May 3, 2012

The Joys of Spring Cycling

Note from Joe: This week starts the Ann Arbor Commuter Challenge. Go sign up if you haven't already!

     Michigan is a wonderful place to live. We get to experience a full and dynamic range of seasons. Recently we went from having it snow (just flurries) to nearly 90 degree weather in less than a week. This sort of thermogyration (hey look, I invented a word!) makes planning for a bike ride in the spring challenging. In the spring the mornings can be bitter cold, but then the afternoons can be hot. This can result in some interesting fashion.
     On a recent long ride I started out early in the morning in mid-30's weather with little wind. I had on three layers- a base layer, jersey, and a cycling jacket. On my head I had a balaclava and my helmet. This was rather sane and sensible attire for the current weather. However, as time passed the sun brought the thermometer up to nearly 70 degrees. One can't be dressed like they are ready for winter riding in such heat. So, over time I was stopping to swap out clothes or to pack a layer in my camelbak. I was focused on riding well, so the few thought cycles I put towards clothing were more about what areas of my body were overheating and fixing the issue. The sun created a lot of radiant heat, but the wind (which was picking up by then) was quite bitter. As I rolled into our driveway at the end of my ride I realized how completely ridiculous I must have looked. A quick glance at my reflection in the window confirmed it. I was down to wearing a short-sleeve jersey, full fingered gloves, and my balaclava. But, I was comfortable.
     For the commuters out there, there's a moral somewhere in that story. Basically, plan ahead and dress flexibly. I always check the hourly weather chart the night before as I'm packing my gear. In spring it's not uncommon to ride to work like it's winter and to ride home like it's summer. Customizing your kit so you can swap out bits to cool off or put things on for more heat is good. I like flexible pieces of clothing like my cycling pants that can easily convert into shorts. Or my cycling jacket that has sleeves that can pop off. I have four head gear configurations: helmet only, helmet with thin headband (mostly to cover my ears), helmet with skull cap, and helmet with balaclava. And yes, there have been rides when I've cycled through all four configurations.

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