La Vie Velominatus: The Gifts of Rule #9

An early morning ride on Keepers Tour 2013. Photo: Brett Kennedy
An early morning ride on Keepers Tour 2013. Photo: Brett Kennedy

We’re not really supposed to have favorites, but everyone does. Just ask your parents. So while I’m not supposed to have a favorite, I do, and its Rule #9.

Bad weather immediately separates the wheat from the chaff, and so the weekend warriors stay indoors and leave the roads to the devout. I talk most often about riding in the rain, with the drops of water dripping from my cap acting as my personal metronome as I carve a path through the chaos towards a happier self. But sunny days in the cold can provide their own glorious solitude.

On Keepers Tour 2013, we had unseasonably cold weather, and some of the best rides we had were early morning spins before heading off to the races. With the sun hanging low over the horizon, we rode through our frozen breath, together in close formation yet each of us retreating inward as we steeled ourselves against the cold. These were beautiful, peaceful rides.

This winter in Seattle has been relatively dry, but also cold. On the weekends, the country roads are nearly deserted and all that is left is the silent, still air and the burning of cold air as it enters my lungs. On a recent solo ride on Whidbey Island, I spun down the same roads which only a few months earlier I had ridden with friends on the annual Whidbey Island Cogal. The island seems a full place then, now it looked like an entirely different place – empty and beautiful.

There is something about the way the bike handles in the cold. The tires are firmer, the rubber less supple. The connection between bicycle and road seems simultaneously harsher and more fragile than in the warm. The muscles in my arms and hands are also more twitchy in the cold. Not twitchy like I can suddenly sprint; twitchy like I have difficulty controlling what they are doing – where normally I pride myself on holding a clean line, in the cold a small bump in the road might trigger a spasm that sends the bike into a wobble. Its an exciting way to ride.

Quiet roads, a still harbor, an early morning sunrise; these are the gifts reserved for those who ventured out when others stay in. These are the gifts of Rule #9.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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150 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: The Gifts of Rule #9”

  1. @frank Yup, this kid in WI did his first nordic race in 1976: 17k, three laps of a course that included a hilly wooded section as well as a long unprotected uphill finishing straight on a golf course fairway.  Air temp -23, later we found out the windchill was -63.  Most of us who weren’t totally hypothermic were in the mens’ room afterwards with hands down pants trying to rewarm parts that were in excruciating pain.  Don’t think they’d run the race today as most organizers have thresholds for windchill.  When I think back on how little clothing we tried to get away with racing — and even training… wow.

  2. @PeakInTwoYears

    @frank

    As I wrote in my column for Cyclist a few months ago…

    Well-played. You would have made a successful and amusing academic.

    To that end, I’ve been writing for Cyclist since the magazine came out a year and a half ago and only just now realized I should try to promote that fact.

    @Optimiste

    I’d just like to say it is gratifying to discuss bad weather riding with people who get it, revel in it, and don’t shake their heads in bewilderment. I suppose the same can be said for pretty much any topic here, but particularly this one. It’s nice to be understood.

    We are a sad lot, but at least we are a lot.

    @teleguy57

    @frank Yup, this kid in WI did his first nordic race in 1976: 17k, three laps of a course that included a hilly wooded section as well as a long unprotected uphill finishing straight on a golf course fairway. Air temp -23, later we found out the windchill was -63. Most of us who weren’t totally hypothermic were in the mens’ room afterwards with hands down pants trying to rewarm parts that were in excruciating pain. Don’t think they’d run the race today as most organizers have thresholds for windchill. When I think back on how little clothing we tried to get away with racing “” and even training… wow.

    Brings a tear to my eye – sentimentally and viscerally. Good to have another Nordie around here, even if I’ve given up the ghost of Nordic Ski Racing. I do have a new set of gear that I take out on weekends at Stevens Pass when the weather is good. And then I freak out about how much my upper body is bulking up and then I stop helping with the groceries for the next week to bulk back down. Just one gallon of milk at a time, honey! I’m getting too buff!

    Wow. Just did a search for “peter heater” thinking I’d get the old windbreaker-lined underoos we used back then, but instead I got a bunch of really disturbing knit penis socks.

  3. @frank

    Wow. Just did a search for “peter heater” thinking I’d get the old windbreaker-lined underoos we used back then, but instead I got a bunch of really disturbing knit penis socks.

