Jacob Rathe is a pro cyclist with Jelly Belly. After two seasons riding for Garmin-Sharp, he is back in his hometown of Portland, Oregon to train through our wet, cold, and often downright miserable winters. Rathe shares some of the life lessons and existential pondering that come from training through anything.
There is a saying, “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes.” But what about really bad weather?
I headed out on the day the snow was supposed to come here in Portland. I chose to stay close to home on the off chance the forecast was right. That meant no further out Skyline Road than the intersection at Germantown. I descended Germantown Road in the frigid air, snowflakes falling but not sticking. I turned around at the bottom. 10 minutes later I was near the top and it was snowing steadily, but now sticking.
Close to home can still be too far away.
I found myself riding the entirety of Forest Park’s Leif Erikson trail on a road bike in snow. Gravel is passable with a dusting of snow, but there’s still a maze of hidden, frozen puddles to avoid. You should avoid those.
By the time I got home my hands and feet were ice blocks, ill-colored and painful. Frozen enough that cold water feels warm, and an average cup of hot chocolate tastes like heaven. The bicycle is the perfect vehicle to escape your comfort pit. With no alternative motives, you can experience adventure, through suffering, discomfort, extreme cold and heat, sometimes joy. Or you can just get groceries. I am always amazed by how many groceries you can load onto a town bike. I can mount about 30 pounds on a pannier bag, hop on the bike and ride as if nothing is there. Who knows how many pounds it could carry? A friend once explained the physics to me: “It’s just physics”.
I can understand riding through rain for groceries, but in rain for fun?
People ask me where I go when I ride; I say “nowhere.” It’s the most truthful answer I can come up with. I set out intent on avoiding things – cars, lights, people, dogs. Traveling in rain, all day, through nowhere, to arrive at where I started (or the Sauvie Island bus stop). It’s not just me out there; large groups all over town are in the rain also. Almost Fight Club-esque. Droning on about rain and groceries was not my intention. Being a cyclist brings many preposterous moments. Pedaling through the rain and snow is just a mild example of that. Often boring, sometimes interesting, once in a while so outlandish the only option is to laugh.
I realized how strange my life is after getting an apartment with a childhood friend, Chris, a 23 year-old recent college graduate. So much confusion; so many questions. My diet and schedule is slightly peculiar to him, but the amount of time I spend creatively rolling around on the ground with an array of cylindrical objects, balls, and bands takes the crown.
It’s refreshing to be in Portland all winter. Refreshing in the way that jumping into Pacific Ocean is refreshing – cold and not necessarily fun, but you feel great once you get that hot chocolate.
There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes and a lack of hot chocolate.
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