Autumn Cycling in August

When it comes to dealing with the UK weather, I’ve decided defiance is the name of the game.

After many weeks of welcome summer sun, here in the north west of England in August we seem to be stuck on a loop, in classic British style, where the weather is by no means dramatically bad but, to use the terminology of our friends in the Met Office, temperatures are below the seasonal average, unusually strong winds for the time of year are persisting, and another band of low pressure is coming in off the Atlantic. The forecasters call this weather fresh; I have other, less polite ways of describing it.

And what does all this mean to us long-suffering northern cyclists? It means arm-warmers, knee-warmers, warm socks, thermal vests and, if things don’t improve, an inevitable lapse into full warm winter legs, long-sleeved jackets and overshoes.

Hence my current mood of defiance.

If I’m going to have to dig out all that autumnal kit which has been tucked away under the bed since May then I’m not going down without a fight. If I pull on my long sleeved jacket and full length tights for a bike ride in August, it will be with a heavy heart and only when I’m satisfied that I’ve resisted for as long as is sensibly possible.

June and July looked like this (Image: starshine_diva Flickr CC)
June and July looked like this
(Image: starshine_diva Flickr CC)

Some of you out there might accuse me of being over-dramatic about all this; after all, the weather conditions are really not that bad, and are still more than acceptable for riding in – but it’s all about the context. We’ve had a good summer: June and July offered settled summer sunshine and minimal rain, and allowed me to feel like a slick and swarthy Italian on the bike whilst cultivating impressively sharp tan-lines. But it’s been cruelly snatched away from us, and it’s still August.

And that’s the crux of the matter. Did I mention it’s still August? With no prospect of further sunshine and high temperatures on the horizon it might as well be September, October, November…

I had a ride with a good friend of mine recently; a man who reacts to the weather in the same way as a finely tuned European cyclist. His philosophy seems to consist of dressing for weather conditions at least one-season worse than we’re currently experiencing, and aiming for a permanent state of over-heating. Needless to say he was wearing full-length tights and long sleeved jacket. Admittedly, I had, with a heavy heart, gone with arm-warmers, but I kept my spirits up by sticking with the summer bib-shorts.

Was I cold? No, not really, but it was borderline (and I was glad the threatening black clouds didn’t deposit their load).

August is looking more like this (Image: Bidgee - CC Wikipedia)
August is looking more like this
(Image: Bidgee – CC Wikipedia)

It was after reflecting on this need for arm-warmers in August that I felt compelled to adopt my current defiant mood, and so during an after-work ride a couple of days later, with the temperature on my Garmin dropping as low as 11.1 degrees C (I know, it’s precise isn’t it), I persisted for 30 glorious (and decidedly chilly) miles wearing bib-shorts and short sleeves.

Granted, I had arm-warmers tucked away in the jersey pocket just in case my will power wavered, and it’s true that I may have been wearing a thermal base-layer to keep the worst of the chills away, but importantly, all outward appearances suggested a cyclist out for a summer ride on a bright August evening.

Was I cold? Well, I was certainly pedalling pretty hard to try and keep the engine running hot. It was when I returned home and hit the sumptuous warmth of our kitchen that I realised that ‘yes’, I was definitely cold. But I’d made my point.

To whom?

Good question. To the weather gods, I suppose.

So the plan is to resist. To defy, ignore, grit my teeth, barrel on through, and generally continue to give the appearance of a happy summer cyclist with crisp tan-lines. I know that once I admit defeat and dig out the warm kit then the dam will have been breached, and that will become my default-go-to-kit prior to every ride. Once you’ve wrapped up warm for the year there’s no going back.

And if I come down with a head cold or a chest infection as a result of my bullish response to the chilly weather? Well, my friend the finely tuned Euro cyclist will have the last laugh I suppose.

Maybe he’ll lend me one of his bobble hats.

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16 comments

  1. Aye, I was out myself on Monday in a long sleeve winter jersey. As soon as the mercury sinks below thirteen, out come the layers. I was hot on the climbs but that allowed me to open the full length zipper and pretend I was on an alpine climb in warmer climes. Here’s to a glorious September. Or base layers.

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  2. Autumn in the North West in August? Yep! Definitely! I had to cut my ride short today, from Lancaster through Trough of Bowland. Checking the forecast for Lancashire and Merseyside this morning, I went out with knee warmers, arm warmers, overshoes (!) and a gilet stuffed in my pocket. I was planning on riding back from Lancaster to Liverpool, but had to duck out at Preston and catch the train back after being absolutely drowned more or less continually from Dunsop Bridge to Preston. I was shivering into Preston and most of the way back on the train :/

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    • There’s no shame in ducking out; the Trough is great riding but always feels a couple of degrees colder that everything that surrounds it. I trust you treated yourself to tea and cake at the café at Dunsop Bridge?

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      • Ha! Thanks. I don’t usually stop properly on rides to be honest, though I did on Winter Hill route I did recently, unusual for me. Usually eat as I go and stop for a ‘nature break’ if needed.

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    • Sorry to hear that – I expect you’ll be relishing a spot of fresh autumnal weather when you’re back on the bike again (an in your neck of the woods, I expect 11 degrees would barely seem worth a mention?)

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