    …Or as Marko calls them, condoms.

  4. Time to get serious now, you must be leaving for warm weather training within the next two weeks or else you might as well hang up the bike for another year.

  5. Rule #9 weather here in  Nashville, Tn today for sure – it was -24°C with the wind chill during the commute this morning.  I got an ice cream headache if I rolled above 30kph.  It was glorious.

  6. @frank

    The idea of Rule #9 is much more appealing to me than the practice… although, some of my most memorable rides have been in 9 conditions.

    @Chris

    Yes, that was the morning of the Ronde, the day after we rode Roubaix. So effing cold, so effing brilliant (especially the swearing at Alex for seeking out the worst cobbles in the land and turning a 20km ‘recovery’ ride into a 45km slog). Damn I’m gonna miss that…

    Some more photos from that magical morning:

    [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/brett/2014.01.06.23.05.29/1//”/]

  7. @Chris Good luck with that commute, Chris.  “A bit of wind” is an understatement and it must absolutely howl across your flatter part of the country.

  8. @brett That was a ride that I’ll always look back on as being magical. I was beginning to feel quite good by the end of it and could have happily carried on. 20km in and I was still hurting.

    Although, the farm fresh eggs in croissants when we got back to the gite were perhaps just as magical.

  9. @Mike_P When I went to bed last night, it was a bit (lot) windy but it was also clear and starry. I was really looking forward to riding.

    At ten to six this morning it was completely fucking torrential. I don’t mind getting soaked on a ride but having to sit on the train for 45 minutes dripping before a hot shower takes Rule #9 beyond limits of my moral fibre. I reset the alarm and went back to sleep for an hour.

    Downward Spiral on the rollers for me tonight.

  10. @wiscot

    Definitely agree re the mudguard being good manners in wet conditions. My number two and winter commute bike has full mudguards as much for my fellow commuters as for me.

    @strathlubnaig

    Lovely photo and good efforts continuing through the winter up there. I wonder if there are many cyclists in Sutherland and Caithness this time of year!

  11. @PedallingTom

    @wiscot

    Definitely agree re the mudguard being good manners in wet conditions. My number two and winter commute bike has full mudguards as much for my fellow commuters as for me.

    @strathlubnaig

    Lovely photo and good efforts continuing through the winter up there. I wonder if there are many cyclists in Sutherland and Caithness this time of year!

    cheers for comments, I really did internally debate long and hard, many sleepless nights wrestling with the fender – no fender issue, and eventually bunged this one on the back to try and placate those behind me, which is not often. I really should HTFU and take ot off when out on my own.

  12. @frank

    I realise my position on mudguards goes against your stance but I mostly overtake on my commute and so it is those I have just overtaken who would get a face-full of muddy grit to add to the humiliation of being passed by my heavy set commute bike. After all, they are badass for being out in those conditions and deserve some respect.

  13. I’m not sure that mudguards do that much for those behind – I think the main benefit is just protecting your own bike and arse.

    I was on a wet ride a couple of weeks back with two others – one with full guards and one without. The spray still comes up into your face even from the full guards, in fact if anything it seemed a little more concentrated than the wheel without any guards.

    In any case this is partly why Rule #39 and Rule #36 exist.

  14. Not saying I am riding in -5 degree F weather, but if I was, would there be a lexicon entry for that?

  15. @frank

    @scaler911

    The rub, of course, is just getting out in the weather. Like hopping in the Pacific Ocean (the PNW part anyway), you just have to suck it up and dive in. Then once you’re numb, everything else becomes fun.

    Kit up and go. Thinking’s got nothing to do with it.

    That’s the key – don’t think.  Just fucking go.  Everything else will sort itself out on the road.

  16. @ChrisO

    Some mudguards just don’t work but many do. Since most of your riding takes place in a desert and most of mine in a damp swamp I’ll assume greater knowledge on this occasion.

    My number one doesn’t have mudguards though and still gets used for rides like the one you missed the other day.

    RP was rammed this weekend. There were as many runners as cyclists many of whom were on the road! I think it’s time to start heading for the hills. I prefer my rides to be a bit more solitary.

