La Vie Velominatus: The Rain Bike

In our privileged stables of bikes, it ranks towards the bottom of the heap as Bike #2 or lower, but the Rain Bike is no slouch. This is, after all, the bike we rely on in bad weather, trusting it to carry us safely through what typically amounts to the most dangerous conditions we ride in. Provided you ride year-round, you likely ride this machine more often than your Number One – assuming you live in an environment that isn’t a tropical island (I’m looking at you @gianni) or classified as a desert. It follows, then, that this is a machine to be curated with great care and several factors should be kept in mind when selecting the machine for this wet and dirty work.

The first consideration is the material. I hope I’m not spoiling anyone’s fantasy by pointing out that rain isn’t actually made of the sweat falling from Merckx’s guns as he pedals high up on Mount Velomis; it is mostly water, mixed with some acids and other crap. Rain water can cause certain kinds of materials to become compromised in one way or another. Steel, for example, is particularly prone to this through rusting. Calfee’s bamboo frames might be susceptible to becoming soggy – I’m not sure. For a bike which is to be ridden primarily in wet conditions, choose a durable, non-corrosive material like titanium, aluminum or carbon.

The second consideration is the components. Here’s the other news flash about riding in the rain: the roads are less pristine than they are in the dry. Road grit gets in your drivetrain and on on your rims, acting like coarse sandpaper to accelerate wear. Since you’ll be replacing some parts more often than on a bike ridden in the dry, this is a bike for which to get economical about gear selection; you aren’t going to want to replace your full titanium Super-Record cassette and chain after it wears out in 1/3 the time. The shifters, brakes, crankset, and derailleurs don’t have to be greatly affected provided you maintain the bike in the style of a velominatus, but the wheels, bottom bracket, derailleur pulleys, chain, cassette and freehub will certainly feel the strain. Anything that moves, has a bearing, or lets water in is a candidate for accelerated wear.

Third, this has to be a bike you’re going to love riding, not some beater that gets abused and you tolerate throwing your leg over. As much as riding in Rule #9 conditions is badass and an invigorating experience, it does get a bit tiresome when you ride in the rain every day from October to March (or May, for you Pacific-Northwesterners). If your position isn’t right and if the bike isn’t a pleasure to ride, it’s not going to make getting cold and wet any more enjoyable.

Lastly, this bike will be taking abuse, so remember that your safety is entrusted to this machine in conditions when visibility is low, stopping distances increased, and road surfaces slick. Maintain this bike more diligently than any other machine; check the brake pads and rims for dangerous wear, check the metal bits for rust and cracks, and keep a close eye on the chain and cables. Resist the temptation to spray it down with the garden hose as the pressure can lodge the grit deeper into bearings and other nooks and crannies on the bike. After each ride, clean the braking surfaces carefully, wipe the chain down (or, better yet, use a Cyclone with soapy water to get the grit out from in between the links) and always use a wax-based lubricant to keep the dirt from sticking to it more than with traditional oil-based lubes.

But most of all, remember that the best kind of ride is the one you’ll be able to do again; stay safe and ride carefully. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/LVV Rain Bike/”/]

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290 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: The Rain Bike”

  1. @mcsqueak Not yet.  I talked to the internal wholesaler.  Good guy.  They want the frame, so I need to send it to them.  I’ll send it Monday.  They’ll let me know if it’s warranty, crash replacement, or nothing.  If nothing, I’ll send the frame to Calfee for repair, probably.  If crash replacement or warranty, I’ll have to pony up some dollars as there aren’t any 595’s left.  It’ll probably be a 695.  I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  Of course, I’d love to get a 695 with all the integrated bits and build up a whole new honey, but I need a winning lottery ticket first.

  2. I need a ruling on the fi’zi:k rear lights that clip in to the saddle for use in poor visibility – I need one for the Coast to Coast apparently because “some entrants may not be able to finish in daylight” (you can start at 07.00 and it doesn’t get dark until after 21.00 and it’s 233kms).

    It’s now on the saddle and its practically invisible and weighs nothing – am I breaking any rules if I just leave it there or should I take it off the moment the event is complete.

    After my humbling hat experience I feel that I should, you know, just ask so that I avoid further humiliation.

  3. @the Engine

    I’m by no means the authority on the subject but I have one of those cool wee lights and I got it after seeing @frank’s.  In my opinion, if you don’t want to end up slamming into far heavier objects that we share the roads with, you do what it takes to help them see you, and it’s easy to take off for daylight rides.

  4. Given that visibility is generally lower when it rains, a good rain bike should feature lights.

  5. @the Engine@snoov

    Rain bike or #1, you do what need to keep safe especially if the visibility is limited. And i’d rather a flashing red light than a YJA. Not sure that rear lights stop you from slamming into heavier objects though.

