Foul weather cyclists cycle all year round, regardless of the weather (within reason). Fair weather cyclists get to cycle in the crisp air of spring, and through the long, sunny days of summer. Heaven.
But fair weather cyclists miss out on the joys and extremes that year-round cyclists experience. After a few years of year-round cycling, I am here to tell you that fair weather cyclists are missing out on the kaleidoscope of experiences that we foul weather cyclists enjoy.
For example, I love the sight of leaves changing in fall. I love cycling over the piles of colorful leaves that accumulate on the roads. And one afternoon I witnessed a row of autumn leaves framed by a glorious rainbow.
Spring is also an exciting time to cycle, as I get to notice all the spring blossoms.
And then there is the joy of cycling through the icy darkness, watching a wintry sun emerge. I really think that those who try to cycle all year round get an especially rich experience of cycling. Watching the light and the seasons change, experiencing it so viscerally because you’re in it, almost part of it. Collecting unique experiences along the way.
Related: How to Dress for Winter Cycling
Here’s one of my best foul weather cycling experiences!
One December morning I left for work at 5.00 a.m. because I had insomnia. I had checked the weather forecast, and there was nothing especially ominous. The temperature was close to freezing, and sunrise was a long way off – but it wasn’t raining, and cycling would soon warm me up.
Halfway up a very steep, long hill, it started to rain. Well, that was unpleasant. It was cold enough without rain. Wished I was wearing something really waterproof. Oh well, it’ll probably pass, I decided. Just keep pedalling …
Minutes later, the rain was suspiciously cold. And heavy. It dawned on me: this is not rain, this is freezing rain. Shit. Should I turn back? Well no, I’m almost halfway to work – I might as well keep going.
A few more minutes later – it dawned on me: this is no longer freezing rain; this is now bona fide snow. Mmm. Well, in some ways this is better than freezing rain, because it’s light and fluffy. And much less wet. Of course, these is the drawback that the snow is starting to accumulate on the street. Now I am cycling in snow that is about six inches deep. I wonder if my tires are rated for snow? Just keep pedaling …
OK, now I am cycling in a quiet, white, winter wonderland. Not what I was planning or dressed for, and I am now seriously wet and extremely cold. I am pretty much wet to the skin from head to foot, and my moisture coating is in danger of freezing. NOT good. I am reaching the top of the hill, about to intersect with a major road. It’s no longer pitch dark, because the show lightens things. People are wondering across the snowy street, not bothering to check for traffic, because it’s that wonderfully silent winter wonderland kind of scene. Except that I’m heading up the hill towards them. My bell is frozen so it won’t work.
So I sing out: “Helloooo. Biiiike!” they look around in blank amazement. I can almost hear them thinking “Who is this lunatic?”
As I go past, I mutter, “The weather forecast didn’t say anything about snow!”
Now I am passing Metrotown, which has a major transit center. I am wet through and close to hypothermia. I consider stopping to catch a lovely warm bus. That way, if I pass out from hypothermia, help will be at hand. And I will not be in danger of sliding. But then I think I may have to wait for a bus for up to 30 minutes, in which case I will probably die of hypothermia anyway. So I keep on cycling, cautiously. Astonishingly, my tires are rock solid, even in the snow and slush. My courage pays off a little later, as I descend the hill, because as the elevation drops, the snow disappears. I rush towards work, hoping I can make it before hypothermia sets in.
I push my bike into my office building, snow dripping from my bike and nose. I am deeply disappointed that there is no one there to witness my courage (or is that mind boggling stupidity?). The best part of this story? I strip off my frozen, sodden clothes and have the most wonderful hot shower I have ever had in my life. And even though it is Monday morning and I am at work, I am euphoric, happy just to have made it to work alive.
You just don’t have this kind of experience when you’re encased in a car! Do you have any foul weather cycling stories you’d like to share?
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