Unsuitable clothing

‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.’ 

Alfred Wainwright

Maybe it was coincidence, but just as the Wannabee newsletter arrived with news that the DC Training schedule was on the web site, winter also blew into the Cape with a vengeance. Perhaps we’d also chanced our luck one too many times by commenting on great weather we were having for our Wednesday morning rides. Either way, the recent pleasant and mild autumn cycling seems to be over.

Rather fittingly, I was reminded of the above quote quite recently too. I forget where I came across it, but quite probably it was on a site reviewing cycle clothing. I should have given it some more attention this Wednesday before heading out to ride. I’d looked carefully at the weather forecast for the prospect of rain, but completely overlooked the temperature. This important detail didn’t overlook me as I free-wheeled down our hill though, and by the bottom my fingers and feet were numbing with the cold nicely. Usually some quick pedalling along Main Road gets me up to a decent working temperature, today however the faint breath of warmth to the air wasn’t nearly enough to thaw me out by the time I reached Waterstone. I wasn’t altogether surprised to see no one else there, depending on which forecast you believed there was some some likelihood of rain.

After a respectable wait for any latecomers, I pedalled back out of the parking lot. At this stage I was undecided whether to do a short ride to the top of Helshoogte Pass, a full ride to Franschhoek, or just turn off at the top of the Lord Charles hill on the R44 and head home. Passing under the Steynrust Avenue bridge my first decision was made, I rode on past the turn-off and left the head straight home option behind me. As I rode on I seemed to be following the edge of the weather front. The sky above the hills and the pass ahead of me looked clear and inviting, but overhead hung a thin but line of storm clouds which thickened progressively to my left. My sense of direction has never fully adjusted to life in the southern hemisphere, and it felt to me like the weather should be going the other way bringing more of the clear skies and banishing the remaining clouds. Rather annoyingly though the weather seemed less confused about North and South and so the slight but persistent drizzle accompanied me the whole ride into Stellenbosch.

Riding solo, I reverted to my preferred route through town, turning off at Van Reede road and taking quieter roads past Paul Roos and Stellenbosch high schools. Even with the morning school traffic it seemed considerably less busy than the route the Wannabees normally take to Helshoogte via Molteno road. I’d guess my route could be much less ideal for a large bunch though, with it’s narrow roads and many turns that could split a group up badly. I had been feeling slightly damp and chilly for quite a way, but the cycling was pleasant and a spectacularly bright rainbow whose arc seemed to perfectly frame the whole of Stellenbosch was more than enough to distract me. But as the junction with Helshoogte road came into sight the clouds darkened and the drizzle turned to hard cold sheets of rain. Moments before I’d decided to opt for the long ride, but with the rain my resolve faded. I suddenly realized how cold I had become, and I had neither the clothing nor determination to stay the distance to a coffee stop in Franschhoek with the worsening weather. I swung left instead of right and made a beeline for the nearby shopping centre, and the very welcoming sight of a cafe.

For an impromptu stop, the coffee and muffin were both pretty good. The view wasn’t much compared to the lovely tree lined streets of Franschhoek but at least I was sitting in the dry and warming up slightly as the rain lashed down. Having received my text, Yoli called to check I was ok. She also relayed the news that the weather at home had cleared up and was dry. So rather than hang around, I downed the rest of my coffee, paid the bill and raced back home with the remaining energy that had not been sapped from me by the cold. I had no more rain on the ride home, but I got steadily colder again as I rode – my choice of gear had been woefully inadequate for the conditions, and specifically the temperature. My hands and feet were like ice blocks when I got home. At the very least, I needed a full pair of warmer gloves and a thermal tee under my jersey, plus a proper riding shell rather than just my gilet. I also need to use the shoe covers which my mother brought over, and possibly the leg warmers too.

I can’t blame the weather for the pain of today’s ride, just unsuitable clothing.

Rainbow photograph by Steve Crane.