Well, did my first Century Cycles night ride last weekend...in a torrential downpour. The starting point for the ride was at the Peninsula Century Cycles store, of which the towpath trail runs right through their backyard. Now, I had never ridden on the towpath before, but had heard all kinds of wonderful stuff about it, so I was very excited. The fact that it was at night only served to heighten that excitement. The fact that it was RAINING added a level of intrigue.
With a total of about 20 cyclists in attendance (down from the usual 100), the ride started out rather mundanely, the first 3 miles passing without incident. Soon, however, the heavens opened up and the pace quickened. I found myself leaping to the front of the line and joining the two pace setters. We quickly arrived at the halfway point (only 8 miles out due to the weather) and waited for the rest of the troops, but only two more cyclists arrived. After another 5-10 minutes, it was obvious no one else was coming, and the rains began to fall in earnest. We remounted and started cycling back, setting a pace of around 18 mph. Interestingly, we passed a bunch of riders that obviously chose to turn around short of the halfway point. With the rain coming down now at a blinding rate, and a growing fog forming out of thin air, several of us broke from the pack in an all out sprint to the finish, myself taking the lead for the last 5 miles.
Now, it should be pointed out that the towpath is not a paved trail. Rather, it is a highly compacted dirt path with small bits of gravel throughout. It is a course meant for hybrid and mountain style bikes. Fortunately, my Raleigh Peak was just the right bike for the job (as there was no way I would be using the new Giant Defy Alliance road bike on this path)! Unfortunately, when that compacted dirt and gravel road comes in contact with monsoon rains, it quickly turns into...yep, mud. I can honestly say I didn't see that coming. Consequently, when I did make it back to the starting line, I was covered in that very same mud. Nasty stuff. In fact, had to head to the girlfriend's house to spray down the bike and wash all my clothes before I could go back home. (See, I live in an apartment and keep both my bikes in the bedroom, so they can't exactly be dripping in mud!)
All in all, it was a fun and challenging ride. I look forward to the next, sans the rain.