OK, by the calendar we all entered spring time earlier this week. I have heard legends that in some places in the world, (maybe Key West?) this means warm weather, bright sunshine and riding in shorts and bike jerseys. Fleece and gortex are put away, and everything is bunnies and fireflies!
Yeah, legends…. Here at my house north of Seattle, it snowed off and on all day Thursday. Today, though the sun was out when I woke up, but it was only 31 degrees outside! It might not be winter on the calendar anymore, but it sure aint summertime Skippy! This got me thinking about riding in early spring and the hazards I have encountered over the years. I thought I would share a few…
- Loose gravel on the road: I don’t know about where you live, but we in Seattle do not handle snow well! (2 years ago, no exaggeration, I had an 8.5 hour commute home (26 miles total) because of snow that started at 2PM and stupid decisions by the DOT). One of the things we do is dump TONS of small gravel to give cars traction in the snow. This is great for cars in the snow, but when it melts, we cyclist have to deal with loose gravel. NOT good when you try to turn or stop and don’t notice it. I have had more than one spill because of this. It takes a while for the street sweepers to clean it up.
- Sun does NOT mean its warm: Or, it may not stay warm for your entire ride. It may not be time to put away all the layers. If you take off in the late afternoon, the temp may drop A LOT, as the sun starts going down in early evening. I am talking butt biting cold. Shoot there could still be frost on the road in the morning! Keep at least a windbreaker with you just in case! Come summertime you can ride forever with just a jersey, it aint here yet!
- Time for sunblock: We are seeing the sun again, it may not seem warm, but if you are facing sun for a long period of time, then you WILL get a sunburn. Manys the times I have come home with a burnt nose (sing it y’all, Rudolph the red-nosed cyclist…) Seems strange to need fleece AND sunblock, but take it from an old mountain climber, they DO go together.
- Sunglasses: I wear mine all year. With the sun getting brighter and in the sky longer, you will need them even more. Don’t skimp, get polarized. Maybe even interchangeable lenses. You will not be sorry!
- Sun dazzled drivers: I don’t know about anywhere else in the world, but around here, we lose the sun for months at a time in the winter. So when the sun comes out, drivers around here lose focus! The get distracted by snow-capped mountains they forgot about, or the sun bouncing off the lake, or things bouncing by while jogging on the sidewalk. All this distraction leads to us cyclists having to watch them! Good thing we can bob and weave with the best of them!
- People in general: The warmer and brighter the day, the more people, dogs, kids and hell bunnies and squirrels that will be out and about. A route you had to yourself for months, now has to be shared! More traffic of all kinds means we all have to share and be more careful!
- Biting off more than you can chew: Unless you have been biking all winter, its time to slowly work up to longer distances. Know yourself. Personally, I know that I can take 3 months off and still ride 25 miles no problem. However, 45, i need to work up to! It’s tempting to want to go all out on the first nice day, but it can be a BAD idea!
- Allergies: I was never allergic to anything until 1995. That year, when i forgot to bring bug spray to a hike in Mt Rainier, I came home with 50 (yep counted them) mosquito bites on my chest! A month later, I was bit once on my arm, and half of the ones on my chest came back! Since then, pollen sucks! Make sure to carry along your favorite allergy med JUST in case. (LOVE Calriton D ) More than once I have had to stop to buy some (even though there was plenty at home) because I forgot.
- BUGS: You will run into and swallow more the nicer the weather gets. Bees come out, and if you hit them wrong you may get stung! Also be careful where you stop for a break, mosquitos come out in force, and while moving you are safe, but when stopped you are LUNCH!
- Rain: We get rain out of blue sky around here in the spring, or a thunderstorm will come out of nowhere! Be ready to hunt cover, or put on that windbreaker!
I don’t want to scare anyone off, compared to winter riding spring is SO much nicer, and brings with it the hope for summer. Just be careful, be prepared, and start getting more miles as there are more hours of daylight! Do this, and you will have no worries from the hazards of springtime riding!