If there is one thing for which I am thankful to England, aside from the friends I made in pursuit of my now-useless university degrees, it's teaching me how to dress for the ever-looming possibility of rain and sudden-onset cold spells. Layers. Waterproof footwear. Waterproof outerwear. Always a hat or umbrella in my bag. And that's it. Really. Rain was no reason to cancel a weekend hiking trip. And it did not mean that you couldn't walk to your friend's house two villages away. You could do anything you liked in the rain if you dressed appropriately. This mindset carried over into my life as a cyclist. for 5 years I've been going out on my bike and never worrying about normal fluctuations in weather conditions.
So why now do I pore over weather charts the night before a ride? Why do I know or care what an occluded front is? And why on god's green earth do I listen with intense and impassioned interest to my aviator friends discussing pressure systems?
|image via metoffice.gov.uk|
It took some time before the numbers began to mean anything. With temperature readings, I intuitively know what 10°C or 20°C or 40°F or 80°F feels like, and what to wear for each of those conditions. With wind readings, I lacked a point of reference and had to form the associations from scratch. What number does a strong wind correspond to, versus a moderate wind, versus a breeze? At what point do the gusts transition from annoying to dangerous? After each winter ride - whether successful, scary, or outright aborted (yes, I've walked home pushing my bike down the lane a couple of times!), I would check the wind readings to get a sense for what the numbers feel like. Eventually I determined that if the wind speed is forecasted to be over 20mph, or if the gusts are predicted to be stronger than that, I should not go out on my roadbike - especially not up the mountain. Below those figures is doable, though of course the lower the numbers the better.
So after years of not caring, here I am, a bona fide weather discussion enthusiast. Interestingly, while the rain forecast is wrong just as often as it is correct, the wind forecast tends to be more accurate - so at least it's gratifying. No roadcycling today. But I'll ride my upright bike to the shop, ready to hop off should the gusts try to hurl me into the hedges.