I’m sure you’ve heard it before: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”
Good quality, well designed clothing in the right (or wrong) conditions can ensure a great opportunity becomes an even greater adventure. If you’re warm and dry and protected, it’s much easier to look up and appreciate a beautiful sunrise. More than that, being out and about in bad weather in the right gear can actually enhance the experience and make you feel like you’ve conquered the elements. “I’m invincible! I’m warm and dry. Nothing can stop me now!”
After years and years of different types of adventures, I reckon I’ve learned most of the lessons. I’ve turned up unprepared with no gear or the wrong clothing. I’ve had a freezing, wet foot on the bike, damp clothes cycling into the wind, frost nip on my nose, cheek and toes. I regularly go out in cold conditions or at night with lights to feel the sense of adventure that comes with the dark.
And that’s why, when I go out cycling with a group, particularly on a mountain bike, I turn up prepared, not just for me but also for those I will be cycling with because there’s nothing that can dampen the mood of an adventure quicker than a whinger.
Last weekend in Canberra we saw the first of the really cold winter weather but I was determined to get out on the bike. I checked the forecast: expected top of just 9°C and rain. I planned to ride with a couple of friends to a beautiful place called Lowden Forrest Park, an old 1950s logging camp in Tallagandra State Forest east of Queanbeyan. The campsite is still clear and has some old relics of logging equipment as well as a still-operating water wheel. It’s a cool destination.
The 65 kilometre return ride goes over the Great Dividing Range at around 1100m which means that 9°C in Canberra would be more like 6-7°C at the top of the range and that was the expected maximum. We could even see some snow!
Sure of my own abilities, clothing and gear choices, I wasn’t as confident in my companions’. So I packed lots of spares and anti-whinge equipment just in case: gloves, hot tea, a warm jacket, hand warmers and chocolate. I was determined to get my ride in and have a wonderful adventure but I also wanted the experience to be good for them too.
Upon arriving, I did a quick scan of my fellow cyclists and was happy to see they were fairly well prepared for the bad weather but I put the gloves, the tea and the jacket in my pack anyway. By the time we rolled out at 9am the temperature had edged up to a chilly 5°C and it was overcast and raining lightly. We rolled out hoping for improved conditions but, over the next three hours, it didn’t get any better. The sun peaked through the clouds once but it didn’t get any warmer and we had to ride through some patches of steady rain.
The dirt road, although in good condition, was muddy and we were soon covered in the stuff. You just can’t avoid mud grit when you’re on a bike. It gets on your face, in your hair, inside your collar and seems to work its way into the fabric of your clothes. Even with the right gear, we were soon filthy and wet all over. Our hands and feet were wet but warm and our bikes had mud all over them. We all looked at each other and smiled. We were having a ball!
We arrived at Lowden Forest Park after nearly 2 hours, rested, ate and had a look around then we were back on our bikes for the return journey. One of my fellow riders was feeling the chill on her hands through her wet gloves on a big descent so we broke out the spare pair but the tea and the jacket remained in my bag.
There was no improvement in the weather or the temperature on the way back but we didn’t care. We’d ignored the dire weather forecast, prepared for the worst, worn the right clothing and bought the right gear and, in return, we’d had a great day. We’d conquered the weather and we all felt invincible!
In my experience the the other essential ingredient to having fun when the conditions are bad is the right attitude. Getting excited about going out in bad conditions is easy for some and harder for others. The attitude of a group can really make a difference to the individual. A group that is excited can share that around and make everyone have fun. Conversely a grumpy whinging person can often really bring down the group.
So next time you have a plan to go out in challenging conditions. Remember to pack the right gear but also remember to get excited about being out there and making sure the rest of the group feels the same.
Kudos to my Mont Hammerhead Jacket, Power Dry baselayer, Mont long sleeve merino and Mont backpack which, not for the first time, helped me rise above bad weather and revel in an adventure. It won’t be the last time either!
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