claustrophobic during a hard climbing effort with glasses on; anytime I start going uphill hard, they go up on the helmet.

    Plus, it makes me look like one of the Schlecks.

    Yeah, that’s pretty much how awesome I look.

  2. How does Schleck get his glasses to stay in right side up? Trick modified vents? Special haircut that holds the arms of the glasses? Must be a pro thing.

    I always gotta stick mine in upside down to stay in. No wonder I never get mistaken for a Schleck….

  3. @Dan O
    Well, you’re rockin’ the Atmos and a pair of ‘Projects. I have no experience in that setup. I roll with mine Schleckstyle with my Radars and Sweep. Except I don’t match my shorts to my jersey to my helmet to my glasses.

    In fact, I had a perfectly good helmet (since donated to the Thomson Mooch Fund) but I replaced it for the sole reason that I need to declaustrophobicize by having a perch for the sunglasses in my helmet.

  4. You know what really freaks me out about Andy Schleck? How deep his voice is. He’s like the skinny guy in the a capella quartet that sings bass. From the way he looks, I’d expect him to be a damn soprano.

  5. I wonder if he has a big fat girlfriend like a lot of skinny guys do. I can’t get my sunglasses to stay in my helmet. But what really bugs me is when I get passed on a climb by a hipster on a fixie with his sunglasses stuck in his Che hat.

  6. @Marko
    Ho,ho,ho…a fat girl.

    Did we notice Frank was rockin’ the “steel is real” sweet Bianchi in his hardman training. That is a nice bike. Perfect for the Fons De Wolf fantasy camp.

  7. @John
    I did notice he was riding his Fons De Wolf fantasty bike. Which certainly is cool and I wish I had such a steed. To be honest though, the first thing I thought when I saw the pics was, damn, if the weather was that nice I’d be riding my carbon. So -2 for riding hardman bike in wannabe weather.

  8. @john
    It’s just good to have any old excuse to ride the steel. Such a nice ride. I need to lace me up a pair of three-cross box-rims for it, though, and get those ksyriums off there. Nice as those wheels are, they don’t quite fit the look.

  9. @Marko
    Well, the weather looked like it might get a bit dodgey so I hedged my bet and took the steel out. It’s hard to predict weather around here, though, and it stayed nice for most of the day.

    I’m sure I don’t have to explain the Fundamental Principle of Bicycle Ownership. You need a minimum of three road bikes:

    Rain Bike. This one’s for rainy weather and wet roads. Hopefully it’s aluminum or titanium. Hopefully for the you, it has fenders. Hopefully for the guy behind you, it has mudflaps.

    Inclement Weather Bike. This ones for mostly dry roads but for those days when you don’t know what the weather might do. It might rain, but hopefully it will stay dry.

    Nice Weather Bike. This one’s the one you try to keep clean and dry. Lets face it, a good race bike is made to handle all weather and love it. But it’s hell on your drive train, so those of us who don’t do this for a living and don’t get our gear for free need to look after our shit. If I can help it, my R3 only goes out on good, dry roads.

    Of course, this represents the minimum. You also definitely need a bike in every material, and ones for good road surface, bad road surface, good road surface in bad weather, inclement weather, good weather; bad road surface in good, inclement, bad weathers, combination of road surfaces. And all those in all frame types and materials. You could justify something like 117 bikes per person in your household without breaking a sweat.

  10. @all
    Now, these are the hard men of our sport:

  11. Cool. That means I get to buy 114 more bikes.

  12. I don’t have 117 bikes in the garage – but yeah, after awhile – realize you need a few. Then if you ride on the road and mountain bike – ouch. Then add in ‘cross….and possibly divorce court.

    Being Family Dude, my funds have shrunken quicker then George Costanza’s you know what, in the goofy Seinfeld episode. “Shrinkage!” The dual paycheck, no kids, “Hey, of course full XTR” days are officially over.

    My rain bike occasionally doubles as a ‘cross bike. My nice weather bike goes out even in light rain and officially gets filthy. I don’t mind – like to see it get used. Helps justify the cost.

