Pack Fodder Bicycle Blog: Cloud Chasing

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It was the best of days, it was the worst of days. Sitting with most of
my gear on, waiting for the second pot of coffee to empty and the rain
to stop. Three times I made it to the front door, worn cleats snapping
on the tiles. Three times, I returned to the kitchen defeated by the
rain. With each minute that passed -a kilometre was knocked off my
planned spin. When the kettle was clicked again, a whole mountain was
mentally deleted from the potential spin .

If under pressure for form or fitness, I would have made the planned
departure. But with no races for a month ahead and my arse still
emotionally scarred from Mondays soaking, I sat, lingered, re reading
the morning’s paper. Teeming turned to lashing. Storm eased to
raining and slowed to spit. When you squint to see if it is still
raining, the excuses are exhausted and I was finally away. North, not
South. The hills were lost for the flat lands.

On a spin with the legend Barry Hoban in 1998 he taught me ‘Cloud
Chasing’. That afternoon rain was locally imminent and I was tired. He
wanted to sell me his bike and I could never say no to a man who won 8
TDF stages. He led, always tanned from 30 years ‘’on the continent’’.
Barry educated me that the wind determines how fast the clouds move; So
heavy, black, rain loaded clouds may be only swooshing along at
15-20mph. You, on a well maintained bike could out run the weather!
Taking on Aeolus, the Greek god of wind with my Campagnolo 10speed.

Country lanes and wide open the heavens are the venue for Cloud
Chasing. The Core goal is to remain dry on a day where the club run
would have 4, not fifty riders. The theory, that it is not raining
everywhere all the time. Out run, out smart the climate. Entering the
battle on a day where the clouds have limits is best and the bits of
blue sky can be targets for dry shoulders. Fun is also to be had in a
blanket Nimbostratus where the low lying black clouds speak of cold
arms and brown chains, you gotta spin quicker, but here too you can
beat the rain. Cloud chasing isn’t standing defeated and dripped on
under a tree. It is looking, learning and racing away from the rain.
It is beating the clouds and staying dry using your wits and speed.
Avoiding the grey, hanging a sharp right into a westerly to avoid the
falling sheet ahead.

Wind direction can be determined by how far up the block you are and a
quick glance to the stratus, and you are off. Training when you
shouldn’t. Extra points for riding over lanes that are recently wet.
“Getting wet is for basic amateurs or serious professionals” said Hoban
and he took another unannounced 90degree left. Knowing that most roads
go somewhere and you are only going to get wet, not die, are two
fantastic elements of Cloud Chasing. High hedges add excitement. Gate
breaks reveal blue distant horizons and fierce black mist buckets,
ready to tip and soak. So confident was Hoban, that a cape was not
evident in his middle pocket; mine was bleeding sweat and sticking to
my arms.

Since that ride with a champion, I have feathered the joy of cloud
chasing spins. Avoiding their contents can be a wondrous way to get
temporarily lost. Forcing exploration of new lanes because of their dry
future. I have ended up in farmyards, car parks, hill peaks and a foot
on the first board of a broken bridge all in the name of keeping dry on
wet days. I have found short cuts, long cuts and the need for mudguards
and loose change when you get it wrong.

On all but the days of angry Cumulonimbus, that big angry mass
stretching 8km into the heavens, risk it, get out there and dodge Zeus
and his predictable thunderbolts. Intervals get ticked off when the
worn tarmac gets spotted by the first droplets. I have been laughing at
a raging shower chasing me down like a peloton just gone under the red
kite. Avoid hills as they hide weather fronts. Avoid ‘A’ roads as they
limit cover and direction options. A man on a bike when the forecasters
say he shouldn’t is fantastic. Stolen training.

Written by: Myles Mccorry