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Tip: Check the forecast

by Richard Masoner

This morning I recorded another episode of The Spokesmen cycling podcast with David Bernstein, Tim Jackson, Carlton Reid and Rich Kelly. We always end the podcat with a tip. My tip: Check the weather forecast.

If you spend time outdoors this seems like an obvious tip, but a weather front can come in during the work day and change conditions pretty quickly. Several times I’ve seen cyclists on a pleasant morning who are completely unprepared for the rainy weather that will arrive in the afternoon.

I’m guilty of this myself — living in California, it’s easy to get lulled into complacency since the weather is so consistently nice most of the time.

When you drive, it’s usually not too big of a deal — you turn the dial from A/C to Heat on the dashboard and you’re good to go. When you bike, however, you’re exposed to the elements, and lack of preperation can make your ride miserable.

How about you? Have you been surprised by sudden downpours, blizzards, or wind storms?

 
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27 Responses to “Tip: Check the forecast”

  1. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    Sometimes the local forcasters are very wrong. I tend to carry everything for what can happen. It’s not uncommon for me to have both panniers or rear baskets packed with rain gear, a jacket, extra socks and… sveral 8 mile rides home would have been a very long ride other wise. Then too, there is always the bus stop right in front of the building were I work…. Naaa, that $2.25 a ride.

  2. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    Oh, I left out- I have suprised my coworkers when there was a down pour, by pulling out my English cycling rain cape… : ) or when the roads were covered in ice, gota love studded tires in the winter…

  3. I’ve been surprised, but that’s what my cell phone and a loving stay-at-home-wife is for.

  4. WheelDancer says:

    I prepare much as Paul does (must be a MN thing…) though I don’t have an English cycling rain cape. I tend to over-prepare to the point where my sweetie gets a good laugh sometimes. It’s the cold that’s a little trickier since it can cause serious injury without letting you know until its too late even if you don’t fall into a lake. I have only pulled the plug in the middle of my commute once due to weather and it was a result of severe hail. There is no bicycling gear to save you from hail and it’s never forecast since it is so localized.

  5. Anne says:

    I live in Ottawa, which is one of the coldest capitals in the world (second, third or sixth depending on your reckoning), which also has hot, humid summers and a great deal of snow in the winter. The easier thing for me is to have addable layers. I do check the weather daily and traffic cams for snow conditions in the winter. My biggest difficulty is that I am a graduate student and also have a part-time office job, so I can’t just leave clothes at work. I am going to do that once I have a more stable routine and am not carrying things all day. I usually have extra sleeves, leggings, and a mask in winter. Right now I have been carrying the sleeves and a hat, because the weather still varies a lot. It was 14C last week and it is snowing today. In the summer I will need to be prepared for freak thunder storms and avoiding sun burns.

  6. Scott R says:

    Omaha is pretty windy, especially in the spring, and there’s not much you can do for that except lower your profile and deal with it.

    I like the hourly forecasts at wunderground.com and accuweather.com. I find that, at least during the winter, the wundergound.com hourly forecast temps to be a little off (not as cold as they say), but it’s nice to get a picture of how the day might pan out. Knowing the wind direction in advance helps one to better estimate riding time.

    Like Paul said, check the weather, but be prepared for rain at all times.

  7. anon says:

    I’ve been caught out in rain and thunderstorms. Lightning is scary. One of my friends was knocked off his bike by a near lightning strike. It ruined his digital watch. I’ve borrowed large garbage bags from roadside businesses and fashioned emergency rain ponchos from them. I’ve been caught out in snowstorms and needed to defrost my frozen face and hands when I got home. Of course, this was all before the internet…

  8. BluesCat says:

    Rain in Phoenix isn’t usually a problem, but a strong wind which kicks up a lot of pollution can be awful. Luckily, the forecasters can tell by what’s happening in California what the wind will be for us the next day.

  9. BiggerDummy says:

    Like Anne, I am also in Ottawa. This post was very timely as it was 10 degrees Celsius yesterday afternoon as I was outside cleaning my bikes and my BBQ grill. It was around zero this morning so I left properly layered in fleece lined knickers, wool socks and jersey, softshell jacket, etc. Half way to work it turned into a blizzard! So I am now looking out the window at 2 degrees and light rain and considering leaving early for better light – hah!

