Author Topic: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.  (Read 1044 times)

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Offline Westinghouse

Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« on: November 06, 2020, 03:15:26 pm »
For those whose first experiences with extended, long-term outdoors activities are their first bicycle tours, this information is useful. Foremost, the weather takes on a very different meaning to you on a long distance, camping bicycle tour. I am talking here about riding the bike across the continent of north America, east to west, or any way.

We live sheltered lives. Ruling out hurricanes, tornadoes and sudden freak storms, we are not concerned with changes in weather. When it rains our vehicles cover us. Let it rain in sheets and storm with lighting. We know our houses are sure defense against these elements. We take for granted that we are protected. There is hardly a second thought about the matter. Well, all that can change in large ways on a bike journey. You will have to take your back-home-on-the-block attitude toward weather, and leave it right there-----back home on the block.

You can be caught in extremely dangerous situations, out in the middle of nowhere. You could be camped, on the road or in some town. In towns it is easier to get out of it. It may be under the awning of an out of business restaurant, or under the overhang of a store or abandoned house, but you can get out of it. When you are cycling and camping it is a very different matter. Be sure to know local forecasts. Be prepared. You can cross the continent free of threatening changes in weather. You can also run into deadly storms several times. It is a matter of probabilities. During one tour from Florida to California, 25 minutes of rain in Slidell, Louisiana was it. The entire trip was free and clear. Another crossing was straight into the jaws of one extreme rain storm after another, and electrical storms that had me saying my prayers. It is a miracle I survived them. Know local weather forecasts. Pack a rain jacket and rain pants. Your best protection from rain while camped is an eight by ten poly tarp, preferably camo. They are only $10.00, and they will stand a driving rain long after an expensive nylon tent is saturated and hammered to the ground. There is more than one way to set up a tarp.
When you cycle a very long route you will see how the way you regard weather events changes if  you are caught out in it.


Lightning storms are the worst of your enemies. They can knock you down dead. But then again, wind speeds and directions can make large differences too, but not life threatening changes that I know of. I mean, you are cycling east in New Mexico in winter and the leading edge of a cold front comes against you at 35 mph from the side. You must stop and wait for the pressure to end. That could set you back a day or two. Occasionally, strong winds blow west to east out of California. That can go on for days morning, noon and night. There is no forward movement against that. The distance achieved is not worth the stress, energy and difficulty. As far as my experiences teach me, such powerful, long term, consistent winds are comparatively infrequent. I cycled from FL to CA five times, and from FL to El Paso, Texas twice. I ran into those kinds of winds only once.

Air temperatures are another variable you have to watch. One summer crossing of the USA I drank upwards of three gallons a day On another crossing I got chilled to the bone inside all cold weather gear camped over night in a  7 F wind chill.

Be advised, your weather conditions can and will change. Those changes can be as meek as a lamb, and they can be as ferocious as demons from hell, or any of a thousand graduations between the extremes. You can not take for granted safe protection. Leave your your old weather complacency behind. Become an avid weather watcher. Be prepared for sudden extreme interruptions to the calm.

Offline cyclist alan

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2020, 09:54:11 pm »
Thanks For sharing this info

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2020, 08:31:40 pm »
No problem. I got caught out in  some seriously lethal type weather. I learned to pay much more attention to weather forecasts and not to be too sure of myself. The next time the weather man says severe weather is coming, I am going to take all possible measures for safety

Offline hoverbird

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2020, 09:41:09 pm »
Thanks for the thoughtful words and it applies to me; a newbie planning a summer cross-country ride. Four panniers will be used, so I should have plenty of space for extreme weather gear.

Do you think my Big Agnes Copper Spur Bikepacking tent will hold up in pounding rain, or should I take a tarp as well? If a tarp is recommended, how does one use it?

Offline jamawani

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2020, 12:23:08 am »
Westy -

Folks cycling in the Rocky Mountain West should be aware.
The weather is nothing like Atlanta or Dallas or L.A.
Or even Philly, Chicago, or Portland.

At the highest elevations (9000+) you can get snow any time of the year.
Certainly you can get cold rain and brutal wind which can risk hypothermia.
At mid-high elevation you can get significant snows into June and as early as September.
I know, because I have skied 10 months of the year on fresh snow.

Even if the passes are open, there is no camping often until late June.
Areas with heavy snowfall take a long time to melt out - into June.
September is a little more forgiving if you are willing to wait out a few days.
Blue skies and warm weather return in a few days in September.

May is warmer than October, but pretty snowbound at high elevation.
October will be pretty darn cold up top. Teens, maybe single digits.
May and October are really risky for people not familiar with the Intermountain West.
You might be lucky, you might be miserable. You probably won't die, though.

