I’m a Fairweather Cyclist and I’m Okay with That

7-day weather forecast for London Ontario, April 22-28, 2014 -- Today, raining and 8 degrees and windy.

Do you ride no matter what? Or are you, like me, someone who watches the weather?

Sam pulls together a group to go for a short lunch time ride every Tuesday and Thursday, starting today. It’s the right kind of length for me–maximum two hours on the road. And the right kind of speed–they pace to the slowest in the group. It also couldn’t be more convenient. The group meets just outside the Philosophy Department. And Sam has assured me that we don’t knowingly go out in the rain.

But I’m even more fairweather than that. It’s not raining right now, but it was cold when I left for work this morning. And windy. It had been raining earlier, when I left to go to the Y for my swim. Environment Canada said it might rain into the early afternoon.

If it’s wet, or even just threatening to be wet, and it’s cold (under 10 degrees C), and windy (“Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50” was today’s forecast), then at least for the time being, I’m not interested.

Why? Well, here’s the thing. I just got my road bike out of winter storage the other day and pumped up the tires (with some help from my FB friends, who had to remind me about that little valve that needed to be unscrewed first).  I’m keen, even excited, to get back on the bike.  But my last ride of the season, which was also only my second ride on the road bike ever, was miserable. So horrible was it that it prompted me to write a post about suffering.

So I want my first ride of this season to be a good experience.  Rain was not the main issue on that early-November ride that left me wondering whether I really should have bought a road bike. Even the cold wasn’t so bad.  But those gusty northwesterlies? No thanks. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that you can never cycle a whole route with a tailwind. At some point, around some corner, it will happen that you turn into a headwind. So there’s that.

Add to that that this morning, it just felt like a dreary morning to get on my bike for the commute in.  So I bailed.

For a moment I felt as if this fairweatheredness of mine said something about me, like maybe that I lack grit or something like that. I may not be the grittiest of them all, but hey, I was in the pool at 6 a.m. this morning and swam over 2000 metres before a lot of people I know were even awake!

I ran 2-3 times a week through the polar vortex winter, increasing my distance steadily from January to March.

I’ve already ridden my (commuter) bike home in the rain this spring, so it’s not as if I won’t do it.  But I won’t “go for a ride” if the weather is bad.

That’s where I draw the line.  I want to enjoy my time on the bike. I know that sometimes we all get caught in the rain. I can live with that. And I know that sometimes the wind comes up. I can live with that. But I won’t knowingly go for what’s supposed to be a fun ride over the lunch hour when that’s in the forecast.

That may change.  But for now, I’m a fairweather cyclist and I’m okay with that.

9 thoughts on “I’m a Fairweather Cyclist and I’m Okay with That

  1. No biggie. We’ll ride next week. In the end, everyone bailed today for different reasons. Usually if that happens I just go over to Windermere and do hill repeats but not today. Too blustery.

    But it is worth practicing riding in the rain if you’re going to race triathlon. I did Kincardine one year in the pouring rain. Ditto wind. There’s no control over the weather on race day…

    See you out there soon!

  2. My husband is exactly the same, Tracy, and he’s been beating himself up about it all winter. Here in the uk, winter riding is easy: many days are springlike on the surface. But the trade off (small island in North Atlantic) is that there is always a wind. Sometimes really strong wind. And a lot of fairly challenging hills (we did a 3/4 mile at avg grade 20% last week! Ugh!!). So if the weather seems imperfect (windy/chilly/light drizzle forecast at some point) J is not in. And that’s fine. I’ve been training specifically to improve my speed and strength, but J really just wants to enjoy himself. I see nothing wrong with that, as long as you’re fit enough on the bike to enjoy a nice 50k+ when you do get out.

    Do you have a trainer or rollers? Adding one bike ride or training session per week to your schedule over the spring will help with leg strength and pace. (Spin at the gym is also ok, as long as you remember always to add some gear as your legs adjust and get comfy.) Also, in the pool, I often use my burner fins to do 1000 metres kicking to work the quads (not quite equivalent, but not bad, plus kicking with fins = fast and fun).

    I’m looking forward to riding with you in the fall!

  3. I’m also with you on this. I don’t like to ride when it’s rainy, blustery or dark outside. Part of it is because it doesn’t feel safe and part of it is that I just don’t enjoy it. I’ll run in those conditions, but I’m still so skittish on my bike (and so lacking in a head lamp) that I don’t feel comfortable riding in them. Maybe that will change as I get more comfortable but I doubt it.

  4. HI Tracy– I agree with the other commenters. Feeling safe and steady on the bike is key to enjoyment (which is what it is all about, or mostly about anyway), and wet roads or rain gusts plus skinny tires are simply not fun. I don’t like to road ride in the rain/wind.

    However, change roads to woods, and trade out skinny for fat tires, and you have a whole different scene. A while back I went on what turned into a solo cross ride in what was supposed to be a sprinkle, but ended up a downpour. I was already out there when the sky opened up, and even though I was dressed for light rain, I got soaked. So I cut the ride short, but during it I was chuckling to myself intermittently, marveling at my own silliness for being out there. And it was fun. And I wasn’t worried about getting hit by a car (I was off-road) and I wasn’t too cold (also key for me). And congrats to you for finding the fun in 1) swimming in what to me is practically the middle of the night; and 2) running in the serious cold. All good for us to hear.

  5. I don’t have a car and we continue to choose not to have a car. So cycling over 65% of the time year round in total is a necessity. Other times I don’t have to, but I do bike because there is a point where my body gets addicted to cycling. Or I take transit, walk or…for trips take train, plane. Several trips in 1 day could be all bike or 1 bike trip + 1 walking/transit trip, as 2 separate trips and not multi-modal in 1 trip.

    If it’s pouring rain, I don’t choose to start a trip like this, if I have other immediate, better travel options. If it pours in the middle of ride, I just carry on by bike.

    If there is high gusty wind (ie. over 40 km. /hr.) and I know my bike route on that day is over elevated bridges or on busy roads, I don’t bike. I have been caught trying to cycling into 70 km./hr. headwind. Freakin’ scary. I ended walking my bike 50% of trip, including down into the underground garage at home. As it turned out, it was a major damaging windstorm on that day. (this was nearly 2 yrs. ago)

    Night-time cycling is strictly utilitarian for me—- from a function, restaurant or visiting someone. At most 1-2 times per month.

    Or I start off commuting to work in the dark in early morning during winter, Not for fun. But I do find it peaceful and able to deal with near empty roads before rush hr.

    Which is the opposite of monthly fun bike rides in our city here…for unknown reasons there is a monthly group bike ride that starts at 9:00 pm through the park system and ends in a night-time barbecue somewhere. I don’t consider it fun when I’m trying to keep up with other cyclists AND figure out shadows and corners at night time..even with my bike lights on, without crashing.

    I do plan some of my regular routes which blend sections of connected bike-ped paths with on road, bike lane cycling in 1 trip. Of course, it helps to choose to live in neighbourhoods that offer these combinations.

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