The Second Most Important Factor
By Dennis Snader
I love Louis Armstrong's version of "Nothing But Blue Skies." If
only the weather could always be as Louis describes it. Obviously
the reality is that during my bicycle adventure around the world
I will be baked, soaked and frozen. I accept this as a characteristic
of bike touring. When I research climate my goal is to limit my
discomfort due to the elements. As a result climate can be predominately
my ally not my foe. Two days of rain can be frustrating but with
the proper equipment my journey continues. Attempting to ride through
India during Monsoon season is simply dangerous. During the months
of July and August Bombay receives an average of 46 inches of rain.
Not even a boat can save my tour in these conditions. With research
I can avoid this weather disaster using the basic theory that, as
in life, timing is everything.
My aversion for cold weather cycling makes staying warm my first
priority. This is where the timing comes into play. Using my pace
of 1000 miles per month I can compute the amount of time required
for each leg of my tour. The 8000 mile journey from San Francisco,
California to Buenos Aires, Argentina will take 8 months. If I depart
from San Francisco in early September I will follow the warm weather
south. Arriving in Buenos Aires during April I should find the city
in the midst of a temperate Fall. An added bonus to this schedule
is avoiding the rainy season in Central America. From Buenos Aires
I picture the future legs of my tour as a row of dominos. Simply
what countries do I want to explore where the climate is advantageous.
My choice is a four month journey from Ireland to Poland. After
which, I will meander south for a three month exploration of the
Mediterranean coastline. One leg of the trip leads to the next.
It is always warm somewhere in the world!
Now that I am warm, I also want to be dry. A substantial portion
of my trip will be spent in tropical regions known for drenching
downpours. I must bear this in mind for the India/Nepal portion
of my journey. The same theory of timing applies. By choosing to
explore India after the Mediterranean coastline tour I should experience
stellar weather from January through March. My April arrival to
explore Kathmandhu and the Himalayas should be a wonderful memory.
If I were to reverse my direction the outcome would be entirely
different. After a chilly start in Nepal I would be baked by India's
traditional heat wave. The April temperatures in New Delhi routinely
exceed 100 degrees. The blistering dry heat is succeeded very quickly
by the dreaded Monsoon Season. In one direction of travel I feel
the luxury of a loose schedule with climate as my friend. The reverse
direction has me looking over my sun baked shoulder for the first
ominous rain clouds.
On the other hand, I could spend my entire three year tour avoiding
bad weather. For me this would be a mistake. There are many amazing
sites I want to see which can't be experienced without some inconvenience.
No, I am not a masochist. The unique part of bicycle touring is
that surviving the bad days make the good days so much more fulfilling.
One of many reasons that I find traveling by bicycle addicting is
that I feel as though through my tribulations I have earned the
right to enjoy what I am seeing. If I try to avoid too much based
on climate I will never leave the comfort of my home. Not knowing
what I will find on the other side of the mountain or around the
turn is the allure of being on the road.
My last consideration is my gear. Much of my carefree attitude
is gained from the confidence that I will be properly equipped.
I have an indelible memory of a raw, 50 degree, rainy day in Yellowstone
National Park. I risked hypothermia because I was not properly dressed.
This and other extreme weather conditions can kill me. The overall
weather of a region may be hospitable but the daily conditions can
be fickle. I must be completely self-contained in the event of severe
weather where there is no shelter. (Look for a complete equipment
list at a later date.)
If you are planning your own tour and would like to do some research
on climate there are many sources that make the task easy. One of
the best is the website at www.worldclimate.com.
By entering the name of any major city in the world you will receive
monthly rainfalls and temperatures. I also perused the journals
of other round the world tours. Many are listed at www.travel-library.com/rtw/html/rtwbicycling.html.
The ever helpful Lonely Planet books are also full of information
on the best time to visit different countries.
May the wind always be at your back.