I went for two rides this week! I hadn't been able to ride for a while due to work. The weather forecast wasn't glorious, but I didn't care. I just got a new bike and I was ready to try it out!
My sister and I signed up to go on a group ride with an awesome group of Chicks and a couple of excellent Roosters. Well the weather wasn't the best - the rain radar showed some tiny clouds - but nothing too scary. So we packed up the bikes and off we went. We arrived at the trail carpark and it was raining. We were half an hour early so we figured it would pass. We were riding in the forest anyway, so hopefully it wouldn't be so bad.
Half an hour came and went but the rain stayed. I was tossing up whether to ride in my jacket or not. I was only a little bit chilly in the wind. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be dry or risk being too hot. I didn't have a bag so I would have to make a choice. I chose to wear the jacket. Without further ado, here are my riding in the wet lessons that I learnt:
Choose your gear correctly
Although I was prepared with a jacket, sadly it was the wrong type. I was wearing a winter soft-shell jacket that was much better suited for standing on the sideline of a sports game in the winter than mountain biking! I paid for it too. About 2 minutes into the first ascent I was sweating profusely. I opened the air vents and left the front mostly unzipped but it was no use.
I guess it is just a really good jacket. Like I said - not for mountain biking. With every ascent I got sweatier and sweatier. I was losing water much faster than I could replace it and by the end of the ride I felt a bit sick. It didn't last too long though - nothing a post ride beer didn't fix :-)
Bring enough supplies
I picked the wrong drink bottle. Normally I use a hydration pack, but this time as it was chilly and rainy I decided I didn't need THAT much water. The drink bottle I did bring however was a 1 litre one and didn't fit in the holder on my bike. My sister offered me her spare, but it had been sitting in the back of the truck for a while and I didn't trust it's cleanliness. I decided not to take one.
Silly, silly mistake given what you have just read about my jacket fail!
I realised after I was so parched that licking the rain off of my jacket seemed a good idea, that I had been woefully unprepared for this ride. I had brought no water, no bag, no snacks, no first aid gear. I had my phone and my wallet - that was all.
I was riding in a group and my sister did share her water with me, so fortunately I learned this lesson in a way that wasn't as disastrous as it could have been. We were only riding in a small area on looped tracks, but that doesn't mean you could become quite injured and be stuck somewhere for a while. I should have brought something to eat.
First aid supplies is something you should consider as well. Our ride leader had 2 drink bottle holders on her bike. I could see a solid looking plastic container in the second one that almost made it look like some kind of second suspension. I asked her what it was and she said her basic first aid kit. Brilliant! I want one.
Speed can still be your friend
This was my first time riding through the forest in the wet. I'd really only ridden in the forest twice in the dry! Our ride leader brought up a couple of points, as she had done a lap of the trails before we got there. The one that stood out the most to me was that she said to be careful on the many tree roots as they were very slippery.
Being a little bit nervous riding in the wet, and having just heard it pointed out that it was quite slippery I was slower than usual turning corners and approaching obstacles. I began to understand that although one need not go fanging out like a bull at a gate in the wet - neither should one crawl along at the speed of a snail because you WILL DEFINITELY slide out on slippery obstacles. I also learned that you SHOULD NOT look down at said tree roots or other obstacles. You are FAR MORE LIKELY to come unstuck. Look past them, keep soft knees and stay light on the bike.
After some serious trial and error I managed to figure out a good speed for me that day. (I actually typed "the perfect speed". Then laughed, and changed it. I don't do anything perfectly on a bike!)
Lesson learnt then - when riding in the wet "speed is your friend, look to the end"
The Secret Beginner