If you take out the screaming cars, riding your bike in the rain really isn't all that bad.
At least, this is what I tell myself during the half hour commute home yesterday. The suiting up of rain pants, jacket, rain slicker, old shoes, gloves, face mask, the plastic bags - I can handle it. The brown crud sputtering the few parts of my body not covered by synthetic fibers - no problemo. The puddles that gush over my feet, infecting me with the dreaded wet sock syndrome (WSS), the pot holes you can't see, the weight of the backpack under my rain jacket clinging to me like a desperate baby koala, it ain't no thang.
But not being 100% sure I put this prized 20 year old Benotto hand-me-down back together properly, that's where I draw the line and start to worry.
I won't bore you with the details on how I came to acquire this sweet vintage racing bike, suffice to say, I only rode it for 6 months before realizing it wasn't a safe ride. The stem (piece that holds the handle bars in place) was too low, making the brakes hard to reach, and with a fast bike like this, brakes are very important. Upon attempting to raise it to a proper height, I broke the rusted quill, which led me to discover the headset itself was also rusted together.
But that was 6 months ago - This past month, I'd finally completed the project as best I could: New paint job, new brake and shifting cables, new housing (tubes that hold the brake cables), new tires, the headset pried loose by a bike mechanic w/ torch - More re-constructive surgery than pimp-my-ride.
Despite these efforts, the Benotto's 2008 maiden voyage didn't go as planned. Two days back on the road and I noticed the cranks (levers that the pedals attach to) were wobbling. Upon taking it in to the Bike Church, I was informed that the non-drive-side ball bearings had most likely gotten loose and that maybe I should go with a closed bottom bracket system (or whatever it's called).
I take their word for it and install one of these doo-hickeys on Monday, escaping with only a flesh wound on my knuckles from removing the cranks. On Tuesday, I ride the Benotto to work for the first time in almost a year. In the afternoon, it starts to rain.
As I ride home, I keep looking down at the bike. Did I inflate the tires properly? Is the closed bottom bracket in tight enough? What if water gets inside it? Damnit, I just cleaned all the scum and crud off this thing!
Cars roar past. It occurs to me that they can see even less of me than they do when it's not raining. I slow down a bit, the bike lane being an 85% safe bet, as it is wedged between parked cars on my right and a long row of cars waiting for the light to turn green on my left. The rain gear doesn't seem to be keeping my crotch from getting wet and since fenders are out of the question for this kind of bike, I'm not positive the bottom of my backback (with its assortment of paperback books) is staying dry either.
As I rush up an incline, to my horror, I notice the handle bars are no longer in line with the front wheel. In fact, they are bending away. The quill is coming loose! My life does not flash before my eyes, though visions of a compound shoulder fracture and broken wrists do. I immediately pull over and examine the bike.
I grasp the handle bars and move them back in line with wheel. Yep, this thing still needs some work. Yep, that was a close one. I begin to walk the bike home. The rain continues to fall without mercy. I must get some fenders.