How to Pick a Day to Ride in January or February
In 2015 I am expected to do at least one 62-mile bike ride out of doors each month since I accepted a challenge from 11 of my cycling buddies back in December. Riding in the winter months in New Jersey has never been something I have done much of except to commute to and from school, work, or doing a newspaper route. When I was a teenager I did some winter riding on weekend cycling club rides from the local bike shop, but those rides rarely went beyond 40 or 45 miles, and the temp usually hit at least 42 degrees at some point during the ride. This challenge I’ve accepted for 2015 is forcing me to go well beyond 45 miles in sub-zero temps. I’ve done a Google search for some pointers on choosing riding days, but nothing seemed relevant. The general consensus was that if the ride temp will be between freezing and 40 degrees, then wear X amount of layered clothing. If the temp is between 20 degrees and freezing, then wear XX amount of layered clothing, and if colder than 20 degrees then wear XXX amount of layered clothing. Real helpful correct?
My problem is not matching riding attire to the temperature outside. Instead, it is figuring out a low temperature outside in which I can stay warm. At some point the low temp will require me to put too many clothes on to pedal the bike and stay warm. So the question I wanted answered was how cold can it be outside for me to do a 62-mile bike ride and not have my toes and fingers frozen off when I’m done.
The first step to picking a day to ride in the winter for me is to visit a Web site on the Internet that provides forecast information for the current and next 9 days. The forecast information should include the expected high temp for the day, the low temp, and the kind of weather: sunny, overcast, partly cloudy, rain, or snow. I’ve found that I can ride 62 miles on a bike if the forecasted low temp is somewhere around 25 degrees, and the high temp can be as low as 37 degrees. When the low temp is said to be 25, then that usually translates into an actual low temp when I hit the road of something like 18 to 20 degrees assuming I depart on the ride at day break. That temp is doable for me, at least for the beginning of the ride.
But I don’t grab every day that I can successfully go the distance on the bike. I prefer to choose days where the forecasted high temperature is closer to 40 degrees or maybe even a little higher. So if I have two days to choose from, and I am planning only 1 ride, then the higher one will probably get the nod. However, there is still the kind of weather to consider. I’m not going to ride on snowy or icy roads. So if it is projected to snow the day before a doable ride day, then that day will probably not be so doable. And I’m not too keen to go for a ride on a day that the temp is adequate when it is forecasted to rain. I don’t like to be cold and wet. A remote chance of rain, or light rain, will probably not nix a ride day for me assuming the temperature is OK.
So what I look for in a possible ride day is a high temp of something like 39 to 41 degrees and a low of 22 to 26 degrees. I would prefer sun, but partly cloudy or overcast will do, too. If I find a day with those stats, then I look to see if the weather is real lousy the day before, i.e., snow or hail. If not, then that day is probably going to be one that I go for a long ride.