BikeRadar Down Under: Here comes the rain again...

More than just a summer shower

It probably sounds slightly exotic and glamorous that BikeRadar and our sister site Cyclingnews have an office in Sydney, Australia. I'm certainly not complaining about living in a city where the temperature never drops below freezing.

But there's an unexpected downside to life Down Under: the rain.

When it rains here, it hammers down.

We're talking deluges of near-Biblical proportions that dump a couple of centimetres of water in a quarter-hour. Rain that overflows the storm drains and turns roads into rivers you could kayak down.

Rain that laughs at waterproofs as it drenches you to the skin in seconds. Rain that overloads windscreen wipers, leaving cars crawling or stopped (though some idiots always belt on regardless).

Rain that hurts.

I got caught a couple of weeks ago. Racing home with my occasional commuting buddy Paul, watching the storm clouds and lightning blow in from the South, we almost made it.

Five miles from home, the first huge, leaden drops hit us. Within seconds we were riding through a wall of water, utterly drenched.

The gutters turned to torrents, filling the whole lane in places. We'd no choice but to squint and plough on through.

Fortunately, it's still summer and that means temperatures in the mid-20s. Not bath-water warm rain like Northern Australia gets in the wet season, but not icy like British winter rain.

Hang on, though, you're saying, rain? Isn't most of the country desert? Aren't you in the middle of the worst drought in 100 years? What are you doing complaining about rain? And anyway, I hear you scoff, we've seen Neighbours. It doesn't rain in Australia.

Well, yes, rain has been a bit lacking I recent years, and much of Australia is so arid and uninhabited that it seemed perfectly reasonable to set off nuclear bombs here for fun just fifty years ago.

And we have had a bit of a drought. It got so bad you could be fined a hundred quid for watering your garden on the wrong day. Or the wrong time on the right day. []

But the El Nino/La Nina cycle that controls Eastern Australia's weather just flipped and that means rain. Lots and lots and lots of it. The wettest summer in 50 years, in fact.

We've had about 600mm of rain this summer. That's 60 percent of the typical annual average rain for Sydney, in three months.

And it doesn't fall as daily drizzle or constant light-to-moderate rain. The storm that caught Paul and me dumped 16mm in 15 minutes.

Your typical British rain is a bit of an inconvenience. Riding a bike in it isn't fun, but with the right gear, it's doable.

You'd be mad to set out into a Sydney rainstorm on a bike, which is why we were so keen to get the hell home.

Once you're in it though, it's kinda fun. We were on back roads, which helped. Mixing it with heavy traffic in the wet would be near-suicidal. Australian drivers get so little practice in the rain that they're, well, 'clueless' is kind.

Splashing through road-sized puddles, throwing up plumes of spray, we were kids again, giggling like idiots at the sheer stupidity of riding bikes in conditions that sensible people were watching through plate glass.

It reminded me why I love riding bikes so much. In conditions that leave you unable to come into the house without shedding almost everything you're wearing first, you can unleash your inner child and play silly buggers. 

If that's not at least part of why you ride, you're missing the point.

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