  13. @Dan O
    Sheeit, even with double income, if both people ride, it still makes it rough – on account of it still just being one income per rider. One of the operating principles of our relationship is the Michelle is under no circumstance to have a less awesome bike than me.

    Thankfully, when it comes to the Zip and her Prophet, we disagree on what “less awesome” means.

    I also see what you’re saying about being happy to see your ride used. That’s actually one of the reasons I am almost excited when the weather is looking iffy; I get to jump on the steel. Seems like from May-Oct, I’m on the carbon 95% of the time. I’m happy to see the other bikes get used.

  14. The hard man picture looks good as wallpaper on my iPhone

  15. @Marko
    Dude, that hard man picture looks good anywhere.

  16. I’ve noticed that riding in the cold/snow/rain/sleet/whatever gives me a total advantage on the “I only ride when its above 40 crowd”. Since the weather has improved I’ve been dropping people left and right on every ride without any increase in effort…certainly helps being part Viking after all.

  17. @Divest

    I think Velominati idol Eddy Merckx noticed a similar phenomenon on the Above 40 Crowd. You’re in good company.

    On a related note (and I’ve never felt the need to point this out before), but even though The Rules don’t specifically point this out, it’s against them to wear a Viking helmet while riding, even when the weather’s bad. Keep that in mind.

  18. Frank…

    It has never crossed my mind to don a viking helmet while riding…so I am in the clear as far as the rules go. But having Nordic blood seems to make the cold more bearable.

    Enjoying the site, keep up the great work

  19. @Divest
    I was up at the Olympics; that Nordic blood is obviously good for dealing with the cold.

  20. Rule #5 violation in the pics posted above? Looks like you’re definitely on the wrong chainring, and you seem to be way to high up the cassette, unless the photography fails to pick up the headwind and those flats are actually 15% grades…

    Chapeau for the cold weather, but sleet is where it’s at.

  21. @Steampunk Yes, nice catch there. In the absence of a 10-15 mph headwind, a clear Rule #5 violation. Unless, its a recovery ride. But, Frank isn’t racing right now, so appealing to the “recovery ride” would be a double Rule #5 violation.

  22. @david
    Ahem. You mean 15-20 kph headwind, no?

  23. Because metric’s, like, way tougher. Because the French invented it.

  24. @all
    Fucking hell. This is terrible, this scrutiny. But, this is “Discovery Hill” and it is in fact somewhere in the 15-17% range. In fact, I took Marko up it last weekend and he spun his wheel when he stood up.

    To be fair, I had just cleared the steep section and failed to go Sur La Plaque immediately, but the grade is still in the 10-12% range.

    Bad weather and self-photography on steep slopes? Plenty of Rule #5, bitches.

  25. @Steampunk
    Um…yeah? What sounds tougher? 20mph or 32kph? Nuff said.

  26. @david
    Let the record also show that you don’t have to race to need a recovery ride. Indeed, training properly is for anyone hard enough to desire peaking.

    If you go out and flog yourself without any reason better than “riding hard because that’s what you do on a bike” might be the most pure embodiment of Rule #5.

  27. @frank A nonracer on a “recovery ride”? Heh. You might as well be nonacademic on a “sabbatical”, a nonfootball coach drafting players in a fake-ass fantasy league, or a noncelebrity hiding from paparazzi. Jesus Christ. Training for what? It’s like saying, “I think”. Well, what you do think? “Nothing, really.” Peaking for what? Nothing really. I’m just peaking in two months. I’m playing at it, don’t you see? What the fuck?

  28. Glad I read this post earlier today. First time on bike for 15 days this afternoon,following partial recovery from persistent cold. It was cold and raining. But getting back on the bike felt good. And even better when I reflected on how badass I was doing it in the rain. (Almost took my mind of the coughing and spluttering – and the fact I was riding at about 5kph.)

  29. @frank
    I do everything in kph…as per whatever # rule… But I always benchmark it by miles, really annoying, everything in the UK is in miles so 25.6km/h is an important figure (for a slow hilly ride). I think about 3 years ago my top (ave) speed, back in the day when miles was the order of the day. Don’t worry I’ve ridden about 10000km since then, and they were km not miles.

