When it is cold, wet or dark, I tend to only ride for practical transportation. I use my bike to get to work, do errands and shop and I choose the shortest route possible, to limit my time outside. Occasionally, I will do a "fun ride" but only if it also includes a practical aspect as well. For example; I live in Winooski, and work in Burlington so I will make my commute my "fun ride" - taking the longer route to work by way of Mallets Bay and the Burlington Bike Path. This past winter has thrown some challenges my way in terms of Cold, Wet and Dark but I've learned a lot along the way and while I'm not counting down the days until I get to ride again in the cold, dark and wet, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly looking forward to it - I've included some of what I've learn after the flip, so hopefully I can encourage you to ride despite the cold, dark and wet weather that will be back before we know it.
One of the great joys of my life is riding just for the pleasure of the ride. This past winter, I have been gradually increasing my fun ride possibilities. Cold, wet and dark conditions have, in the past, limited my riding. Pushing the boundaries means an adjustment in equipment and mental attitude. I have to be willing to accept a higher level of discomfort, in exchange for the pleasure of riding.
Until this year, I have not ridden for fun when it is below 40 degrees. However, this year I did some longer rides when it was in the upper 20's and 30's. A combination of heated socks, warm boots and mountaineering gloves made it possible. I have naturally cold hands and feet, so extremities have been an issue in the past. Snow can also be a problem, but we have many days when the roads are clear and free of ice. Upper teens and lower 20's remain a challenge but I learned a lot and there is always next winter to perfect my gear for these temperatures!
I was talking with a friend about riding in the rain and he said that even if he is wearing waterproof gear, when his face gets wet, his whole body feels wet. I can empathize. I still hesitate to go out for a fun ride in the pouring rain, but when rain is intermittent I get out and ride. Over the years I have acquired waterproof pants, coats, shoes, gloves, backpacks and even socks. I shop at Showers Pass and Ortlieb. For me, riding in the rain presents more psychological challenges than physical ones. I have accepted that if it is raining really hard, I will get wet, no matter what. I tend to associate pleasure with nice weather, so I've really focused on teaching myself to enjoy the gray and mist of a ride in the rain.
When I can't ride during the day, I often ride in the evening. In the spring and fall, when I set out for a ride in daylight, I often return at night. It is a comfort knowing that I have lots of reflective gear and bright lights. On my helmet I have mounted a light that is as bright as a car headlight, so not only can I be seen, but I can also see the road in front of me. This light also helps me lock up my bike in my unlit shed after a night ride. On a quiet evening there is great joy in riding through the darkness, the scenery takes on a kind of mystery that is not present during the daylight hours. The moon and stars provide my company.