  10. Dave says:

    I was an avid forecast watcher during my first year commuting by bike. I haven’t checked weather conditions for my commute for many months. I travel prepared and don’t stress myself out anymore over what the weather guessers have to say. This helps me avoid all the other downer news on the tube as well. Talk about a win-win.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I am addicted to windguru.cz It’s actually a windsurfing weather site where, once you sign in (for free), you can create your personal local weather forecast, with wind speed and direction, rain, etc… Much better than to rely on the “…% chance of showers, high in the mid …”

    When it is raining, I check the local weather radar… the animation tells when there’ll be an “opening” in the clouds!

  12. Larry Augenstein says:

    The following quote sums up my opinion of weather forecasting. Always have a plan B.

    “The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.” — Patrick Young

  13. gear says:

    I’m on the bike within ten minutes of waking up so checking quick is important. I use the weatherbug app on my ipod touch to get (my neighborhood’s) temp and wind info. The daily forecast comes from the news the night before.

    The wind info is also useful on the weekends when I plan my ride route.

  14. steelrider2 says:

    Just last week, I got caught in the wind/rain and hat a flat without the right tools to fix it. Drivers always seems to be dumber and drive more dangerously in the rain too.

    Once you check the forecast, be prepared for rain. Carry a plastic zip lock bag for your cell phone…a wet cell phone is of no use.

  15. Honestly, ever since I got in the habit of checking the weather on the iphone when my iphone alarm goes off in the morning, I haven’t been surprised by any sudden weather changes. I know from the second I get up whether it will be a bike day or a subway day.

    Getting stuck in a rainstorm during a commute (which has happened to be twice in the past) really bites.

  16. Tom says:

    If it rains, you just get wet. If you wear a jacket you sweat. I prefer rain water.

    Am I missing something? Are there special protective devices against rain?

  17. Fritz says:

    @Tom: When it’s warm and you’re wearing athletic clothes a little rain isn’t too bothersome. Several scenarios come to mind where inclement weather might impact your ride.

    If the weather is moderate, I often wear regular clothing. It’s unpleasant sitting all day in soaked socks and clothing. There’s some geographical distance and a mountain range between my work and home so the weather is sometimes different. Even for the trip home wearing soaked, heavy wet jeans are a pain.

    When I lived in Colorado it’s happened a few times where the weather is gorgeous in the morning and a blizzard rolls in that afternoon. Lack of preparation can be literally deadly.

    45 degrees F is nice when the sun is shining, but if the wind picks up and the rain starts, that’s bone chilling cold. Just ask the guys who raced in the Tour of California this year.

  18. Richard says:

    In Florida rain is just part of everyday life. I originally tried waterproofing using jacket, pants, shoes but found I would get soaked from sweat instead of rain. Much easier to just have a set of waterproof panniers with a change of clothes and a ziplock freezer bag for your wet stuff. You can also just use a regular plastic grocery bag for it. If you use bike shorts, a sweat wicking shirt, and water sneakers to commute this stuff will not hold water and will only be moist when you store them. You can even dry them in the office but I find it easy to carry another bike short and shirt in the pannier.

    Now the reason for the website link is I find the weather undergrounds wundermap indispensible for my commute. With it you can estimate when the next storm will hit and how much time you have to get to your next sheltered spot or wait for it to pass. Also besides the waterproof panniers I found the RAM Aquabox for holding my cellphone on the handlebars which allows me to keep the gps program display or weather map in view as I ride without having to worry about water damage.

    http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap/?lat=26.12114716&lon=-80.12917328&zoom=10&pin=Fort%20Lauderdale%2c%20FL

  19. Jesse says:

    I don’t mind the rain, but these Colorado thunderstorms we have this time of year are no fun to get caught out in. There’s no way to be prepared on a bike for lightning :(

  20. Overshoes says:

    Keep a pair of neos in your pannier to use when it rains – there’s nothing worse than smelly wet sneakers. Add some water resistant pants and a jacket and you’ll be all set. No more worrying about the weather.

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  22. Keep a pair of neos in your pannier to use when it rains – there’s nothing worse than smelly wet sneakers. Add some water resistant pants and a jacket and you’ll be all set. No more worrying about the weather.

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  25. heris says:

    I do check the weather daily and traffic cams for snow conditions in the winter. My biggest difficulty is that I am a graduate student and also have a part-time office job, so I can’t just leave clothes at work. I am going to do that once I have a more stable routine and am not carrying things all day.

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