  30. @david Have to disagree on this one. Since I have not raced in 15 years and then only a couple of open races my club put on, so really 25 years I still have recovery rides. Ok so my training is for “life” not racing, it still counts. It counts because I love to go fast. I am like an old dog, give me something to chase and I go! The kids I ride with are amused that I will occasionally chase down a truck for a quick draft. Or that with 10 k left of a 177 k ride at an average speed of 29 kph I took off in the big ring.

    To me there is no better reason to ride than to ride fast no matter what the millage, sure I am slower than in the day but so what I am still faster than some and it is still fun.

    To get there I have to train, put the miles in and work on speed. This means that I am doing nothing differently than you, just not so much or so fast. Ok every one reading this is groaning – the old fart is just deluding himself. Maybe I am but here on Long Island there are the guys I come across every week in their 60’s who do the “Early bird ride” out east, 85 km average speed 35+ kph and I am sure they too train to do this – with recovery rides?

    I hope to see you out there in 20 years…?

  31. @Rob

  32. @david, @Rob

    You might as well be nonacademic on a “sabbatical”

    That is classic. Nice work.

    But back to the point: a recovery ride serves a very important purpose: rest after a hard day to allow your muscles to heal and become stronger so you avoid specter of overtraining. You don’t need a race to go hard the day before and need a recovery ride; all you need the day before is Rule #5.

    Rob hits the nail on the head. Training for the sake of training – to be healthy, fit, strong – for nothing more than the love of doing it is what it’s all about. Sure, racing gives you an excuse to go work hard – an easy motivation – and the results of training are palpable, but hopefully you love cycling for cycling’s sake, not just because you love to compete. Because there are other ways to compete, and I would be afraid the bike might fade out of your life at some point – and that would be sad.

    If you ask me, to stick to a regimen, work hard, see your results improve, push yourself harder on your big days just because it’s what you love to do is the purest form of being a Velominatus there is.

  33. The Velominati’s training for sake of training doctrine. Heh. There are endless surprises at the site.

  34. @Rob
    Thanks mon, that’s it. You don’t have to race to enjoy professional/amateur racing. As many pros have said; when they didn’t want to get up and put in the training miles it was time to retire. Training is great.

    I’ve always been a life long perpetual trainer because I like to ride well and was too slow to race. You have to train to do anything well. The Pain Bank, you have to make your deposits and you better enjoy it or you’re in the wrong sport.

    This site is enjoyed by cyclists; people who like to ride, not just racers. I’m proud to be amongst ‘em.

    As Rob said, “I hope to see you out there in 20 years…?”

  35. @david

    There are endless surprises at the site.

    You have much to learn, Padawan.

  36. @john

  37. Winter? WINTER? You call that winter, ya bloody pussy? Come ‘ere and get some REAL season under your wheels!

  38. @Glenruben
    Sweet girls’ bike.

  39. @Glenruben
    Judging that I can still see your tire and that your face is not covered, that’s not winter. See Rule #5.

  40. Love this. I do most of my road cycling that I don’t consider to be commuting during our Winter. Nice rule.

  41. Apocalyptic weather played a key part in my greatest-ever cycling moment: in October 2008, I rode the Braveheart Ride, a well-known cyclosportive in aid of the Braveheart Fund which is a charity to support promising young Scottish cyclists. Road conditions are always pretty terrible in the part of Ayrshire where the ride is held, but on that particular day there was also a month’s worth of rain and 100kph winds. Organizers of an off-road marathon just south of the Border that same day actually ended up having to call in the military (!) to rescue a number of participants ( But we went out that morning regardless.

    One thing about the Braveheart Ride is that it attracts some of the biggest names in cycling: that year, it had Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd, Scott Sunderland, Sean Yates and others in attendance. One of the regulars is none other than legendary hard man of the Classics, Sean Kelly.