For spring and fall riding plan on more motels - if they are open.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2020, 08:41:51 pm »
Thanks for the thoughtful words and it applies to me; a newbie planning a summer cross-country ride. Four panniers will be used, so I should have plenty of space for extreme weather gear.

Do you think my Big Agnes Copper Spur Bikepacking tent will hold up in pounding rain, or should I take a tarp as well? If a tarp is recommended, how does one use it?

There is plenty of how to information about tarps on you tube. People have spent 5-6 months through hiking the Appalachian trail using them for shelter. It is easier for you to do that than it is for me to describe it. I have camped with tarps, probably for sure hundreds of times. Mostly in southern tier winter. They are more versatile than tents, much less expensive, and as or even more repellent of rain. I do not want to press the issue. I think there are commercial interests involved here, and conflicts of interest. You can do your research and decide for yourself.

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2020, 09:41:31 am »
Thanks for the thoughtful words and it applies to me; a newbie planning a summer cross-country ride. Four panniers will be used, so I should have plenty of space for extreme weather gear.

Do you think my Big Agnes Copper Spur Bikepacking tent will hold up in pounding rain, or should I take a tarp as well? If a tarp is recommended, how does one use it?
Although this question is directed to someone else, I'll add my few penceworth.

Will your tent be good enough? Probably. (I don't know the specs of your tent). But the waterproofness of your tent is only one factor.
Where and how it is pitched is important. Will water be running downhill or pooling around your tent?
The fly material is very relevant - some sag in cool temps or wet weather which means water transfer from outside to inside if they touch.
Is there a gap between the ground and the fly? Angled rain can "bounce" inside.
Breaking down a wet tent is very different to when it's dry. That's an important skill too, to prevent damage that might mean a leak the next rainy night.
And lots more.

Even with the best designed tents, there is still an issue with getting in and getting out - the perfect time for water to get inside.

There is a tendency, especially when we're starting out, to buy the best gear for every situation when often we're not sure how to use what we have properly.
Remember, people have been travelling all around the world for millennia with none of our modern gear!
 
The best answer to that, I have found is to practise! One night of experience in a tent on a foul night is worth days on the internet. If you have a place at home to pitch a tent then do so on windy days, on wet days, on stormy days. Or a friend's place!

The other part is not to expect perfection. On a long trip things will go wrong, or at least not be perfect. Next day, you'll have a bit more knowledge!
In my experience, the mental equipment to deal with things is more important than the physical equipment.

On the other hand, there are few things as satisfying on some kind of a primitive level as racing to get your home built before heavy rain, climbing inside and being warm and dry :)

Keeping an eye on the weather is useful. WindyApp is a useful online weather watcher. Start using it now and get familiar with it, or whatever tool you might like to use.

And never forget that unless you're really, really far from civilisation people are around and very helpful.

So, to summarise, I'd suggest you get as familiar with your gear as much as possible, stress test it, so to speak, before trying to acquire new gear and the appropriate skills.

If you're not aware, CrazyGuyOnABike.com is a very useful site for inspiration and research. You can even search tour journals by "disaster". (Just stay away from the fora - they're toxic!)

Best of luck!
 

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2020, 02:18:09 pm »
My piece of advice: Get a small radio with the weather band, especially if you'll be touring in the western parts of the US and Canada.

While smartphones will definitely tell you the weather, that only works if it works. There are many areas in the western half of the continent where reception is poor to non-existent. (I once had to argue this point with someone from Boston who simply could not believe this fact!) And since people use smartphones for a lot of things, batteries can die. Most small radios take common AA batteries and last quite a while.

For example: When I was touring around Glacier National Park about ten years ago, we stayed for the night at Two Medicine Campground. There was no cell reception here. We were planning on biking to St. Mary the next day, but the weather radio warned us about high winds the next day, a day we'd be spending biking through many exposed ridges and the like. And since where we were camping was fairly sheltered, we might not have realized that the wind was that bad until we got out in it. We decided to wait it out an extra day in Two Medicine.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2020, 11:10:02 pm »
In addition, among the many bicycle touring journals I read and watched, I came across several that named and pictured the tent you mention, big agnes copper spur. Everybody seemed to be perfectly satisfied with those tents. There were no concerns or problems mentioned. I have not used one. Many others have used them. They are a bit pricey, but sure to keep you dry in most any weather event. They have a good reputation.

