Summer in New England can be very strange. For days on end, the temperature can linger in the 90’s with high humidity. The air is so heavy that breathing is a chore. Clothing sticks to every sweaty area of one’s body and abrades one’s skin as it twists and pulls.
Other times, storms roll in and hover over the northeast. Rain falls rapidly and consistently, and the damp air is made more bitter by tenebrific overcast skies. Outdoor activities are squelched by low visibility and flooding.
But, what’s strangest of all, is the mid-summer days where cool weather settles in between the heat. On such days, sunset brings with it patches of varying temperatures, depending upon the specific location.
For instance, when riding a bike, the temperature changes drastically along a route. In some areas, warmth radiates from the street and surroundings, almost as if it’s held in abeyance by an invisible force. Elsewhere, cold blasts come unexpectedly out of nowhere.
Usually, these cold blasts occur in and around open fields. No barrier can keep the thin, icy air in, so it drifts away from the openness. This cold air blows swiftly, so out of place in summertime.
Knowing about this type of weather creates a predicament. Early in the day, the sun offsets the the cold pockets’ nippy air. Upon the arrival of sunset, all areas cool down, but the cold pockets become downright frigid.
The question is: how does a cyclist dress in such conditions? Normally, at this time of year, shorts and short-sleeved shirts are the norm. In the warm pockets, this attire would be all right. In the cold pockets, wearing such clothes would be intolerable. Shivering, after being too warm and sweaty, tightens up loose muscles and can cause muscle cramping. And, injury can occur from the body’s reaction to sudden decreases in temperature.
Swinging back and forth between sweating and goose bumps makes it difficult to know what to wear when. No one wants to wear pants and a jacket in August. And no one wants to sustain injuries by exerting cold, overused muscles, either.
There’s always the possibility of wearing a vest or arm warmers, which don’t look anywhere near as dorky as a jacket. Unfortunately, these low-insulation options won’t be warm enough when the temperature drops below 60 degrees, as it sometimes does.
And, really, who wants to peel off layers as temperatures rise? And who wants to re-dress in warm garments, in the summertime, when it gets too cold to keep one’s teeth from chattering?
Skipping a ride or choosing another form of transportation would be akin to admitting defeat. New Englanders are a hearty bunch who never let weather keep them down — or at least not publicly. They go out and face the elements, no matter what this choice brings.
As long as one can maintain a positive frame of mind, and not fall into a state of despair at the thought of New England’s too short summers coming to an end, it is possible to tolerate days of riding through pockets of cold.
One way of accomplishing this is to regard the temperature swings as a novelty. Riding through different seasons, along the same road, is an uncommon occurrence. It’s almost like compressing time into a short span. No days or nights pass as these mini-seasons change. They are seasons without the passage time.
No matter how uncomfortable riding in such conditions might be, we should celebrate our fortitude and our ability to travel under our own power, day and night, winter, spring, summer, and fall — and to focus on pedaling onward, even when moments of fall intrude into summer.