Life in the Bike Lane

Riding in transitional weather

By: Tom Frady
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If you are a little bit of a crazy cyclist and start your rides early in the morning (hello, me), you will have noticed it’s a bit cooler. Like 40 degrees cool. Like “I-shoulda-put-on-my-warm-gloves” cool.  Like, well, you see where I’m going.

How can the weather forecast be for 80 degrees when you can see your breath?  That’s fall around here.

Science (you remember science) has shown that cooler weather might make your faster. Heat saps your strength. If we make a distinction between “cool” and “cold,” it may be true but nothing seems to make me faster.

It will take your muscles a bit longer to warm up on a cooler ride. My group meets at a central location, so we all ride to the start. Some as much as two miles.  I live closer, but always take the long way around the neighborhood before heading to the meet-up point.  That way, I’m warmed up when we all take off. It also takes me back by my house so I can confirm that I remembered to close the garage door.

Frankly, I’m not a pre-ride stretcher, but if that’s your thing, it might help, too. 

These fall days eventually warm up, so layering is important.  When it’s really cold, you need to think about a layer that keeps you warm and another layer to break the wind. Hmmm, is that why they are called windbreakers? But this time of year, you probably don’t need both. I love wind vests. 

For me, a vest and short sleeved jersey is often enough. When it’s below 45 degrees, I’ll add arm warmers. (For the non-cyclist, arm warmers are just sleeves that can be taken on and put back on as the weather requires.)  A light windbreaker works, too.  Vests, windbreakers and arms can all be stowed and carried easily. 

A little more on windbreakers.  Unless you have paid far too much, windbreakers are not rain jackets. They might be water resistant but they don’t put up a very good fight. Invest in a $20 plastic rain jacket you can carry with you when there is a chance of rain.

Long-sleeved jerseys are less versatile than the arm-warmer/short sleeved jersey combo but the time will come (January) when they work just fine.

If you wear fingerless gloves, putting a pair of lightweight glove liners under them for the first hour of riding keeps your fingers from getting too cold and they store easily in a pocket.  I’ve used everything from 79-cent garden gloves to wool liners I found in the hunting section of Cabella’s.

If you need to stow clothing while on rides, there are several alternatives. I don’t like stuffing everything into my jersey pockets (that’s where my camera is), so I use a small bungee cord on top of my under-seat bag to tie on extra clothes. If you have some room in your under seat bag, you’d be amazed how much you can stuff in there. There are lightweight bags that attach to handlebars or you can use a bungee cord there, too. I try to avoid a backpack but a lightweight drawstring bag is easy and comfortable if you don’t put anything too heavy in it. 

And remember: whatever you wear, be sure it is bright and highly visible. 

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.