  17. @PedallingTom   If you want to hook up down in leafy Surrey let me know – though I am away “altitude training” for 2 and a half weeks from tomorrow.  Though at the moment the leaves are mostly that treacherous mash on the roads.

  18. Can I suggest an addition to Rule #24? Speeds and distances shall be referred to and measured in kilometres and temperatures shall be referred to in Celcius.

    Just so when we talk about riding in the low 30s we are all on the same page. I would’t want some poor confused soul going for a ride in a blizzard while wearing Froome’s new skinsuit.

     

  19. @eenies

    Can I suggest an addition to Rule #24? Speeds and distances shall be referred to and measured in kilometres and temperatures shall be referred to in Celcius.

    Just so when we talk about riding in the low 30s we are all on the same page. I would’t want some poor confused soul going for a ride in a blizzard while wearing Froome’s new skinsuit.

    I dunno might be a good Darwin selection for anyone who actually buys one of those horror nets if they come on the open market!

  20. @Teocalli

    Some sorties to leafy Surrey would suit me. Give me a shout when you get back from your altitude training!

    @eenies

    Good idea re temperatures and we should stay metric on all but alcohol measures. But please can everyone stop conjuring images of Froome in that dreadful skinsuit.

  21. @PedallingTom

    @ChrisO

    Some mudguards just don’t work but many do. Since most of your riding takes place in a desert and most of mine in a damp swamp I’ll assume greater knowledge on this occasion.

    My number one doesn’t have mudguards though and still gets used for rides like the one you missed the other day.

    RP was rammed this weekend. There were as many runners as cyclists many of whom were on the road! I think it’s time to start heading for the hills. I prefer my rides to be a bit more solitary.

    Most of my current riding, yes, but my pre-desert riding was mostly audax so I have a deep and secret past with SPDs, Open Pros and mudguards which also have flaps attached – now those actually do work.

    I also went over to RP on Sunday, but was with the family so didn’t try to organise anything.

    It was indeed heaving with people who don’t look before they pull out to slowly overtake the person in front going marginally slower than them, as well as tits who push up those little rises and then slump and coast at the top as if they’ve just crested the Madeleine. I got very annoyed and instead of doing the nice steady ride I had planned hammered out a couple of fast laps. At least I didn’t have any spray in my face !

    May go back on Sunday, weather and family dependent. I’m racing in Brighton on Saturday so it also depends on how many brownie points I have left. Persuading my wife the dog needs a change of scenery seems to be an effective tactic at the moment.

  22. @Erik

    Not saying I am riding in -5 degree F weather, but if I was, would there be a lexicon entry for that?

    Lost Beyond All Reason

  23. @frank

    @teleguy57

    @wiscot

    It’s been a tad chilly here in WI the past few days. Got the first ride of the year in on Saturday – a cold, damp, windy 28 degrees. Needless to say I saw no other riders. Today was a Rule #9 for the books: with an outside windchill of around -40 degrees or so, I headed for the garage and the trainer. Merckx knows what the temp in there was but I could see my breath as clear as day. I’m thinking it was in the teens. Even with tights, jacket, gloves and a hat I got warm but not hot. It might not truly qualify for Rule #9, but in my book it does. Going outside was not an option, no matter how loud Rule #5 might be ringing in my ears.

    Supposed to be low 30s by the weekend. THAT’S riding weather!

    Amen, brother. Being a few miles north of you similar weather. Thu 2 Jan did some evening ski patrol training at the local hill west of Oshkosh at -7F. Today was 4F in my garage this a.m. so I’m in the basement on my rollers.

    Got outside Saturday 4 Jan as you did, and had the roads to myself. I took advantage of new pre-owned winter shoes and the great Showers Pass softshell trainer Santa left under my tree for a comfy 90 minutes. I felt quite proud of myself for picking the right day for my first 2014 outdoor ride…

    You kids. In my Minnesota ski racing days, I’d happily line up for a start in -10F wearing a spandex leotard with nothing for protection but some mole skin on my cheeks and a Peter-Heater down where it matters.

    And, because I was a superstitious bastard, I’d always race in my thin gloves. If you get cold, just go harder.

    Ah, but you were racing, not just riding. I’ve raced in near freezing temps in little more than a skinsuit and some overshoes with snow and slush on the roads. Horses for courses etc, etc.

