Needed for the Cultivation of Flahute

The rain started light at first, more of a mist than a rain. Soft enough that one didn’t quite need a rain jacket yet. We all had them on though, it’s just easier that way. It was Cascade Bicycle Studio’s first Saturday ride of the year, returning after a long break during the cross season. The ten of us all checked the weather forecast and knew what was supposed to come. Three of us talked about getting blown around the road on the ride to the shop in the sun, knowing it wouldn’t last long. Still, we showed up to ride.

The rain picked up slowly as we rode north along the Burke – Gilman, two up chatting with our partners past runners, dog walkers and other riders. Some of them two up. One of them alone, and nervous to ride passed our group. Hollering “Give more room!” as he wobbles pass us. Another woman we passed screamed “Yeah bikes!” and some of us waved, silently carrying that sentiment with us.

Further into the convergence zone the rain and wind picked up. Large cold drops falling with more intensity as we go closer to our turnaround point in Edmonds. The sky had gone dark. Dark enough that if we had lights we turned them on, and if we didn’t we wished for a rear blinky at the least. If we had spare gloves we changed them.

There was talk about how we hadn’t ridden in rain like this for a long time. There were instructions like: “it doesn’t matter what you put on, you’re going to get wet.” Or “A thousand dollars worth of gear with only buy you an hour of being dry.”

Soon it was bad enough that no one was talking. The group broken up on the climb away from the sound and we rode with our heads down trying to keep the rain out our eyes. Each of us enduring what is a fact of life in the Northwest. These are the types of rides that will become legend for some of us. Going out, when we know the weather will be bad is a sanctioned behavior.

Cycling, its mystique, is built around being a “hard man”, though it must be mentioned that half of our group today are women, and are hard as well. No one is blamed for staying home and riding rollers on days like today, but the practitioner gains a special cred when they ride in weather like this. We could have stayed home. I could have stayed in bed. I tell myself that at least, but the truth is that no, I could not have stayed home.

Some of us will spend our spring and summers racing. Others will spend it doing long rides through the mountains and some of us will just be trying to get a good ride in while meeting our family and work obligations. But I don’t think its the cultivation of hardness, or flahute as its called in Flemish. It may be put into those terms, but to me it has more to do with the sentiment the woman we passed on the trail. The one who was so excited to be out riding that she screamed out “Yeah Bikes!”

Going out when we know the weather is going to be bad isn’t about being hard, or becoming hard. It is, simply put, because of love. Yes, there is an element of toughness, and its being cultivated, but without the base element that brought us together, we wouldn’t had been out there in the first place.

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