Fair Weather Friends

We had beautiful weather over the weekend that extended through Monday. On Monday’s ride (courtesy of P and her Dahon!), I saw other commuters for the first time in months (to be completely honest here, I should say that “saw” is usually a substitute for the words “was passed in the bike lane by” — unless they’re traveling in the opposite direction, that is.)

As seen on Franklin Rd. over the weekend.

As seen on Franklin Rd. over the weekend, from the Mustang.

My first thought was, how nice to see other people out riding. Too bad they don’t know you can ride when it’s below 50.

Then I realized it was only a few months ago that I realized riding when it was below 50 was possible or desirable, and that I was not a happy camper on the day I rode when it was below 15 this year –  I’m not sure I’ll do that again. Also, I’m still working on negotiating rain, which kept me off my bike yesterday.

While I’m sure I can get to the point where a shower or two won’t keep me off the road, I doubt I’ll ever voluntarily ride in a thunderstorm or even hard rain (does anyone do this?). It’s not necessary, and I’m no masochist. What keeps you off your bike? I’d be interested in hearing where others draw the line. No judgments! And if you’ve conquered a former bike-commuting hurdle, let us know about that, too.

  • matt

    What keeps me off my bike? rain, cold and wind.

    Rain: i don’t have rain gear or fenders so combine that with skinny, slick tires and i’m not riding in the rain. i have ridden in a light rain and was really not that wet when i got to the office. the only thing was i had a big dirty wet stripe up my back due to not having fenders.

    Cold: upper 20′s is my limit. any colder than that and i don’t ride.

    Wind: winds of 15mph and over makes riding difficult and i usually leave the bike at home.

    Seeing cyclists might depend on where you live and work. i commute from the east side to hillsboro village and see commuters pretty much all day long. even when it is raining and bitter cold.

  • spiderleggreen

    Why do I think you’ll ride again, next winter? Because next fall, you’ll be having such a good time on your bike that you won’t be want to get off. That was me a few years back. I just couldn’t get off my bike. So, I have spent the last few years figuring out how to ride in cold weather. My coldest ride was this year at -10F. And it was a fun ride! I’ve had colder rides at 30F. You’ll be smarter next year, so I’m sure you’ll be out there…on your bike… laughing at the weather.

    • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com Trisha

      Thanks spiderleg — you might be right! I didn’t think I’d be riding in 30-degree weather earlier last year. And Matt, you’re probably right about where you ride making a difference. I’m going to the Village, too, and will usually see at least one other commuter once I get there (maybe it’s you!). But Belmont and the neighborhood streets I go through have been pretty empty this winter.

  • http://www.pragmatik.org Johnny

    Only ice or injury, usually:)

    We don’t usually get icy enough winters to justify studded tires, but this year makes me think it might be worth looking into:)

    There have been days when something hurt too badly to ride, and I took the bus, like the day after I dumped my goods on some black ice. I’d rather miss a day, heal and be back than hurt it worse. :)

  • http://www.pragmatik.org Johnny

    Wait, I didn’t mean to sound like some He-Man:)

    • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com Trisha

      Too late, Johnny. I’m impressed! ;)

  • spiderleggreen

    Plus, with this blog you are contractually obligated to ride, rain or shine. ;)

  • Val

    For me, these days, pretty much the only thing that will keep me off the bike is not needing to be anywhere. Public transportation in the Puget Sound area is pathetic (the folks who run it will tell you different, but they compare it to nothing), and activating the insurance and getting a motor vehicle ready to drive is actually more trouble for me right now than just riding. I did accept a ride from a freind recently when facing 20 miles to get home in a wet snowstorm with four to six inches already on the ground, when I had forgotten to bring my studded tires. I still felt guilty, but that would have been a very tiring ride. I stayed off the bike for a week after having surgery, but as soon as I was up and about, I was riding, albeit very gently and carefully. For real inspiration, I like to check in on Jill Homer’s blog, especially this recent post: http://tinyurl.com/dncu42 She makes me feel like a wimp, and keeps me from ever complaining about the weather here. One of my favorite pieces of advice for new riders is: don’t let the weather be the boss of you. This goes hand in hand with the northern European adage that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. I guess I just like to ride, and hate to drive. I think I may be a bit stubborn, too. I will say that any riding that anyone does is a good thing, regardless of how else they may get around.

  • http://www.bikeskirt.blogspot.com Elisa

    rain keeps me off the roads. It feels scary enough without having to worry about rain as well. Plus, I am fender free. I have ridden in the rain but only when caught. and below 10 degrees stopped me this year. I am hoping to be over all of that by next winter. Injury also keeps me off Mick Jagger occasionally. And sheer laziness. that is the main issue I seem to have (although I wrap it up in neat little excuses)

  • Pete

    I get asked a lot if I “rode the bike today”. Living car free for most of my adult life makes my perpective different than other folks. So my answer is always yes I rode the bike today, because the alternative for me is walking.

    So ….. what gets me to choose walking over riding the bike? … The only thing that really does that is over 5 inches on un-plowed snow, otherwise the bike is really faster and easier.

    Here in Rhode Island its been a challenging winter. We’ve had lot’s of cold, snow and ice, we’ve had days of highs in the single digits etc. I haven’t chosen to walk to work yet.