    I’ve got a Hope District rear light. Not quite so subtle as the fizik offering but you will be seen. Think flashing red lights on aircraft.

  6. @Chris

    Yeah, well I guess I meant to add that it could stop things hitting you, but I couldn’t be bothered reworking my comment.  You got me!

  7. @the Engine

    Looks like this – what’s not to like?

    I dare say; It’s not big enough.

    For rain and night riding, I subscribe to the notion of “be seen at all costs”.

    @Chris has it right.  You want landing lights to make sure you are visible, ideally ones that are easily removed for finer weather.

     

  8. @the Engine

    @brett

    @the Engine

    Those lights are cool I reckon. Hoping to get one myself soon… the clip idea is awesome, and even this is under consideration…

    A chap could live for a week out of one of those…

    As I read the rules for the first time a few months back, I discovered that my ownership of one of these represented my first rule violation (that I was aware of). I bought one the day I bought my bike. I have to say, they are very cleverly designed pieces of kit.

  9. Serendipitous timing: in the past week I have started to fret madly about what I will ride when the rain, snow, and most worrisomely, the salt appear on the roads of Ottawa. Great food for thought here.

  10. @mouse The Hope light comes with the warning “Class 2 LED. Don not look directly at the beam. Permanent eye damage could result.

    It’s got a fairly neat bayonet fixing so you can whip it off and pop it in your pocket or leave it at home on nice days and a 50 to 100 hour burn time on the strobe (the setting that would get you noticed) depending on which battery you use.

    There’s a you tube clip of Hope running it over with a car and treating it roughly in the factory. Bombproof. Highly recommended.

  11. @the Engine

    I have one and I like it. It shine good light; it’s compact; it says fizik; it’s very sleek. All good things. A flashing rear light is much more pro than lying bleeding in the ditch after being side-swiped.

    @brett

    You’re on a total roll!

    1. Questioning the premise of a rain bike and, now,

    2. condoning an EPMS.

    I’m beginning to understand why G’Phant got saddled with a mirror. But also starting to question my fundamental understanding of my place with the Rules.

  12. I have a dinotte rear light, it’s like an afterburner and is beautifully made. Can’t recommend it enough. Lights shouldn’t be in the rules as they tend to be in the more important rules: ones enforced by the cops and ones that keep you alive.  Some events I’ve done insist on solid (ie non flashing)  rear and front lights. Might be worth checking.

  13. @brett Jeebus mate. I thought you’ve worked out the crazy shit one thinks when they’re trying to stop smoking and drugs. I guess not. If I felt it was worth my time I’d go through these archives and find the posts of me talking about the elegance of the fizik EPMS and then the likes of you flaming me. Boy, we have a short memory don’t we? Maybe it’s old age and not years of drug abuse. I don’t know, but you’re losing your shit.

    As far as the fizik EPMS goes it is as good as they come and quite elegant – I know, elegant EPMS is a bit of an oxymoron. And while I’ve stopped using mine in warm temps – even for long gravel rides, I’ll throw it under my Antares in cold weather to make room for extra layer, more food, what have you in my jersey.

  14. @the Engine

    Looks like this – what’s not to like?

    I’ve got a silver one that sits on there permanently & then for proper Rule #9 days or when I’ll be riding in the dark there’s a much stronger strobe effect light on the seatpost.

  15. If I followed this rule, it would mean this year I would have ridden my best bike 2 or 3 times such is the shiteness of our British Spring/Summer.  April-October-best bike/November-March-winter bike.  Life’s too short to worry about a bit of wet n grit.

  16. I am now firmly convinced that Frank has a little spinning arrow next to his computer which he flicks when he sits down to write an article.

    One side says Sublime, and if it lands there we get some Krabbesque prose about tunnels of souplesse or an ode to some Flandrian hardman.

    The other side says Ridiculous, and if it lands there we get illogical and improbable thoughts about the Schlecks or how steel bikes are going to melt in the rain and mudguards make Merckx cry.

    Variety being the spice of life, I’m not complaining, but I do reserve the right to utterly ignore the crazy bits.

    I feel they are obiter dicta rather than strict precedent.

  17.  

    From today’s Guardian: Here comes the rain: why we secretly love it when it’s wet

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jun/20/why-we-secretly-love-rain 

    Obviously the UK is not actually a nation of dedicated rule niners, but we can but dream.

    On the subject of mudguards, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but did you notice the mudguard eylets on Tom Simpson’s bike in the museaum at Oudenaarde  during your recent pilgrimage. I think mudguards are most useful when it has just been raining, rather than when it actually is. It’s depressing getting a wet arse and filthly bike when the sun is now shining.

