Well, the rains have crept back in on little cat feet. And they’re sure to be freeloading on our couches for the next six or seven months before we’re rid of them again.
So in an effort to be more useful, we proudly launch:
The Urban Cycling Tip of the Day
(Which in no way implies there will be a tip every day.)
I know, some of you have no problem with fenders and have used them for a long time. You people can go about your business. It’s the rest of you I need to speak with. For I have a personal story of tragedy and redemption, which I’ve actually told before.
Short version: I used to look down on fenders. I thought them for people who were not serious about cycling. Then I hit bottom: wet, soggy, reduced to panhandling on street corners in order to buy more and more expensive rain gear. Then I got fenders. I put my life back together. I expect to soon be elected president of the United States. Or at least get my own TV talk show.
So how are fenders like screw-top wine? Well, in some circles, putting fenders on your bike sucks the romance out of pretending you are winning the Tour de France while headed to work, just as twisting open a bottle of screw-top wine takes the romance out of your efforts to seduce that lovely person you have just lured back to your apartment.
Not long ago on Twitter, I had asked for some suggested topics for blog posts, and someone responded: “How it’s the bike not clothes that matter in the rain.”
I puzzled over this awhile. I think what the person was talking about here — and he can correct me if I’m wrong — was the humble fender. The idea that a lot of the water that ends up on you comes up off of the road, not down from the sky.
It’s true. But it is more complicated than that, because we cannot deny that rain comes down out of the sky. This has been proven.
How dry fenders will keep you will depend on many variables. Through rigorous scientific study of our own, we are now able to calculate the value of “wetness upon arrival at work” through the following equation:
- w is wetness upon arrival at work
- d is duration of your commute
- i is intensity of the rain storm in inches per second
- Δi is the change in the intensity of the rain storm during the commute
- Θ is the angle of the rain, varying from straight down to sideways
- f is the fender constant, equal to approximately -1.647893695657676
- Φ is the constant “phi,” which indicates whether or not your route includes any gargantuan puddles caused by clogged storm drains — and is also what you say when you encounter them: “Phi!”
- Ω is the resistance of your clothing to water passing through.
Because rain gear of some kind does matter. At least a coat. But like this guy, whom I spotted this very morning:
A poncho and fenders — and a pair of jeans — may be perfectly adequate for a short commute in a mist, drizzle, spotty showers or even light rain.
But what is more important is whether you will ride in the rain at all. Which is why — when I responded to that tweet — I suggested maybe it’s about neither the bike nor the clothes, but that “Maybe it’s about the person.”
And so we can calculate the probability of whether you will commute by bicycle by the following, known as the Heisenberg temptation formula:
- b is the probability of commuting by bike
- ƒ is the fortitude and self-righteousness of the commuter
- w is the wetness factor, as calculated above
- c is the presence of a warm, dry car in the driveway.
So resist! Be strong. Stay dry. Buy fenders. Ride.