On a 70 degree spring day with the sun shining it’s easy to be a cyclist - it’s a lot harder when it’s below freezing or the sun is blazing. The funny thing is, that’s also true for driving a car. We just don’t think about it because we’ve set up systems to make it easier to stay warm, cool, or dry while driving.
That’s the key with riding too - if you can set up systems to make it easy and automatic to stay warmer, cooler, and drier. Then, the weather won’t be as much of a barrier anymore.
The nice thing about riding when it’s hot is that as you ride air molecules come into contact with your body heat and absorb it. You then quickly leave those molecules behind you and come into contact with new ones. In other words, you create your own cooling breeze!
The important lesson then is to maximize your ability to take advantage of that. Wear lighter clothes and consider a more ventilated helmet (look to professional road riders for guidance here - it’s pricier, but you’ll definitely appreciate the difference if you ride in the heat often). Additionally, sweating is good, especially with that breeze effect, so drink and carry lots of water.
Finally, if you have the option ride earlier or later in the day when it’s cooler. Especially for commuting into work, riding before the sun gets fully above the trees and houses will make for a much cooler ride.
Cold is a funny thing - to some extent, we’ve created gear that can conquer some pretty unbelievable temperatures (there are folks doing research in antarctica in winter!). At the same time, we’ve evolved to avoid exposure to extreme cold (and it really shows when we try to get out of bed on a cold morning!).
The key is to create a system of comfortable and easy-to-shed layers. We favor a nice baselayer like an athletic long-sleeve shirt or thermal underwear, a thin jacket over it, and then a thicker jacket or shell over that. Add additional layers as desired to make sure that you’re comfortable at the start, then shed layers as you start to warm up. Get a good set of gloves, and something to cover your ears (and maybe nose, depending on your preferences). You may feel like this:
But you’ll feel really proud of yourself when you arrive at your destination!
You’ll also get to enjoy being outside and getting some exercise in the middle of winter, which is nice!
Oh, and one more thing - if you really, really don’t want to ride because of the cold, that’s ok! You don’t have to prove anything to us, or anyone else. Sometimes it’s 30 below 0 and windy and you won’t catch us anywhere near an outdoor activity. But if it’s just a bit chilly and you’re letting that spoil your beloved bike ride, then get layering!
Two simple items will make your wet weather riding more fun (and yes, it can really be fun!):
Fenders will keep water from the roadway from being thrown back up at you by your bike, and can be attached to almost any bike (you just have to find the right type of mount or fender design - your local bike shop can help). If where you live gets rain pretty regularly, especially if it’s a lighter and more drawn out kind of rain, then get some fenders and install them in advance.
A good waterproof jacket or poncho will combat the other major direction of water (the actual falling rain), and since being on a bike keeps you mostly vertical it will cover most of where rain is falling onto you - pretty convenient! If rain is really pervasive where you live and you hate being wet, you might also consider waterproof pants and shoes.
There’s another simple lesson we’ve learned for folks who live in climates where rain is rare but spectacular (we’re talking 10-20 minute rainstorms that dump a month’s worth of water): just wait! Sure, you can’t always know when it’s going to rain, but if it looks like it’s about to start (or is underway), just wait it out. If you’re riding and it starts to rain, pull into a business and hang out for ten minutes. They won’t mind that you came into their shop or bought a beverage, and you’ll get to enjoy the awesome power of the rainstorm from the comfort of shelter. Then when it’s passed, get rolling again. That simple!