I always pay attention to the Farmer’s Almanac for the winter forecast. They don’t rely on computer models, as NOAA does. Observation along with old-school mathematical equations form the Farmer’s report. My uncle Larry can even determine, with a fair bit of accuracy, the amount of snow we’ll get over the winter by how high off the ground a certain wasp nests.
This year, NASA’s NOAA has predicted a milder than average winter. They won’t predict snowfall, which I find interesting. Telling.
The Farmer’s Almanac, by contrast, is saying it’s going to be a nasty, cold, snow-filled winter for us in the Northern Midwest.
I’m intrigued to see who’s right.
Guess where I’m putting my money.
My buddy, Mike, Mrs. Bgddy and I went up north a couple of weekends ago for our friend, Chuck’s birthday ride. As is par for the course, we took the pop-up camper, our bikes, and enough food to feed an army. I covered the camping in Part 1, here.
There’s a lot to factor in for the road trip, but if executed well, the cycling road trip is a fantastic way to spend a vacation, or in our case this time, just a standard weekend. Once accommodations are sorted, we have to look at the bikes and clothing for the trip.
The preparations make the trip come off without a hitch. If a bike breaks down, it can wreck a trip trying to find a shop to service it fast enough to get you back on the road. So, I always make sure the bikes are tip-top. That starts about two weeks out. I check everything over, make sure there are no creaks that need to be addressed. Shifting works properly? Especially the front derailleur – I don’t have need for a front derailleur at home, but there’s no shortage of hills up north. We need that shifting to work! Wheels, do they need to be trued? Any signs of wear with the shift and brake cables? I check everything over so that when I get to where I’m going, everything works as it should – and even then, there are things that will pop up. On this last trip, as an example, my wife kept dropping her chain when she went to shift up from the little to the big chainring so I had to adjust her shifting on the fly. It only took a quick turn of a barrel adjuster, but if I didn’t know what I was doing, it could have caused trouble.
Mike, on your left, is not properly dressed for the weather. It’s only 44° (7 C), and he’s so cold his teeth are chattering in that photo. My wife’s jersey was a little light, but she managed. Chuck was a little cool, too. I’d layered up. I had a jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, wool socks, a cap, and a thermal long-sleeved jersey on. I was comfortable the whole ride. When it warmed up to 50, I simply took the arm warmers off and stowed them in my back pocket.
The golden rule is this: you can take it off, but you can’t put it on if you don’t have it. This is much more than just making sure I’ve got the right clothing for the weather, because some days 60° is reasonable and a cause to eschew the arm and knee warmers. Other days, it’s not reasonable at all because you’re starting out in the upper 30’s and it won’t hit 60 till well after you’re done and showered. Also, is it a damp or dry 60? That’ll play into the clothing decision as well. How about wind? This has to be factored in before we leave, because we can’t put it on if we didn’t bring it. The cycling clothing is the one thing I’ll allow myself to over-pack. It’s better to have the clothing and not need it than need it and not have it.
In my case, I’d rather be a little over-warm and have to remove a layer, than be too cold.
I start checking the forecast at my destination a full week before I leave. By the time we’re packing the SUV and camper to leave, I know exactly what I’ll need and it’s packed away – including enough clothing to handle 10-15° colder than the forecast calls for, plus rain gear. I have no desire to be perched on a bike, freezing my tukus off, when I should be having a fantastic time.
There’s no room for ego on the road trip…
My buddy, Mike, was miserable cold most of the day – and he had a vest in his hand before we left. He looked at me after I suggested he at least wear that and said, “Yeah, but are you going to carry it for me when I want to take it off?” He was kidding, of course, but when I laughed at him and said no, he stuffed the vest back in his backpack.
He was so cold that he had to warm up under a hand dryer in the bathroom during our first stop. We teased him the rest the day, and much of the rest of the trip. This is one of those times you don’t want to “be like Mike”.
The other way to handle cycling kit issues is to make sure you only go on rides when or where it’ll be warm and dry, but even then you’re relying on meteorologists. Good luck with that.
I’ve been on more than half-dozen road trips in the last two years and I’ve managed to get the most out of all of them, and it’s only because I’ve been prepared. You’re out there to have fun, not to see how creative you can be hitching a ride back to camp because you were ill-prepared.
UPDATE: My friend, the Unironedman chimed in to remind us all that nothing beats the humble gilet (or vest). I agree wholeheartedly, and if there’s one piece of clothing that automatically goes into the bag for a road trip (other than jersey’s, bibs, and socks, it’s a vest or two).