  18. @scaler911

    Being another PNW’r that rides in the rain (’cause you have to or you’ll never ride), i have this argument with teammates all the time. I do use race blades when riding with them, just so I don’t have to hear 4-5 hours of bitching, but here’s the thing; Fenders do fuck all to keep you dry around here. All they do is stave off the inevitable for about 20 min, and act as catchalls for all the pine needles, leaves and other grime. This leads to the constant sound of tire rubbing said grime in the fender and is an added fucking pain in the ass if you flat, trying to get a wheel out of the chain stays, with a fender in the way, with frozen wet fingers. Fuck ’em I say. That is all………….

    Good point! Fenders are nice for some bikes/conditions, but also a massive pain when changing flats, flipping the bike up to wheel it down a narrow hallway (mine hang inside my house, in a narrow hallway) or putting them in a workstand that cradles the BB area.

    Ah…right! Mudguards are good & smart on a commuter. I got confused – a rain bike & a commuter are not the same thing. I sometimes use my commuter, which has full mudguards, as my rain ride bike. It doesn’t rain here all that much so I can pretty much work around it. If I lived somewhere along the lines of the PNW I definitely would be in a different situation.

  19. @frank a little harsh Frank – you can gladly sit behind me in the rain while I dont’ wear fenders if you like – I did ride here in PDX for 2 years without fenders, and then decided to give in and put them on the bike…. and despite my Lanterne Rouge status  on here – I did get a leaders jersey this year…. ;)

  20. @frank
    When I was 15 or 16 I heard a story at a training camp from a national team mechanic who, along with all the other team mechs, midway a super rainy stage race, ran out of lube. They used bacon grease and it apparently worked well for the situation they were in. Being young and impressionable, soon as I got home, had mom fry up some bacon and lubed my chain with the grease. The next day, upon returning home from school, I found my complete drivetrain clean as could be and my dogs snout black and greasy as…a bacon lubed drivetrain.

  21. @the Engine

    Looks like this – what’s not to like?

    I love that little light. But it’s easy to take on/off, no? I prefer the look of the bike without, so I take mine off unless I need it. Its also small and easy to chuck in a pocket.

  22. @brett

    @the Engine

    Those lights are cool I reckon. Hoping to get one myself soon… the clip idea is awesome, and even this is under consideration…

    Only for your mountainbike, right? Not for the road bike, right? Don’t make me come over there.

    That said, it is unquestionably the most elegant EPMS around.

  23. My “crappy” bike is a 16 lbs. SRAM Force equipped Cannondale Carbon Six.  It is mounted on the trainer in the winter, gets ridden in the rain and in the Crit races.  But I don’t mind riding bike #1 (the LOOK) in the rain either.

  24. @frank

    @brett

    @the Engine

    Those lights are cool I reckon. Hoping to get one myself soon… the clip idea is awesome, and even this is under consideration…

    Only for your mountainbike, right? Not for the road bike, right? Don’t make me come over there.

    That said, it is unquestionable the most elegant EPMS around.

    It still sucks.

  25. @Giles

    One of the best things about riding another bike is how much it reminds you of the #1’s awesomeness. I’ll be on the Soloist or TSX and say to myself, “I don’t know why I bother with the #1…this bike is perfect.”

    Then I get on the #1 and it is stiffer, lighter, more comfortable, climbs like a hot air balloon, corners like a downhill ski…and I say to myself, “Right. That’s why I bother.”

    The contrast between bikes makes it all the more fun to ride them and reminds you of how they’re different. Its a privilege to have that option. I don’t feel like I’m cheating on #1 when I ride #3; I’m reminding myself of why she’s my #1.

  26. @Albert

    Given that visibility is generally lower when it rains, a good rain bike should feature lights.

    Correct. Its hard to see, but I have one mounted on my seat stay. I like to keep the light on a point that is as far out as possible to buy myself a bigger swath from passing traffic. In winter, or on especially rainy/dark rides, I will also mount a flasher on my traffic-side drop on my bars. And, of course, a white flasher on the front.

    Again, the best kind of ride is the one you come home from safely.

  27. @Duende

    Serendipitous timing: in the past week I have started to fret madly about what I will ride when the rain, snow, and most worrisomely, the salt appear on the roads of Ottawa. Great food for thought here.

    The Rain Bike Concept was spawned in my mind growing up in Minnesota. Thanks for the reminder of this, as they are now also dispensing salk (peekel) in Seattle. That shit will EAT YOUR BIKE TO BITS. Talk about destroying your prized #1.