    I think something that really makes a difference is set up and gear. If you have fenders and a rain suit then rain is no big deal. If you have warm clothes, then wind chills below zero are not so bad. Studded tires are actually a lot easier to ride over ice covered roads …..

    It is fun to do something that people think is sort of super human, but really, when its the way your life is set up, it’s just stuff.

    It helps too that I live pretty close to work and places to shop.

  • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com Trisha

    Val, that is a crazy link that definitely puts things in perspective. I have to admit my threshold for comfort is a bit higher than yours and Jill’s!

    Elisa, I feel the same about rain so far. The day I rode in the “snow” (which ended up being freezing rain/snow mix) my visibility was severely limited. Seems like a hard rain would be even worse. Injury is a good reason…and I too have fallen victim to sheer laziness.

    Pete, I agree that setting up your life a certain way can make a BIG difference. I feel like I’ve made strides toward that over the past few months.

  • http://bikesocial.blogspot.com/ Gordon Inkeles
  • http://bikesocial.blogspot.com/ Gordon Inkeles
  • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com msdottie

    Well, the thunderstorm kept me off my bike today. Boo. In the summer I don’t mind riding in rain because I don’t care if I get soaking wet. The winter is a different matter and I have not had to figure out a solution before, since when there’s precipitation, it’s almost always snow.

  • http://www.grinderswheels.blogspot.com Jon

    Actually, I love riding in the rain. The sound of the tires slicing through the water on the road, the reflection of me and my bike on the pavement…it all adds up to a relaxing and soothign experience.

    All this assumes that you are dressed for the conditions, of course!

  • http://www.cyclingisgoodforyou.blogspot.com anna

    Rain certainly doesn’t keep me off the bike. I actually love cycling in the rain. In german we say “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing” ;-). And it’s really true, especially in the winter. If you’re not convinced, just try it (carry a tippet and if necessary waterproof shoes). There’s a poem in one of the citycycling magazines that is devoted to cycling in the rain and explains what is so much fun about it: http://www.citycycling.co.uk/issue32/issue32page8.html And it’s true. After riding in rain I’m always really happy (maybe I’m a weirdo, don’t know ;-)).

    Well, I avoid riding in bad thunderstorms if it’s not necessary (usually it’s fine to just wait for 10min or so until the worst is over).

    • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com Trisha

      Anna and Jon, from your descriptions I can see how riding in the rain would be fun — or at least something of an adventure — but how do you see where you’re going? I was having trouble in the sleet and was wishing for windshield wipers on my sunglasses. :) I figure I can tolerate anything for the 15 minutes it takes me to get to work, so I’m willing to give it a shot once I get a bike with fenders.

  • tsalyards

    Not riding when it’s under 50? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahhahaha (wheeze) hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (snort) hahahahahahahahahaha (cough cough).

    Okay I’m done now. Is it really any wonder why the North won the war?

  • http://www.cyclingisgoodforyou.blogspot.com anna

    @ Trisha: Hm, I never really had problems with my sight. Most of the time I wear a bicycle helmet that has kind of a sunblind in the front though that also protects my eyes from rain. Might be more complicated if you have to wear glasses. There are some tricks to avoid filming over and such, but I can’t remember them. Sometimes I did have problems with heavy snowfall (or sleet as you mentioned) and thought about wearing ski goggles once or twice – but never actually bought some and still managed to get around (well, my commute isn’t that long either, less than 30min). Fenders are surely a must, otherwise you will have a nice dirty line on your back. Be more careful when braking too, but that’s about it concerning the bike. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

  • Erich

    I only will not ride in a blowing snowstorm really. I’d agree with the commenter previously who said “there is only bad clothing.” In rain, I have my rain pants and coat from Helly Hansen, and a pair of laboratory goggles to keep my eyeglasses from fogging. In snow, I have my smartwool underlayer. In extreme cold I have my balaclava and mittens. I actually prefer cycling in the cold to the hot, because at least you can dress for the cold! Heat always makes me sweaty once I get to work.

    Also, I find it hard to believe that the US has yet to jump on the fender bandwagon. It’s ridiculous that you have to journey to Europe to pick up a nice dutch-style bicycle with fenders and chainguard.

  • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com Trisha

    Erich, I couldn’t agree more. Good-quality commuter bikes are just not widely distributed here in the U.S. That’s slowly changing, but they’re still a lot harder to find and more expensive here than they are in Europe.

  • http://la-piernanegra.livejournal.com/ Lapiernanegra

    Nothing keeps me off my bike. I ride in all conditions because I have the proper arrow (bicycle) in my quiver (small apartment). Snowy and streets clogged with ice my single speed kona mtb comes out. But it takes a major winter storm for me to ride the ssmtb in the streets with consistency. Mostly I ride the surly crosscheck. I have gear out the yazoo for all conditions but I do seem to have a problem holding onto rain pants for some reason. My biggest cold weather complaint is wearing a face covering and having my eye protection fog up. Any suggestions anyone?

  • Angela Nathan

    I bought a bike in October, it was Spring. Relearned how to ride, and now I bike to work when the weather and my mood is right. I plan to buy some gloves for Autumn. Not sure if I will feel inclined to cycle when it gets to Winter.