  24. @strathlubnaig

    @PedallingTom

    @wiscot

    Definitely agree re the mudguard being good manners in wet conditions. My number two and winter commute bike has full mudguards as much for my fellow commuters as for me.

    @strathlubnaig

    Lovely photo and good efforts continuing through the winter up there. I wonder if there are many cyclists in Sutherland and Caithness this time of year!

    cheers for comments, I really did internally debate long and hard, many sleepless nights wrestling with the fender – no fender issue, and eventually bunged this one on the back to try and placate those behind me, which is not often. I really should HTFU and take ot off when out on my own.

    Portland is probably like a lot of other rainy places where the use of “mudguards (or fenders)” is a hotly debated topic. Showing up for a group ride without any means you’ll be relegated to the back of the bunch for the entire ride, and probably bitched at because you’re also not doing your fair share of the work on the front by said relegation. So you lose either way. Or you ride alone. But here’s a handy guide that’s been going around locally:

  25. Negative 20 in Fond du Lac, WI this morning.  We now own an old (very old) house with all the pleasures that come with it.  So, instead of riding the trainer for an hour in my 35 degree basement as planned, I spent that time defrosting the kitchen pipes with a cup of coffee in one hand and a hair dryer in the other.

  26. Whoops, just saw the note re: metric, and of course you are right.  That would be negative 29 C outside, and 2 C in my basement.

  27. Sunday’s club run was at best 50/50 on mudguards so I’m with @frank and his “get yet ye to the front and work if you don’t like it” dictum.

    If everybody turned up with them I’d have to rethink it. My membership, not mudguards.

  28. @ChrisO

    I’m sure you are very familiar with wet weather riding especially judging by the recent cogal report! I’m not moaning about other people’s mudguards, simply stating that I think it’s good manners to ride with functional ones some of the time. @scaler911’s post reinforces the unwritten rules of many cycling clubs that mudguards should be used in the rain. I don’t like spending my whole time on the back of the bunch in training either. This is good justification for another bike as I can’t bring myself to put a fender on number 1!

    @scaler911

    Thanks for the illustration. I wonder what @strathlubnaig‘s fender would be called?

  29. @Chris

    Sunday’s club run was at best 50/50 on mudguards so I’m with @frank and his “get yet ye to the front and work if you don’t like it” dictum.

    If everybody turned up with them I’d have to rethink it. My membership, not mudguards.

    Not wanting to flog  dead horse on this, but the mudguard etiquette I’m talking about was Scotland in the late 70s/80s. Fall/Winter/Spring the roads were rarely dry but the temps generally rideable. There were no wee clip of/off mudguards back then, just the “take an hour or more to put on properly” type. Most serious guys had a winter bike that by default had guards. If nothing else, they kept you drier – and remember this was in the age of wool clothing and crappy vinyl overshoes. Riders without guards on a wet day were generally cussed out as was appropriate. Also, it was standard to set a steady paceline of everyone taking their turn at the front with the cry of “spell up.” Decorum and manners were de rigeur. No habbling except the last few miles home. No attacking for the sake of it – there were winter off-season rides FFS. What you did solo was your business, but group rides had rules. And Rules were to be followed as we all know and appreciate.

  30. @The Oracle

    Whoops, just saw the note re: metric, and of course you are right. That would be negative 29 C outside, and 2 C in my basement.

    Need to get you and Teleguy57 on a cogal this year. I’ve found some new roads that are great.

  31. @unversio

    @Erik

    Not saying I am riding in -5 degree F weather, but if I was, would there be a lexicon entry for that?

    Lost Beyond All Reason

    I was asking for a friend. Here’s his Facebook post:  Still riding my bike to work today, in a full suit, despite it being 6 F (-14 C), with the wind chill at -9 F (-22 C), because being on my bike is still better than getting on the metro or dealing with parking. Don’t worry mom; I’ll be bundled up on top of the suit.

  32. @wiscot Possibly it’s down to previous lives playing rugby and riding mountain bikes but I don’t have a problem with a wee bit o’ shite from the wheel in front. Granted, I might feel differently if I had to do it in ’70s kit.

    There are a whole range of other issues of rules, skill and etiquette I’d rather my fellow club sorted before worrying about whether I’m comfy or not.

    Out of interest, what is “habbling“?

