What are the best, worst weather conditions for cycling?
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
Whether it’s for a recreational trip through the wilderness or a competitive distance race, cyclists always need to take the weather into account before they ride.
When it comes to cycling, there is a saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear,” officials with USA Cycling told AccuWeather.
Finding the right clothing to wear allows riders to ride comfortably in any type of weather conditions, whether it’s brutal cold or stifling heat.
In general, it depends on what each specific athlete prefers for his or her ideal temperature or weather.
Some would prefer to ride in warmer weather, some in colder weather. However, highs in 60s F might be considered ideal by most, according to USA Cycling.
AccuWeather Senior meteorologist Joe Lundberg is an avid cyclist who founded the State College Cycling Club in 2006.
“Personally, some of the best conditions are when you have sunshine that creates great visibility,” Lundberg said, adding that he prefers to ride in temperatures in the 60s, 70s and 80s, especially when there is low humidity.
The most challenging weather conditions can involve anything that makes the surface you are riding on inappropriate for the tires equipped on your bike, the USA Cycling representatives said. For example, if you’re riding with smooth tires during the winter and you happen to come across an icy stretch of road. Then cycling can become quite challenging, they said.
Some bikes, known as 'Fat Tire' bikes, are specifically designed to provide traction when riding on snow or sand.
During the summer months, the biggest challenge is staying properly hydrated, while in the winter, it’s dressing warm enough to reduce the risk of hypothermia.
"Regarding temperature, the goal is keeping your core temperature up during cold weather and keeping your core temperature cool during hot weather," USA Cycling officials said.
Lundberg cautioned against wearing too many layers in the winter, as people can overheat even on a cold day and it can be harder to navigate the bike. During the summer months, when fewer layers are needed he recommended sun sleeves, which help protect your arms from the sun's ultraviolet rays and keep your arms cooler.
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Staying hydrated while riding in the heat of summer is important because USA cycling officials say people might not feel like they are sweating as much since the wind flowing over a person while riding increases the evaporation of their sweat.
“This keeps you cooler but may also trick you into thinking you don’t need to drink as much,” USA Cycling said.
Other ways to limit exposure to heat on a bike ride include riding earlier in the day or later in the evening when the sun isn’t as strong. In addition, pouring water over your head and back can help with the evaporation process to cool you off even more.
Wearing lightweight clothing and applying sunscreen are other essential practices for a summer bike ride.
Winds are often a challenge that can cause a rider to lose time in major races such as the Tour de France. Even if it’s just for a causal ride, biking into a strong wind can cause you to exert more energy.
Winds can often be considered the most challenging weather aspect of cycling, according to Lundberg.
"Wind, I've discovered sometimes, it's just going to beat you up. There are some days where no matter what direction you're going in, it seems like you either have a crosswind or a headwind," he said.
If possible, when riding by yourself, consider riding into the wind for the first half of your ride. This should allow you to ride with a tailwind for the latter part of your ride when you may be getting tired, USA Cycling officials said. It's also recommended to try stay as aerodynamic as possible, by crouching down on your bike, keeping your head low and tucking in your elbows.
For those that may ride in a group, experts recommend taking turns leading and providing a draft for the other riders to follow in behind.
Typically if a group is riding in a single line, the cyclist at the front of a group will exert the most energy since they are taking the full brunt of the wind. The cyclists behind them can exert less energy but still maintain the same speed. Usually, the cyclists will rotate turns at the front of the pack so they can each conserve energy.
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