  28. @Steampunk

    I’m beginning to understand why G’Phant got saddled with a mirror. But also starting to question my fundamental understanding of my place with the Rules.

    Settle down, there cowboy. @Brett’s just going through withdrawal. He’ll be back to his senses soon.

  29. @Steampunk

    @the Engine

    I have one and I like it. It shine good light; it’s compact; it says fi’zi:k; it’s very sleek. All good things. A flashing rear light is much more pro than lying bleeding in the ditch after being side-swiped.

    @brett

    You’re on a total roll!

    1. Questioning the premise of a rain bike and, now,

    2. condoning an EPMS.

    I’m beginning to understand why G’Phant got saddled with a mirror. But also starting to question my fundamental understanding of my place with the Rules.

    I think it’s like most religions (or are we a cult?) – the flock is held to a higher standard than the Shepard!

  30. @jimmy

    @frank
    When I was 15 or 16 I heard a story at a training camp from a national team mechanic who, along with all the other team mechs, midway a super rainy stage race, ran out of lube. They used bacon grease and it apparently worked well for the situation they were in. Being young and impressionable, soon as I got home, had mom fry up some bacon and lubed my chain with the grease. The next day, upon returning home from school, I found my complete drivetrain clean as could be and my dogs snout black and greasy as…a bacon lubed drivetrain.

    Brilliant story!!

    @Gerard

    @frank a little harsh Frank – you can gladly sit behind me in the rain while I dont’ wear fenders if you like – I did ride here in PDX for 2 years without fenders, and then decided to give in and put them on the bike…. and despite my Lanterne Rouge status  on here – I did get a leaders jersey this year…. ;)

    All in good fun, matey!

  31. We’ve got too much Begium toothpaste in our eyes over the years from cycling behind bastaards (is that the Flemish for bastard?) without mudguards to able to see little details like that any more.

  32. @frank

    I’m incredibly disappointed that none of you have noticed the cufflinks:

    Jiminy Christmas, that’s fucking cool.

  33. Or even spell Belgium any more. As it has been pisisng down all day here but now the sun is shining I shall enjoy my mudguards on the way home. But that is communting and therfore acceptable?

  34. @frank thanks.

    i’m pleased to report the cables there are a lot shorter now… it was looking a bit goofy

  35. Oh Frank,  I would dearly love to have a set (or three) of those bar end caps.  Will they appear in the gear section soon, or are they still in the prototype stage?

  36. @frank

    @the Engine

    Looks like this – what’s not to like?

    I love that little light. But it’s easy to take on/off, no? I prefer the look of the bike without, so I take mine off unless I need it. Its also small and easy to chuck in a pocket.

    Once I’ve worked how to take it off then taken off for nice days it shall be. Mind you its pissing down here tonight and I just can’t face riding right now – I’ll work it out tomorrow.

  37. If I may, I’d suggest everyone, at least once, take their #1 out in the rain.  I was caught out on one of those 50% chance of precipitation rides a few weeks back on #1, and at first I had this sick feeling in my stomach.  After a km or so, the cleansing effect the rain has, also worked its magic on me, and I soon forgot about the clean-up that was to follow, but was lost in the joy of literally floating over water whilst on my first set of tubulars I glued up.  Fast forward a bit, and what was #1 is but a heap of busted carbon.  I’m appreciative of the fact she wasn’t a fair-weather beauty her whole life.

  38. @roger

    If I may, I’d suggest everyone, at least once, take their #1 out in the rain.  I was caught out on one of those 50% chance of precipitation rides a few weeks back on #1, and at first I had this sick feeling in my stomach.  After a km or so, the cleansing effect the rain has, also worked its magic on me, and I soon forgot about the clean-up that was to follow, but was lost in the joy of literally floating over water whilst on my first set of tubulars I glued up.  Fast forward a bit, and what was #1 is but a heap of busted carbon.  I’m appreciative of the fact she wasn’t a fair-weather beauty her whole life.

    Not to mention on races and events. No amount of rain was going to keep me off #1 for the Cogal.

  39. @Jamie

    Oh Frank,  I would dearly love to have a set (or three) of those bar end caps.  Will they appear in the gear section soon, or are they still in the prototype stage?

    Final preparations being made on the product, but I imagine they’ll be available before too long. The ones I have are prototypes and don’t look as great as the final ones will.

  40. @frank

    @mouse

    For rain and night riding, I subscribe to the notion of “be seen at all costs”.

    Well…maybe not ALL costs.

    I’m pretty sure G’Phant has ome of these.

    No, I didn’t sell it to him.

    As for the fizik epms, I’m sick of having pockets hanging around my arse when more gear is needed, ie it’s winter here.

    Of course they still look shit, but so does a lower back three stage tumor.

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