Weather the Weather

Lightning - another reason to have a carbon composite bike.

Living in Tulsa, I’ve discovered a simple truth about outdoor sports: there’s no avoiding the weather. Heat, humidity, random winds, unpredictable rain, freezing cold, and any combination thereof. When I first started to ride, if I saw it was going to be a 20 mph windy day, I’d stay inside. When the heat went above 100°, I’d stay inside. When the rain was threatening, I’d stay inside. I found that I was spending more time inside on my trainer and my weight bench than on the road. From reading online, I found this is a common mistake.

For a novice like myself, the weather seemed like a deal-breaker, something that should be avoided. Just wait for the nice, clear days with good temperatures and not too breezy… tomorrow will be better, or maybe the day after that. But if you do that – especially out here where 9 times out of 10 you’re dealing with at least one element of insane weather – you might as well give up going outside. Like most things in life, weather is a matter of perspective – how you view an issue will ultimately determine how you handle it. And so, I set about changing my view on the weather so that it became part of my training.

Don’t get me wrong – each kind of severe weather has its inherent dangers, and should not under any circumstance be taken for granted. But avoiding/fearing the weather ultimately leaves you unprepared for a time when you cannot avoid it.

Heat: drink early, drink often. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty, because by then you’re already running on empty.

Rain: slow up, and get there in one piece. Like with driving, if it hasn’t rained in a while the road will be extra slick. Brakes won’t work as well, so remember to feather them a bit when prepping to stop. And most of all – cover your electronics! As unpredictable as the rain is out here, I always carry a 1 qt. zip lock bag for my phone.

If you see this, it's ok NOT to ride.

Humidity: makes temperatures feel much hotter, and makes sweating far less efficient. The heat index is as important as the heat itself.

Wind: when it’s a tailwind, it’s helpful. When it’s a headwind, just consider it a challenge. When it’s all over the place… well, grin and bear it. Watch for cross-breezes on small roads with large vehicles, and remember that wind can make other weather conditions worse: Heat + Wind = faster sweat evaporation. Cold + Wind = even colder relative temperature. Rain + Wind = decreased visibility.

Cold: layer up. Make sure to keep your hands and feet covered, cause they’ll be the first to tingle. Your head definitely has to be covered, because you lose a lot of heat that way. And a scarf or face mask will help hugely with breathing. So far my coldest day ride has been 32°. Remember that the faster you go, the colder the temp is relative to your movement – self-generated wind chill. At 15 mph, the temp was bearable. At 20, it started to feel noticeably cold. At 25, it hurt.

You never know what the weather will be like on race day, so it’s best to get on the road in all types of weather. Just prepare and get out there. It’ll be rough, but hey, you don’t ride because it’s easy. 🙂