Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I'm sold.

Yesterday, the rain didn't stop... and the fenders only do so much when the skies are unloading on you. I could see muck flying straight forward from my front fender, while watery grime oozed down the sides and out the bottoms of both. They appeared to be doing their part, but it did little to allay my misery. My agglutinant trousers were soggy and frigid. My windbreaker was dank. It's water resistant but had enough exposure to get permeated and cumbersome by the time I arrived home. Not surprisingly, it was also wicking warmth from my torso. We'll just say that it wasn't a terribly pleasant wait for the bus and that the remainder of my homeward trip was interesting to say the least. Not un-enjoyable by any means, but my mind is preoccupied with those sunny afternoons with a slight wind out of the northeast and temperatures in the mid 70s.

This morning was hectic. Some of my family is on a long-ish road trip and I am one of two family members that's taking turns pet-sitting. I picked my wife up from work on my way out of town (yes, driving) and took care of the animals, getting home just in time to throw some stuff in my backpack and hit the road to the bus. It rained almost all day yesterday, and with 97% humidity, the moisture on the ground wasn't going anywhere. With a mild clime of 43°F and an ample layer of water and some big puddles covering the ground, this would be the true test of the fenders.

The results? After two miles of speeds up to 30 MPH (but closer to an average of 15), I had but a few drops of water on the toes of my shoes. Normally, my shoes would be soaked. Water would be seeping down the inside of my ankles from my socks and pants, and most of my front-facing leg surfaces would be soggy. There would be a mud-stripe up the center of my backpack... the rack keeps water off my back like a mini-fender but the backpack sticks out into the stream a little bit. I arrived dry as a bone. I do miss seeing the spray of water in the beam of my DiNotte headlight, as it really is a hypnotic and breathtaking vision -- but a vision I'm willing to trade for warm, dry clothes.

No, I don't wonder how I went so long without fenders. No, I'm not going to turn into a fender evangelist. I'll simply continue riding The Twelve in these conditions that would have otherwise soaked me. And, time permitting, I will probably use these days as full bike commutes instead of wimping out and riding to the bus.

Random Tunage:
IIO - Rapture (Deep Dish remix)
The Killers - When You Were Young


dvicci said...

Ok, I have to ask. What is it about fenders that turns you off so? Just so you know, I'm asking out of sincere curiosity. I've only ever put fenders on the one bike (the Kona I commute on now), and won't put them on my Torelli for weight and aesthetic reasons, and the fact that I won't ride that beauty in the rain. I'm not interested in evangelizing them myself, only in understanding your resistance to them.

Oh, and yeah, I had a blast yesterday. :)

Noah said...

You said it yourself, aesthetic reasons. I'm still getting used to the look, I suppose. The SKS Commuters don't look BAD on my bike. They just make it look more complex, less simple. I can't explain it.

That, and it's more stuff to buy (only once, though), more stuff to need potential adjustment in the future, more stuff to wipe down and keep clean. I'm not a huge fan of "stuff" I suppose.

After this morning, I can definitely appreciate fenders and why people like having them. Let's face it, I'd come to that realization long ago. I just thought they were something for other people, and I have a very "live and let live" personality when it comes to matters of opinion.

Someone on BikeForums actually asked "Why the high seat and downcurving handlebars? ... I would think that a slightly lower, farther back set seat and backswept handlebars, giving you an upright position more like on a classic English bike would be far more comfortable."

There's obviously a good reason that I don't choose to use a beach cruiser for my 28.5 mile round trip. It would take FOR EVER. You'd never catch me asking "why do you use x?" in an almost holier-than-thou fashion like that. The fact is that bike commuting has very few hard and fast rules. The only rule I can think of if that part or all of your commute happens on a human-powered vehicle, and if you want to be a stickler on the definition of "bicycle" then it should be a two-wheeled HPV.

Randonneurs, tourers, track racers, social weekend roadie warriors, bike path grasshoppers, and mountain bikers all have their own preferences when it comes to the kind of bikes, clothing, and riding styles that they enjoy. Bike commuters can pick and choose from these bags of tricks to come up with a cycling science that works best to suit individual needs. I whole-heartedly embrace this fact, and keep it in mind when I see someone "doing it all wrong"

Yokota Fritz said...

"agglutinant" -- what a cool word, and how very picturesque!

I like your attitude, Noah. I'm the same way about live and let live regarding what people ride. I get annoyed at the "your bike suxs because it doesn't have..." notes, especially since I have several bikes at least one of which probably *does* have feature X.

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