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How cold can I go on a bicycle?

How cold can I go on a bicycle? How cold can I go on a bicycle?

When I look at the weather app on my phone and see that the high temperature for today is only 47 degrees, it’s hard not to feel a little gloomy. I mean, it’s only Sept. 9, and just a few days ago, I can remember sweating outside. A couple weeks before that, I was still worried about getting a sunburn and not drinking enough water to stay hydrated.

Now I’m wondering if a hooded sweatshirt is enough to keep me sufficiently warm for walking out to my car. The dial on my dashboard thermostat has been cranked nearly 180 degrees, from the bottom end of the blue spectrum into that red area I haven’t used in months.

Thankfully, by Friday, the daytime high is projected to be a nice 64 degrees. By next Tuesday, it could get up to 74, and just like that, we’ll all be happy again, talking about much we love this time of the year. Of course, the cool-weather grumbling will begin again as soon as the thermometer drops below 50 (or even 60 if you’re extra sensitive). Thus begins the annual seesaw struggle between the end of summer and the beginning of fall, which sometimes lasts well into October.

In recent years, as I’ve started riding a bicycle again on a nearly daily basis, I’ve become more attuned to changes in weather. My goal is to stretch my bike-riding season as long I can into the fall, but I find that I’m still a little wimpy when it comes to riding in the cooler, windier weather that usually comes with the onset of autumn. On Monday, when temps were in the low 60s, I felt compelled to wear long sleeves from head to toe, and even then, I felt a little less than comfortable heading into the northerly wind.

The thing is, I’m usually a lot more sensitive to heat than I am to cold. Anything above 75 degrees is “hot” to me, and just thinking about the 80s and 90s makes me perspire. On the other hand, I don’t tend to complain as much about temperatures in the 20s, 10s or even lower. This is why I was able to ski across a portion of Lake Superior during February (twice) during my 20s and why I’ve always preferred to do 5Ks on snowshoes.

Still, when you’re cutting through the air on a bike, the wind chill is a lot more noticeable. Over time, I’d like to acclimate myself to cooler and cooler temperatures so my bike spends less time sitting idle in the garage. Looking into the future, I visualize myself pedaling through a sleet storm in mid-November, maybe with a non-COVID mask pulled over my face.

For now, though, I’m content to look out the window at the gray skies and wait for the next day over 50 degrees. If only the outdoors came with its own thermostat, I could just lower the temperature two degrees a day so eventually 40 seemed normal. But, as we all know, that’s not how weather works around here.