    Conditions on the ride were absolutely appalling, with driving, horizontal rain and 100kph winds. Cavendish, probably sensibly, packed it and returned to event HQ after about 10km. I saw the pro group go by pretty early on in the event and pressed on by myself.

    On the return part of the loop, with about 15km to go, a huge gust of wind literally blew me and my bike off the road and into a ditch. It was at that point that a group of riders pulled up alongside and stopped to check that I was okay. Looking up from the ditch, none other than Sean Kelly stretched out his hand to help me climb out of the ditch! After a quick check to make sure that me and my bike were okay, he and his group rode off back to the HQ and the finish line. Later on, back at the hotel where guests of the Braveheart Fund were staying, he asked me if I was okay after the crash and I offered to buy him and his friends a round of drinks for having stopped to help me.

    How many people can say that Sean Kelly helped them out of a ditch after a crash? Whatever experiences I may have on the bike in future, that simply can’t be topped. Ever.

  42. Is it my 3rd party browser or is that slide show messed up?

  43. @Steve

    Steve, that story is more awesome than a potato in the nackers and a bee sting on the leg. Just awesome.

    One day, I hole to have A Story like yours too.

    Note to self – more Rule #9 riding with Pros.

  44. I haven’t ridden through discovery park in years. But I instantly recognized it by the photos alone. That short hill leading down to the point is steep.

  45. We’re having a crazy winter here in WI. Last year my first ride was 2nd week of Feb. because of shiity weather and conditions. I got 5 rides in this January alone. How crazy? Sunday was sunny, 25 degrees, stiff wind and snow that had blown over parts of the main roads and all over minor roads. Merckx knows what the wind chill was. Still ad to get out as it was either that or the gym. The snow was kinda bad in places so I had to stop a few times to clear brakes etc. Luckily the winter bike is 7 speed so gears still worked despite being packed with snow. The freewheel is taking a bit of a beating though. Did about 30kms and was well satisfied. I’m also figuring my bike handling skills are getting a bit better too.

    Tuesday it was in the upper 40s. Total change of gear from full-on winter to mid weight stuff – even wore a cotton cap. To feel the slight warmth in the air was a real pleasure. Still rode the winter bike as the roads were covered in snow melt, sand and general crap.

    I have the horrible feeling that we’re going to pay for this nice weather with vicious temps and a boat load of snow. Moral of the tale? Enjoy it while you can and when you have the opportunity.

  46. Sur la plaque! I can’t be the only one to have noticed this, but I also am too lazy to read previous comments.

  47. Plus One Frank, especially after yesterdays ride here, sleet and gales and a 300m climb, I had a weird pleasant feeling when I clocked a few passing drivers just shaking thier heads, but being honest I had to accept they do not know what Rule #9 is and just thought I was an idiot.

  48. In amidst all the Schleck love in this thread, is it just me or is Schleck’s bike fit looking less fucked now than it was? At the TOC it at least looks like he’s on a bike the right size.
    If I’ve got the wrong schleck I couldn’t care less they’re probably both as fucking stupid as each other.

  49. @minion

    In amidst all the Schleck love in this thread, is it just me or is Schleck’s bike fit looking less fucked now than it was? At the TOC it at least looks like he’s on a bike the right size.
    If I’ve got the wrong schleck I couldn’t care less they’re probably both as fucking stupid as each other.

    Aah…did you suspect it was bike fit that was causing his pitiful showing…I thought it was actually his mind.  He has always been a bit timid (moaning about descents in 2011 TdF etc) but since his accident he has looked as strong as me….well…you get the point.  I thought between his lack of love of suffering, his lack of oooomph and aggression when not operating as the Brothers Grimpeur, and his accident, his poor time trialling and his girly descending (no disrespect to girls, apparently Twiglet has one at home) he was pretty much a lost soul.

    It is sort of, in a wierd way, good to see him growing a pair…small though they may be, and hopefully finding some love for the sport once more.  I hope he continues his recovery and gets back in to contention, even if he continues to moan and bitch it is still more interesting with him in there, rather than DNFing on every race.  He has talent, he just needs to get his mind in the right place, and his body will follow….pretty much like me then I guess!

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