Doing Everything Wrong

Maybe it was Thanksgiving.  Yeah, that’s it.  I took several days off the bike as we went out of town to visit my sister-in-law for Turkey Day.  Now, that’s not unusual — the several days off the bike part, that is — because lately I’ve been taking several days off the bike each week because of the earlier onset of darkness and work obligations.

However, when we got back to town this afternoon, Pat wanted to get in a short ride.  The clock was approaching 4:30, so we wouldn’t have more than an hour of daylight, and she wanted to swing by a nearby post office to drop an important check in the mail.

The temperature hovered around 54ºF (12ºC), which isn’t far from our recent averages for this time of year.  We scrambled into bike clothes that had worked for us before in this temperature.  Well, actually, we departed a little from what we usually wear.  Pat pulled on her armwarmers, but although she got a windbreaker out of the closet, she decided to leave it lying on a chair.  I wanted to wear a base layer, but also wanted to save what appeared to be the only clean one for tomorrow’s ride, so I wore a summer weight short sleeved jersey under a nice long sleeved jersey.

I searched and searched, but couldn’t find my sunglasses.  I finally decided to skip them, since the sun would be at our backs for the return leg of our ride, and it would be getting dusky anyway.

We headed out, and in minutes realized we had both made mistakes.  Pat wished she had worn her windbreaker.  I wished I had worn a baselayer, a wind vest, and arm warmers.  We were both chilly.  Luckily, the wind was calm.

We got to the post office just in time to meet the departing mail truck, and Pat left the check with the driver.  We headed out on a favorite short neighborhood route, but to get there had to ride a fairly busy connecting road.  The good part is, it was slightly downhill, so we made good time.  The bad part is, by riding relatively fast, the cold penetrated our trunks.  We both started complaining about the chill.  We kept going, though.

We turned a corner, and I realized why I had been uneasy about not searching harder for my sunglasses.  Our route took us directly into the setting sun, which shone at a low angle directly into our faces.  It was blinding.  I rode much of the outbound leg looking down, just a few feet in front of my front wheel.

We got to the turnaround and headed back.  Again, the route was a slight downhill, and we made good time — but we also absorbed a lot of cold air.  I stopped to wait for Pat at a stoplight, and felt a wave of warmth spread across my torso and legs.  It was because I wasn’t cutting the air with the moving bike.  At rest, we were fine.  Moving, we were uncomfortably cold.

On my home computer, I keep a list of cool weather clothing combinations that work for me under a variety of different cool weather conditions.  As soon as we finished our chilly ride, I called it up, wondering where the problem could have been.  After all, I had ridden a number of times this fall in temperatures in the low to mid 50s, and never had I felt this uncomfortable.

Duh.  I turns out I completely misjudged what I needed to wear for today’s conditions.  I needed arm warmers and a wind vest — just as I had determined while riding.  The clothing combination I wore today was good for temperatures 10 degrees higher than we had.

Readers sometimes ask me why I call this blog Bike Noob, when I’ve been riding for several years.  As long as I keep screwing up my rides like I did today — I still consider myself a noob.


  1. Mel Hughes says

    Well, I appreciate you sharing these things as I am still fumbling through what I need to keep riding. It is hard right now. Yesterday the temps were in the mid-60’s. Today we barely hit 50. Tomorrow we won’t but I am hauling hay so that will kill the riding impulse for Saturday. But thanks for sharing!

  2. says

    It happens to everyone. One thing I think riding has helped me do is not expect to be perfectly comfortable all the time. Sometimes I overdress or underdress, and it’s just not the end of the world. It matters more in extreme conditions, but as long as there’s no safety concern, I usually just suck it up and deal with it if I over/under-dress. Keeping a log is a good idea. It helps if you check it before leaving the house 😉

  3. says

    I don’t go so far as keeping a log, but I generally have a pretty good feel for what I need to wear at certain temperatures. When in doubt, however, I choose to dress for colder rather than warmer. I can deal with overheating, but as you experienced, if you find yourself cold, you’re just about out of luck.

    And, I don’t like to be cold!

  4. says

    It’s not exactly a log — I don’t write an entry in it every time I do a cool weather ride. It’s a list of about five temperature ranges, and the kind of clothing that seems to work best for me in each one. It’s there to jog my memory.

  5. says

    Oh, by the way — I found my sunglasses within minutes after getting back home. They were right where I had left them. So I guess the key in prepping for a bike ride — as in so many things — is not to rush it.

  6. David says

    I’m lucky to be staying in the country with a tropical climate, so it’s the same gear all year round for me!

    However, I still learnt a very important point from here. Having the right gear is always important for a ride. After all, we all want to have an enjoyable ride. That also brings me to gear storage. I need to start putting all my biking gear in one place. Dumping them all over the house isn’t a great idea (:

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