You asked about such a tent standing against a pounding rain storm. The answer is yes it can do, and no it does not have a chance of doing. There is rain and there is RAIN. There are pounding rain storms and there are POUN!!!DING!!! RAIN STORMS!!!!!!!!!!! Compare a tent to houses in south Florida or anywhere. They stand whole for decades against rain and storms. There is no problem. But everything on earth exists as polarities. Same with the weather and rain and storms. In Lybia it was 137 degrees F. In the arctic it got to -70 degrees F. There are opposite extremes. Wind can be a barely perceptible drift. It can be a raging monster from hell that hits long standing communities and wipes them completely off the face of the earth and kills the inhabitants. Tents, like houses, are constructed to withstand weather conditions to a sort of statistical average probability, if you want to call it that.  I am not sure that is what it is, but it is the best description I have off the top of my head.  The tents, like the houses, will protect you against the weather up to a certain level. The more weather adversity increases in severity above that level, the less likely you will remain dry. You could get wet, and you could lose your tent. As for cycling across the USA, many many people have done it using tents of a quality similar to the big agnes copper spur. From my extensive readings and experience it will stand well against the weather, but it cannot stand against all weather events that could suddenly appear. Just like 120 mph houses that are built in a 240 mph hurricane belt like Florida, it is a matter of chance and probabilities. As for transcontinental bicycle touring the record says you can do it with the tent you mention. That is the most likely outcome, success, no problem. The record also says that could change to an opposite extreme, but it is not likely to happen.

We are talking here about only the tent, not about the whys and wherefores of where and how to pitch and stake and other matters. You can have the best tent out there, but if you place it in the wrong setting you are going to get flooded. There is information regarding that aspect in this thread.

If you are paying that much for a light weight tent, do not pay to add weight by adding a tarp, not a poly tarp anyway. However they do have light duty, 6 by 8 poly tarps in Target for something like $4.00. They are as light as a feather. Pick one up. The weight is not really perceptible. The same comes in 8 by 10.

That is about all I can think of right now.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2020, 12:42:22 am by Westinghouse »

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2020, 09:34:39 am »
A tent offers protection from bugs at night as well as the elements. Often age is a factor in he level of discomfort we can tolerate, but often means we have a few more $$ to spend on higher quality equipment. (don't mean to stereotype since there are many exceptions on both sides).

Having camped all of my life and hiked and traveled by bike and lived outdoors for months at a time, there an old adage - the more gear you carry the happier you will be when you camp, the less you carry the happier you will be when you hike or bike. Think of safety gear as a first aid kit, hopefully you never need the 4" compress or steri-strips, but the day you do they can save your life - should you carry them? Would you travel without spare tubes and hope to not get a flat?

Practice is also the best advice. Once you pick your gear set it up often. Can you pitch your tent in the dark with only a flashlight? What order do you pack your bags on a rainy day? My tent was always on the top of my pack on rainy days so everything else wasn't getting wet on the ground as I dug it out of the bottom of my bag. Once you practiced in the yard go on a several day shake down cruise. Plan, pack, repack, and plan some more.
Long Distance Hiker - AT Thru-hike 2007
Long distance cyclist - multi day tours - TDF tour Alpes 2005
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline David W Pratt

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Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2020, 06:19:53 pm »
There are phone Apps that show the wind, direction and speed.  I believe one is called Windy.  That might be useful on the plains, and in mountains.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2020, 09:52:31 pm »
There are phone Apps that show the wind, direction and speed.  I believe one is called Windy.  That might be useful on the plains, and in mountains.

I got a weather band radio.

Offline froze

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2020, 10:24:25 pm »
I just have a weather app on my phone along with extreme weather alerts, no need for a separate radio.  I've had small lightweight backpacking radios and they didn't last long nor worked very well with poor reception if any at all, so now I just use the phone.

It also helps to study how to read the weather, I'm not very good at this yet, but in the days before the weather was on the radio, farmers, etc just read what nature was telling them...and they were always right!

this is a real basic teaching  http://www.lovetheoutdoors.com/using-nature-to-predict-weather/

little more detail   https://www.thesmartsurvivalist.com/reading-the-weather-for-survival/

I think if a person memorized that stuff and practiced it, they would not need a weather radio or phone app...but the weather radio or app is a lot easier!

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2020, 10:27:28 pm »
I just have a weather app on my phone along with extreme weather alerts, no need for a separate radio.  I've had small lightweight backpacking radios and they didn't last long nor worked very well with poor reception if any at all, so now I just use the phone.

There are places where cellular/data/wi-fi are non-existent, so there can be a need for a separate radio. I use both the radio and phone apps.

Out of curiosity, what radios were you using?

Offline froze

Re: Advice for Newbies about the Weather.
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2020, 11:14:21 pm »
I tried two different small crank Midland jobs, and one solar-powered Midland radio...they were all junk, very poorly made, and of course, none of them are as small as a cell phone, so now you're dealing with bulk and weight.