Pick Your Poison

It’s going to be a scorcher… (July ’09)

We’ve had an unusually wet winter overall, but this past week has been absolutely perfect for riding. With temps hovering at around 70F in February, we can’t help but wonder what we’re in for this summer though.

With a few exceptions, it seems the climate in most areas involves a trade-off; either you have mild winters with scorching hot summers, or you have beautiful summers with cold and wet winters. What’s your preference? Would you rather ride in blistering heat or sub-freezing temps?

Do you prefer to ride in blistering heat or sub-freezing temperatures?

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19 Responses to “Pick Your Poison”

  • Chris says:

    Ok, I voted for the cold, but I have to put a qualifier there. I like biking in the summer, much more than the winter. I live in Delaware, where the days are short and cold in the winter, and long and muggy in the summer. I’d much rather be coming home from work in the day, not the freezing dusk or night, but if I’m going to be going any distance, I’d rather take the extreme cold than the heat. I can always seem to get warmer (and I’ve ridden in mid 20’s for hours on end) but I can never really get used to the sweaty seat and all that chafing!

  • brad says:

    Here’s the deal: in the cold, you can stay warm by moving and bundling up. But in the heat, there’s no escape.

    The problem with biking in the cold isn’t so much the cold itself, it’s the road conditions. Snow and ice aren’t huge challenges in and of themselves, but trying to avoid getting caught in the frozen ruts in the ice from other bicyclists, dealing with narrower streets due to piles of snow, and watching out for drivers who don’t expect to see bikes in winter (and have less ability to control their cars in slippery conditions) make winter biking a little too risky for my taste.

  • Chris says:

    Brad, I totally agree, the road/safety conditions are worse in the winter, then add all the salt and corrosion, and winter commuting isn’t a pretty picture, but as far as would I rather bike in the bitter cold, or sweltering heat…I’m going to choose the cold.

  • Andrew says:

    Fortunately, us Torontonians have the worst of both worlds; in winter, temps below -10 C aren’t unusual, and in summer we get plenty of muggy 35 C days.

    I voted for summer, but that may be because it’s cold out right now and I just biked to the office this morning. I suspect there’s a bit of an impact bias happening there…

  • Zen says:

    I voted for warm weather because of road conditions. I watched a video of Chicago winter commuters a while back and the riders all talked about going down while riding. That doesn’t happen when its warm out. I don’t ever remember having a bad fall and I have been riding over 20 years. I do tire of sweating though.

  • Erich Zechar says:

    You certainly can’t enjoy riding your nicest bike in the winter, but the road conditions are hardly a big deal from my experience. You can always dress for the cold – I routinely ride in sub-zero conditions – but it’s not too acceptable to ride nude in the sweltering heat. Snow and ice are rarely a huge problem even here in Michigan, as they keep the roads pretty clear. Probably my least favorite riding is in cold driving rain. That said, I would probably prefer not to ride in 100 degree heat, which thankfully I rarely see here.

    All those who answered they would prefer the heat, have you ever actually cycled in the cold? I think a lot of people just assume it’s awful.

  • peteathome says:

    Definitely the cold, as long as road conditions are OK. Right now, near Philadelphia, we have over 2 feet of snow on the ground but the roads are perfectly cleared. It’s glorious bicycling.

    It’s easy to bundle up for cold riding.

    In hot weather I overheat and there’s not a lot I can do about it. Also, for transportational riding, in the winter I can go from point A to B in my street clothes without a problem. In the summer, I need to at least change to shorts and I still arrive dripping wet. Yeech.

  • Doug P says:

    Today’s question misses the other part of the riding equation, the day vs night debate. I can take the cold, or the dark, but dark and cold-well, that’s too much! I’ll take a cold sunny day over a mild gloomy day anytime. In fact, if winter’s days were the same length as summer, I wouldn’t give a fig about the seasons. However, here in NorCal, skies tend to be clear in summer, and cloudy in winter. So I prefer summer. On the very hottest days here one can ride early, and avoid the heat,wheras in winter, one can’t avoid the cold.