  33. @Chris

    @wiscot Possibly it’s down to previous lives playing rugby and riding mountain bikes but I don’t have a problem with a wee bit o’ shite from the wheel in front. Granted, I might feel differently if I had to do it in ’70s kit.

    There are a whole range of other issues of rules, skill and etiquette I’d rather my fellow club sorted before worrying about whether I’m comfy or not.

    Out of interest, what is “habbling“?

    “Habbling” was what happened once about half or 3/5th of the ride was done as a group and it was every-man-for-themselves home. Another rule that was in force (and much neglected here I’m afraid) was the call out potholes  with cries of “inside, middle or right” as appropriate. Good manners and a courtesy to fellow riders behind who might be unsighted – possibly by shite from an unguarded rear wheel.

  34. excellent points

    with this ‘winter vortex’ or something or other, i need reminded that there is still room for badasses out there, and as we move into the week, with the muck and mire, without fenders, it will be us badass’s ridin

    and without these conditions, we would never realize the joy of the souplesse days of july

  35. @wiscot

    @The Oracle

    Whoops, just saw the note re: metric, and of course you are right. That would be negative 29 C outside, and 2 C in my basement.

    Need to get you and Teleguy57 on a cogal this year. I’ve found some new roads that are great.

    Works for me, my friend.  Last year was a down year with very little riding due to new baby, moving, new job, new house, etc.  I’m looking forward to putting in a lot of kilometers this summer to make up for it!

  36. @Chris

    @brett That was a ride that I’ll always look back on as being magical. I was beginning to feel quite good by the end of it and could have happily carried on. 20km in and I was still hurting.

    Although, the farm fresh eggs in croissants when we got back to the gite were perhaps just as magical.

    Seriously, wasn’t that the best? We had another couple of those rides that week for reasons that escape me at the moment because we normally had a ride planned for the day. But those early morning rides were fantastic memories.

    Alex, on his fucking 9cm stem, in the drops toujours, just pedaling away on the front like a metronome. I love how he rides.

  37. @PedallingTom

    @frank

    I realise my position on mudguards goes against your stance but I mostly overtake on my commute and so it is those I have just overtaken who would get a face-full of muddy grit to add to the humiliation of being passed by my heavy set commute bike. After all, they are badass for being out in those conditions and deserve some respect.

    Who gives a fuck what you do on your commuter! I’m talking about your road bike here, my good man.

    Anything goes on your around-town commuter bike. Take mine, for Merckx’s sake.

  38. @eenies

    Can I suggest an addition to Rule #24? Speeds and distances shall be referred to and measured in kilometres and temperatures shall be referred to in Celcius.

    One of the greatest victories of Velominati has been the near-universal switch to metric for temperature and weight discussions purely on the merits of Rule #24’s stipulation that speeds and distances be measured this way.

    It would be a shame to sully that victory by mandating the conversion – particularly since the US failed on at least one occasion to convert over.

    Some things are not stipulated in The Rules, and we Keepers refer to them as the Disciple’s Choice. These include such things as using metric across the board and riding in white socks.

    @Mike_P

    Let’s try that again….Good morning, Rule #9

    Fantastic. One of my favorite looks, oddly enough, is a winter Cycling cap turned around backwards.

  39. @frank

    Well if that’s how it plays – my commuter is fine. In fact based on your commuter mine is very fine! What in Merckx name are those bars doing on a bike or maybe it’s the angle?!

  40. Cold weather rides, wet weather rides, cold and wet weather rides – those special riders otherwise known as Velominati understand the rewards of Rule #9 rides. But darkness, roadside ice, and these crazy shoreline motorists on back roads limit my winter riding to daylight. But come Sunday, it’ll be alright…

  41. @PedallingTom

    @ChrisO

    I’m sure you are very familiar with wet weather riding especially judging by the recent cogal report! I’m not moaning about other people’s mudguards, simply stating that I think it’s good manners to ride with functional ones some of the time. @scaler911″²s post reinforces the unwritten rules of many cycling clubs that mudguards should be used in the rain. I don’t like spending my whole time on the back of the bunch in training either. This is good justification for another bike as I can’t bring myself to put a fender on number 1!

    @scaler911

    Thanks for the illustration. I wonder what @strathlubnaig‘s fender would be called?

    I think the li’l French fender number I have on right now would be called “selfish wanker”

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