Ombrophobia and Cycling

8:31 PM

Here is how it happened. 

I really wanted to get a good ride in on a Saturday morning, and a few of the ladies from the team were going out on a 50 miler.  I was new to the team, still pushing my introverted self to join rides in order to meet people.  There were plenty of reasons for me to beg out of the ride – it was cold, raining, and looking like it would only get worse – but I had posted I would be there, and for some reason I felt like a post on the message boards was the same as raising my hand to God.

A little of what we had this week - rain into snow...
So I threw on my removable fender and headed out into the wet.

About an hour into the ride I was feeling good.  I began to worry less about getting dropped – I was able to keep up the pace without going into the red, and was even taking a few pulls on the front.  I basked in the compliment one of the riders gave me, “Uh-oh, we’ve got a climber,” she whined in fake aggravation as I adjusted my position to the top bar starting up a big hill.  The rain didn’t stop, but I was staying warm and learning how to avoid the dragon-tail of the riders ahead of me.

When we crossed some rail road tracks that intersected the road at an angle the first thing I noticed was how the wheel I was following suddenly shifted to the right, then just as suddenly back to the left.  In the moment I realized that the rider in front of me was slipping about on the road I was down.  Not even enough time to put out an arm. 

I heard, rather than felt, my hip, shoulder and helmet make contact with the road, and was surprised at two things.  One: the road was so hard – it just didn’t give an inch as it rushed up to hit me.  Two: one can travel quite far while splayed out on the road and still attached to one’s bike.

Within moments the ladies had me on my feet and walking about.  One picked up my bike and brought it to the side of the road, immediately testing out the gears and brakes to look for damage.  Another gave me a quick examination, “Let’s see that hip…ok, can you raise your hand above your head?”  A close inspection of my helmet revealed a nice crack along the side, “It did its job, but you’re going to need a new one…”

I laughed uncomfortably.  Hyperventilated a bit.  Said I was ok enough times to start to believe it.  The ladies kept up a lively chatter to keep me occupied as we headed home – at a softer pace now, and me with my left hand barely touching the bars.  I held myself together until making it into my house, a wet rat, when I burbled and blubbered like a six-year-old with a scraped knee.

A visit to the doctor cleared up any lingering concerns – no major damage, no breaks.  I was even back on the bike within a week.

But I don’t ride in the rain anymore if I can help it.  I know what happened (crossed the slippery metal of the tracks at an angle, too much weight on the front wheel), but that doesn’t change the fact that every time there is rain in the forecast I head for the spinner. 

I’ve got it: ombrophobia. 

Or maybe ombro-roado-phobia.  Give me a mountain bike or a cross bike and rain and I’m happy as a clam.  But point me in the direction of asphalt and I run like a puppy with its tail between its legs. 

Why?  Because here it is…I’ve taken dozens of falls on my cross bike – slipped out in corners, dropped over in the sand – and there are times when I think my mountain bike is more comfortable in a horizontal, rather than vertical, position.  But none of those crashes have lasted longer than it takes for the bruise to heal. 

Yet now, two and a half years on, there are still nights when I can’t sleep on my left shoulder because of that one Saturday morning ride that I couldn’t seem to back out of.

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