While we wait for Hurricane Sandy to arrive, I am still finding sand caked on my bike from an earlier rainy, muddy ride. It seems that every time I have ridden this bike so far, it has rained. Of course today, on my inaugural ride with fenders, it is sunny and dry. A friend consoles me by reminding me of the approaching hurricane. Surely I will have the opportunity to test the fenders then. I take the idea seriously and begin to mentally map out a route on some local trails, before realising how utterly insane that is. When the townsfolk are stocking up on canned goods and flashlight batteries, I should probably stay indoors.
With the season marching on toward starker days, I find myself thinking of weather. As cyclists we all tend to have an idea of the "perfect weather" for riding. For some it's the height of summer. For others it's that elusive "60 degrees and sunny, with a mild breeze." A few riders I know prefer cooler temperatures, and some even claim to enjoy rain. I think for me, the biggest revelation has been that, when push comes to shove, I can feel good in almost any weather.
After a recent post describing a rainy ride on dirt roads, a reader wrote: "It's in our nature to want to be comfortable and coddled, but you celebrate the joy of pushing yourself through rain and mud." I felt guilty reading this, because honestly I don't feel as if I am overcoming discomfort or pushing myself when I ride in those kinds of conditions. And I think that is the key to my being able to do it. The secret is to find a way of being comfortable, to just go with it and appreciate the situation for what it is, rather than spending energy on trying to overcome it. Maybe this is just a different way of looking at the same thing, but to me it makes a big difference. Rather than pushing through discomfort, I extract comfort.
Part of it is of course practical considerations. Figuring out how to dress, eat and drink in different conditions. Over the summer I stumbled upon some tricks that enabled me to ride in heat in humidity like I'd never managed to do before. And last winter, I discovered that riding in sub-20 degree temperatures was also very doable with the help of strategic layering. But equally important is the attitude. We have to be curious, interested. We have to want the experience.
What is my idea of perfect riding weather... Probably high 40s to low 50s, with heavily overcast skies. I feel most alive then; the raw energy in the air makes me want to ride faster, further. But in the end, it's not about the weather, but about finding comfort in whatever is thrown at me, about feeling coddled by the beauty of the surrounding landscape.