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Home » Cycling » There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather, Just Bad Gear (And Other Nonsense Having to Do With Cycling In Bad Weather)

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather, Just Bad Gear (And Other Nonsense Having to Do With Cycling In Bad Weather)

November 2020

There is such a thing as bad weather for cycling. Let’s see if you can guess which photos best depict this simple truth:

Friends, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. When you have snow stuck to your eyebrows, that’s a pretty good indication you’ve just ridden in weather bad for cycling. Let’s say you know someone who’s extra-dim, though. Have them ask anyone who lives in Ireland (or most of the UK for that matter) and they’ll be more than happy to tell you all you need to know. Sadly, in such places, if you want to ride, you’re going to have to come to grips with a popup rain shower. I’d bet my lunch the saying originated either during a Minnesota winter or anywhere in the UK. There once was an All Seasons Cyclist who loved that saying (and did more than his fair share to prove its plausibility). There’s just one problem: real bad weather sucks. All good gear can do is make bad cycling weather suck less.

Let’s just say we’ve got, for comparison’s sake, on one hand, a sunny 80° day with a gentle breeze.  On the other, a windy, 34° (1 C) day with a smattering of rain/snow mix.  The first example, if you hadn’t guessed yet, is a good day for cycling.  The second would be bad.  You can’t put enough lipstick on that second pig to make it pretty.  


See what I did there?  I took a perfect day and compared it with a perfectly lousy day – I took the two extremes as examples to bolster an obvious statement so as to create controversy in the middle by playing the poles.  That, my friends, is politics.  Let’s look at a simpler scenario.  Let’s take out the wind and rain and just go with a chilly night for a ride.  I had one just the other night as a matter of fact, that provides an excellent example of how not to dress for the cold

When I walked my bike out the door at 4:50 pm, it was 54° (12 C).  Not exactly balmy, but pretty normal around here for mid-November, average.  I rolled out over to Chuck’s house and found myself riding a little faster than I’d planned, to stay warm.  I had on arm-warmers, a short sleeved jersey, and a nice long sleeve that I love for 50° rides – it doesn’t block the wind at all, though (thus, the jersey and arm warmers).  For below the belt, I went with wool socks, mtb shoes, leg warmers and bibs.  Again, normal for 50.  I should have been fine and was quite flummoxed as to why I was cold.

In hindsight, once the sun started going down, the temp went with it, and the Weather Channel completely missed this happening. It had us in the upper 40’s till 9pm) but that’s not what we got.  It turned cold.  By the time I had four miles in it was down to 45° (7 C).  Just two miles later, 37° (or 3 C).  I was on the bad side of cold most of the ride (though it wasn’t too horrible as long as I didn’t coast much).  I didn’t know why I was so cold while I was riding, but now that I can see the temp reading from my Garmin on Strava, it makes all the sense in the world.  I should have had a thermal vest on as well, and a second layer down low, with either foot covers or at least toe covers.  And that’s exactly where the saying “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear” makes sense. 

There’s no question I was underdressed for that ride. In a case like that, the gear selection made for a chilly ride, even if it wasn’t technically my fault.  The prognosticator at the Weather Channel wasn’t riding my bike, so “blaming it” on him does about as much good as $#!++!ng in my hand to prove a point.  It wasn’t a “bad” ride by any stretch, either, but the right clothing would have made it vastly more enjoyable.  And that was my first poorly judged weather scenario of the fall season.

In cases like that, good gear choices can absolutely make or break a ride.  Getting closer to the bad pole, though, sucky cycling weather is sucky cycling weather, was ever thus.

Suffice it to say, some frickin’ days are meant for Zwift.  Or a good movie.  And jammies.


  1. JustI says:

    My AC kicked on while I was reading your post, and I got a chill. Still in the mid-80s here in FL. 🙂

  2. idlecyclist says:

    Indoor cycling doesn’t do it for me but it’s a constant struggle to cycle in less pleasant weather. I’m OK if I can get out of the house in the dry, starting in the rain is a real challenge! Ice or snow is the only thing guaranteed to stop me for sure (mainly because I don’t have the right tyres or bike handling skills) but strong wind is my pet hate 😡

    • bgddyjim says:

      I don’t mind the wind so much, we get a lot of it. I’m like you with the rain… I can’t start with it spitting but I’m okay if a shower pops up while I’m out.

  3. Brent says:

    That thing about snow sticking to your eyebrows… That’s not bad weather… that’s fat bike weather. If you were out riding your fat bike in that weather you would be grinning from ear to ear. In fact, you’d be begging for more snow.

    Just a friendly reminder that your next bike should be a fat bike. Could this be the year that we sign you up?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Daughter heads off to college next fall, brother. Gonna be poor for a while!

      • Brent says:

        We all ate ramen noodles, 12-pack for $2 at Wal-Mart, when we were in college. Surely she will understand she’s getting an authentic vintage college experience when you tell her you won’t be able to afford the meal plan and she’ll have to eat ramen noodles like you did. Just make sure the fat bike is at the back of the lineup in the bike room when she comes home to visit for the first time.

      • bgddyjim says:

        It’s not the kid I have to worry about, brother. It’s mama bear.

  4. unironedman says:

    I’m stayin’ out of this one! 😉

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