My friend Steve, aka Florida Biking, wrote in a recent blog, titled "Cycling when it's Cold....", about the importance of being properly attired when out on your bike, regardless of the season. Again, Steve has hit the nail firmly on the head with his comments, in particular where he explains how a large nation, such as the 'States, can have the two weather extremes at the same time of year. But in a small country, such as here in Japan, it can be quite different (and at the same time, the same).
Before I commence on the topic, I want to opine firstly about a belief I hold, regarding the great outdoors. When one ventures out, regardless of their motive or mode, you are at the mercy of the elements and Mother Nature and all they can throw at you. Regardless of your experience / qualifications / skills, or how well you have prepared for your venture, or how well equipped you are, there is no 100% guarantee you will return home alive & well. We are all affected by complacency and even a walk in the park can end in disaster. Don't think, when you read what I say, or others for that matter, that you will be able to survive whatever is thrown at you. But don't let me put you off.
Now back to the subject at hand. This post is my spin on the type of clothing appropriate for the time-of-year/season for here in Japan. Here we experience two weather extremes (check-out my blog on the "Four Seasons of Japan"), summer, where it's either very-hot or extremely-hot, and winter, where, to coin-a-phrase from back home, is Brass-Monkey conditions. I will begin with summer where it's not uncommon, when out-and-about, to pass a roadside thermometer that is reading a temperature of between 35c-to-40c (95f-to-104f). Not only is the proper clothing important, but an adequate supple of liquid should be included in your kit. It can be quite easy for some to show-off his/her bravado, like I did once, and head-off scantily clad and suffer the consequences. If my plan was to impersonate a beetroot, I did a very-good job of it, not to mention the pain I suffered the following day.This time of year most of my outings will be in sheltered areas, and I sometimes go cycling during the night or early morning to avoid the extreme heat. A couple of pieces of chewing-gum can go some way to relieving a dry mouth.
Winter, like summer, requires one to be careful when it comes to preparing for your venture. Winter is the time-of-year where we, like our animal cousins, tend to go into hibernation and put our gear away for the warmer months (that's unless you are a ski-buff). But hey, you don't have to take-a-break. It's great cycling in the cold and snow. You just have to be more careful. Your preparations should commence the minute you climb-out of bed - keep yourself warm, remain in your pyjamas and wear a dressing-gown and put the heater on. Then tuck-into a good breakfast - banana, yogurt & muesli, toast and a hot cup-of-tea - before climbing-into your gear. In your pack, include something to eat along the way - banana,mixed-nuts,energy bar, as-well-as a flask of hot water for the coffee you plan to stop for (like I do). During winter you are burning twice the fuel as when you go riding in the hotter months, so a big diet and keeping warm will go a long way to relieving any problems you may experience.
Lets take a look at my gear, beginning at the top. If you have any respect for that organ ensconced in your skull, I would suggest you protect it with a head-warmer (and not to forget a helmet). My singlet & long-johns are made of polypropylene (or polyprops as we call them back home) that work by entrapping your body-heat and not allowing it to escape. A must. The tank-top, shirt & sweater are self-explanatory. The neck-warmer is great, especially if it gets bloody cold or there is a stiff breeze blowing. It can be pulled-up over the mouth & nose. The gloves, cycle-shorts & shorts are also self-explanatory. The windbreaker may not seem much, but is probably the most important piece of gear you will wear. They are thin, light and flexible and protect you from the cold-wind. Most people who have experienced hypothermia have done so because they weren't protected adequately from the wind. Earlier in this chapter I mentioned some of the items to include in your pack, a good pair of woollen pants should be taken "just in case".
Forgive me if I sound like I am patronizing you. I just worry about those who venture-out without proper preparation. My experience has come from mistakes I have made over the years (and there have been a few) and I have been fortunate (I won't use the term "lucky", as luck had nothing to do with it) to have survived. It's a great world out there, and the more that come to appreciate and experience it the better.
I would like to thank my friend Steve for allowing me to quote from his blog - Florida Biking.