It’s been kind of a weird summer, weather-wise. It seems like most of America is either baking in a heat wave or underwater with heavy rains— all of which can make getting outside to ride seem less than appealing. But don’t let the weather get you down. While most of us prefer to get our riding in when it’s 80 and sunny, sometimes rides in challenging weather can be more rewarding. You just need to make sure you’re properly prepared.
“There is no bad weather, just bad clothing” is a saying that has been variously attributed to World War II Norwegian commandos, Eddy Merckx and Gaynor from our tech department, but no matter the source, it’s as true now as it has always been. Clothing technology has come a long way in the last few years, so making the right clothing choices can turn what would be a miserable ride into a great one.
If it’s a little wet out there, then staying dry is your first priority. Rain jackets are no longer the non-breathable pieces of plastic from days of old. Nowadays space-age fabrics like Gore-Tex and eVent provide highly breathable water- and wind-proof protection from the elements, while lighter weight, packable jackets have Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finishes that are low volume and pack easily into a jersey pocket or hydration pack, but don’t breath as well and offer more limited protection. It’s also important to keep your feet as dry as possible to avoid blisters, hot spots and athlete’s foot. A good pair of water-resistant overshoes can help your feet stay nice and dry, without overheating, in all but the most torrential downpours.
If you’re riding with a group, or want to keep yourself (relatively) free from grime and road spray, then fenders are a must. There are many options available, from the much beloved “beaver tail” rear spray guards, to removable clip on fenders, and full bolt-on fenders. Your choice will depend on what kind of bike you have and what level of protection you would like. Lights are also a necessity when the weather is rainy, since visibility is reduced and many drivers may already be distracted by the weather. For optimal safety, try combining a medium brightness blinky headlight with a very bright rear light. If it might be getting dark, consider adding in a 1000+ lumen headlamp to light your way.
And hey, don’t forget to wash that bike after a good soaking. Nothing is harder on a bike than wet weather conditions. Taking a few minutes to wipe away the dirt, clean your chain, and re-lube all the moving parts can save you some headaches down the road.
But what if it’s blazing hot out? Here again proper clothing, equipment and common sense become the best tools to ensure you enjoy your rides. Many jerseys now are available in super lightweight fabrics that help shield you from the sun’s rays and breath extremely well to help you stay cool. Wear light colored fabrics or jerseys made with coldBlack to help reflect some of the heat. On very hot days you can also opt for a sleeveless jersey or use a few simple tricks that’ll help you cool down. Unzipping your jersey as much as possible is a time-honored way of cooling off and is one of the most effective. Loosening your helmet a little bit and removing your sunglasses also seems to help most people feel cooler. And, of course, splashing yourself down with some water will provide relief.
When it’s hot, the most important thing is to be smart and be prepared. Don’t ride during the hottest parts of the day, or if you decide you simply must, then choose routes with plenty of shade and plenty of places to top up on water along the way. Staying hydrated is probably the most difficult thing to do in extreme heat, so make sure to bring more water than you think you’ll need. Hydration packs offer the ability to carry up to 3 liters of water, which should be enough for most rides. If you prefer to use bottles, try using an insulated bottle like Polar, and carrying a third bottle in a jersey pocket. To replace lost electrolytes, bring some hydration tablets or powders like Nuun, Skratch Labs or Hammer.