Cycling in the 50s

. . . not as in The Decade, not as in The Birthdays, but as in Fahrenheit.  Less than two weeks ago I was planning my rides for early in the day to avoid the sweltering 90°s of the afternoon, worried about dehydration on long rides, and wondering whether the breezy dry heat would lead to brush fires.  Now, ten or eleven days–and 5″ of tropical rain, two cold fronts, and more showers later–I have logged my first ride with long sleeves, and the biggest question for the last couple of days has been whether lightweight leggings are in order (my answer has been “no”).

In the last forty-eight hours I have ridden twice under leaden gray skies, cool breezes, and occasional cold, liquid pinpoints of drizzle.  Riding in that kind of weather changes everything.  The decisions I make are different from those of summer cycling.  Do I even need my hydration system?  Should I take a rain jacket along?  What kind of underlayer and outerwear combination goes best with this temperature?  Will the sun shine at all?  Do I want sunglasses?

You know the season’s changed when the sun brings with it a truly comforting warmth.  With a north wind every short burst of sunshine feels so nice, at least on my south side.  My north, shady, side remains cool, a bit like the side of the moon that never gets sunshine.

Out on the trail most of the casual cyclists are gone.  Everybody I saw today was a distance tourist with panniers, or someone going from point A to point B using a bike as basic transportation, or a serious recreational/fitness rider.  The three categories were represented about equally among the 14 cyclists who passed me going the other way and the 5 I passed going my way (nobody passed me).  I figure that if I go on a 24 mile ride at a given speed, then I see about 48 linear miles of bike traffic going the other way, assuming that the others are riding roughly as fast as I am (a generous assumption for the lot I just described).  And I survey roughly 24 linear miles of traffic going my way.  So seeing 19 other riders over a total of 72 linear miles does not reflect a very great amount of traffic on the trail: about one every 3.7 miles.

In little more than a heartbeat we have shifted from a Labor Day environment to what seems like a Thanksgiving environment.  The meteorological prognosticators (or “Weathermen,” not a bad name considering how often their forecasts “bomb”) are predicting some perfect September weather (sunny, highs in the mid-70s) for tomorrow through Monday.  It’s about time!  And just right for Indigenous Americans Columbus Day.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.

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