  • Chris says:

    Ok, so going back to road conditions, I’m in Delaware, and we’re not used to the several feet of snow we got. Usually winter riding here is just dealing with the cold. The snow and ice on the road are fine. When it’s really bad, I just ride my MB with the big nobbys at low pressure. The narrower roads are the worst though. There are several usable routes I normally have access to that are pretty dangerous now that the shoulders are filled up with 3 foot deep piles of ice and snow. The roads are great, but the safety ain’t

  • john in nh says:

    I vote cold even if when its -20F out I don’t even want to get out of bed and go to class. Again the main issue with the cold is ice and snow and snowplows blowing past me at 50mph. In town its ok mostly but the 3 miles or rural highway I have to traverse is the big issue. when it shot out i will still bike of course, but i lose energy the hotter it gets above about 72F my ideal temp is about 50F maybe a bit cooler :P
    70 in February, pahh that’s too hot already :P

  • Saddle Up says:

    Heat. I live for the heat, bring it on!!!

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    Having done plenty of both, I selected riding in extreme heat over riding in sub-freezing cold. In a former life I could think of nothing better than climbing frozen waterfalls and sleeping out in a tent during sub-zero cold. That caused nerve damage to my hands, so now at an advanced age, my paws don’t ever quite warm up on the bike when the temperature drops toward the freezing mark. There are other reasons, too. In extreme cold, any kind of roadside repair to the bike becomes extraordinarily difficult, in large measure because of the cold, but also because snowbanks are high and there’s nowhere to work. And like others have said, road conditions can be hazardous and deadly in winter. Moreover, breathing deeply of the salty spray, woodsmoke from belching chimneys, and car/truck exhaust often leave me coughing up foul crud for a day or more afterwards — what’s this doing to my lungs? Then there’s the bike clean-up after a ride in sloppy, salty slurry conditions, which will take between 30 minutes and an hour — I have to do this in an unheated outbuilding. If the bike isn’t cleaned immediately after the ride, rust and corrosion set in overnight.

    Extreme heat (the definition of which depends on a person’s own adaptations) sure poses its own dilemmas, but I’d rather cope with that. It should be said that the hottest days I’ve ridden were in the mid-90s with very high humidity, but most of the time I can find shade to rest in if I need a break.

  • rdhd says:

    Come to DC where it’s bitter cold in the winter and humid as all heck in the summer. Lovely.


  • Graham says:

    I am also going to side with those who prefer the cold. Here on the coast of NC, the winter MIGHT see freezing temperatures for a few days, but that’s about it. The winter winds can be a hassle, but as others have commented already, you can dress for that.

    In the summer here, though, we have SW winds that spray salt on us (and everything else) and unrelenting heat that can easily reach into the 90’s with close to 100% relative humidity. I challenge ANYONE to commute in that for anything over a mile and even approach being anything other than a sodden mess.

  • Pamela says:

    Lucky me — I don’t have to choose! Here in Reno, NV we have four distinct seasons, but seldom extreme temperatures. I’m retired now, but used to bike/walk to work in the winter as long as the temps were at least in the 20s F. Lower than that I’d usually drive. Summers we get an occasional week of 100s, but usually high 80s to mid 90s, but it’s a DRY heat, so easily tolerated. Cycling paradise!

  • Ann says:

    I vote for heat any day. Give me the warm kiss of the summer sun on my skin rather than the stinging slap of winter’s hand. There’s nothing I hate about summer, including sweating. There’s very little I like about winter.

  • Scott Wayland says:

    I picked heat, and many of the reasons stated make sense, road conditions not least among them. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that one can get very early starts on hot days and get in some good riding before it gets too hot. If a given day is going to warm UP to sub-freezing, what are you to do? Early starts are worse, and late rides are still freezing.

    That said, I prefer riding in winter in my home location. We have stretches here when it’s below freezing at night, but except for an unusual storm, winter highs are almost always over 40 deg. F. We get a few snow storms, but it melts back in a couple of days at most. At 4,000 ft. in the southern Sierras, we get tons of sunshine, and the summers aren’t too bad either! Typical summer highs are in the upper 80’s F. and dry. Our main challenge here is the wind. Hundred of turbines attest to the active atmosphere around here, so you develop a tough attitude or you don’t ride much.


  • Steve Grimmer says:

    I’ll take -40 (-40F) over +40C (104F) any day. We get both here in Winnipeg.
    Winter riding’s the best; once the snow’s good and packed, you can go anywhere and it’s like MTB riding in the city. Put on a good pair of studded tires, dress in light wicking layers with a windproof shell, and off you go!

    Steve in the ‘Peg

  • Boni says:

    Heat? My morning commute in Pune, India during summer (that is now) is invariably at or above 42C which will be around 107F. I prefer cold days to hot days any time. Might sound weired but this preference spanned the years spent in NYC winters too.

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