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Extreme Weather Bicycling

As the temperature crossed the 100 degree mark in DC this week, I can now officially say that, in the past six months, I've biked in extreme weather at both ends of the meteorological spectrum. You can revisit my post on winter bicycling here.

As I was riding home from work today I started thinking about whether it's more difficult to bike in heat or in cold/snow. They are both challenging, but for very different reasons.

(from Flickr user photoholic1)

In the summer, the key to biking in the heat is wearing cool clothes and staying hydrated. This means I need to wear shorts and a t-shirt on my ride into work, and bring my work clothes with me in a bag and change when I arrive. In the winter, on the other hand, it's easy to wear work clothes during the ride (particularly if the office attire is casual). It's also more practical to wear a backpack in the winter. For obvious reasons, there's less reason to worry about perspiration in the winter.

Heat dehydrates people more quickly, so carrying a lot of water is key. Cold weather is just uncomfortable, so having the appropriate clothes, coat, hat, gloves, etc. is required. Although most people can't fathom biking through snow, it's less difficult than they'd think, particularly in a place that takes care of its streets. In fact, biking in rain is much worse than biking in snow. I'll take 30 degrees and snowing over 40 degrees and raining anytime. Wind, on the other hand, can be challenging, and it tends to be a lot worse in winter than in summer.

Here's the thing... yes, I know, it's not particularly comfortable to bike in either extreme heat or extreme cold, but the range in which it is comfortable biking is actually quite large. I think people would be surprised how nice it can be to bike in 40-degree air, so long as you have the right clothes, and the same can be said for biking in 85-degree temperatures. It doesn't have to be exactly 65 and sunny to have a good ride.


Dave Reid said…
Agreed, biking in temperatures as low as in the 30's can be quite comfortable, and I'd agree wind and rain are the toughest weather items to ride through.
This is a challenge I face everyday especially since I bike to work. Anyway my clothes are my best defenses against the elements.

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