Ride report: A Day in Hell – Gravel cycling in rain, mud and soaked bibs
We all know that in cycling you don’t just train your body, you train your mind too. And there is no better way to train your mind than gravel cycling in rain. Add some snow, hail and a brutal headwind. Some might even call it a day in hell, which it just happened to coincide with.
For us, it wasn’t cobblestones that made April 11th a day of torture. It was the hail in our faces and the mud grinding between our teeth. In the weekend of (the postponed) Paris-Roubaix the Rapha Clubhouses and collaborating cafés have created rides all over the world. The routes are all inspired by the French pavé, (cobblestones) but since Sweden lacks these we ride over gravé instead.
The ultimate rain cycling gear test
The route that Malmö’s Rapha café Musette had planned for us consisted of gravel, trails, fields, rubble and thanks to the rain, tire-sucking mud. After sharing an inspirational story on our Instagram account, upselling cycling in the rain the day before our own ride we should’ve seen it coming. Time to practice what we preached.
One of the positives sides we talked about was getting to test your rain gear. We learned that smart layering is really important. Robin learned it the hard way, because after only ten kilometres even his base layer was soaked. The strong west wind was doing its uttermost best to keep us from picking up speed. We were hit with a mix of wet snow, rain and hail. And hail hurts when it hits your cold face.
How long until you cave?
If you follow us on Strava you may have already seen that we are both training a lot in preparation for an ultra race. We are both getting stronger, but Robin has a lead on Sabina. So when we cycle together, the headwind and loose gravel climbs launch Sabina to heart rate zone 3 where Robin comfortably stays in the lower region of zone 2. Because she was working so hard Sabina didn’t get that cold, even when wet. Robin did.
About 32 kilometres in we had to stop for a short snack break. With our big gloves completely soaked up by the rain, it was almost impossible to get at our bars and banana. When balling our hands in a fist we could feel the water running down our sleeves. Getting the gloves back on again proved to be even harder. The inner fleece lining stuck against our skin while we wiggled our cold fingers back in. After a few very silent moments Robin finally said it out loud: ‘I don’t want to ride the entire loop’.
Enjoying cycling in the rain
Here we can insert a bunch of excuses, explaining why shortening the route was the only reasonable and logic thing to do. But we won’t. Instead, we chose to not turn straight around, but make another little loop on Häckeberga’s gravel roads.
We were surprised by the biggest herd of deer we have ever seen. It must’ve been hundreds, and they all crossed the road right in front of us. As we slipped and slide over the muddy single trails everything got covered in mud. It must have been the most comic thing to see. By now we had also got used to the excruciating sound of the dirt sanding down our chain and breaks. Knowing that we had to endure the cold not four, but only two more hours also helped cheer up our mood a bit.
Strengths and weaknesses
This ride really pointed out our strengths and weaknesses. Sabina is mentally strong and is good at keeping a positive mindset. Even when the road ahead isn’t looking all peaches and cream. Physically Robin has the advantage where he isn’t just stronger, he can also push his body a bit further.
Finding your weaknesses is an amazing opportunity. It gives you space to grow and become a better cyclist and human being. But to be able to see them, from time to time, you do have to put yourself through a Day in Hell.
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