Some lessons are best learned the hard way. So it was this past week. Despite years of commuting by bike in inclement weather and the near incessant wetness we’re experiencing this winter, I made a couple of mistakes that caused me to abort rides. Both involved trusting the weather report.
Riding in the rain is at least tolerable and can even be enjoyable as long you’re dressed and equipped properly. But you have to remember to take it with you.
Last Saturday the weather forecast said possibility of afternoon showers. No problem. Roger and I put on what we thought was appropriate rain gear: waterproof jackets and helmet covers. I also brought along toe covers and Rainlegs. The weather was partly cloudy but not a hint of rain. Twelve miles into our ride the sky suddenly became very dark. If you’ve grown up in the Midwest or East Coast and it’s summer you know what that means. Roger blurted ominously, “Is that rain ahead??” Within minutes it started to dump—your classic quick spritz? No, this one didn’t stop; it just got stronger and stronger. And the rain turned to hail and sleet. Ouch! According to Roger’s Garmin the temperature went from 56 to 38 degrees in less than ten minutes. Piles of hail were accumulating on the side of the road like in an abandoned Christmas crèche. Rainwear works pretty well in rain but when it’s near freezing and you’re damp with sweat, you’re going to suffer. In Roger’s case he was extra-suffering because his legs and gloves got soaked. Not having fenders he got drenched with road spray. Despite making an immediate U-turn and skedaddling back home we had about nine miles of hail and rain under our belt. My hands, feet and lower legs were soaked but I wasn’t too cold. Although his jacket did its job, poor Roger was otherwise soaked and was shivering despite the ugly climb back to the house.
Last Tuesday the weather forecast was for partly cloudy and—gasp!—no rain. But the evidence was right in front of my eyes and I ignored it: it rained almost an inch early that morning and the roads were still wet hours after it had stopped. But hey, it’s the weather forecast so it must be right. Since I was going to go up Diablo, not wearing rain gear was going to be a treat because even in the best stuff (Showers Pass) a big effort will defeat any efforts to stay dry as you sweat inside your waterproof wonder. Everything went as planned until I got near North Gate Road. First, I noticed there was snow on top of Diablo—looks picturesque, but doesn’t that mean it’s cold up there? Then you know what happened next: the sky got dark and I ignored it because the weather forecast said no rain. About halfway up as I rounded a corner it started to rain. I beat a hasty retreat but not before getting soaked and chilled on the descent. By the time I got home the bike was completely filthed up and I had a skunk line down my back. No rain? Hardly.
As winter ends and spring begins we inevitably will be getting less rain and the temperature will be rising. Instead of consistently wet weather we’ll probably be getting more variable conditions, which means losing the habit of riding like it’s going to be wet and cold. Perhaps we should adopt the umbrella policy, i.e. “bring an umbrella to make sure it doesn’t rain.” Remember: the forecast is just an educated guess.