Summer Weather Tips for San Francisco Bike Riding

Photo: Wikipedia

There’s something universal in complaining about the weather. When early humans walked out of Africa, someone probably griped about how much warmer it was at home. Ditto for those who crossed the land bridge from Asia to North America: crazy weather for that time of year.

I’m no different. I love to talk, and grumble, about the weather. Maybe it’s the New Englander in me, or maybe it’s because after years in Seattle, my emotional state was so tied to the sun, glorious sun. (All 58 days of it.) In any case, as a cyclist my days are more intimately tied to the heat, chill, wind, and rain than someone who hops on BART or commutes in a car on the freeway. Weather is a factor at home and on the road.

Moving here, I’d heard all about San Francisco’s notoriously finicky micro climates and cool summers. Determined not to make a rookie mistake, I snapped up Weather of the San Francisco Bay Region and read it like gospel. But then reality struck. Want to know the weather of a particular neighborhood in San Francisco? Just check rent prices on Craigslist. Which is, to say, the story of how I came to live in the Outer Richmond. A destination neighborhood for international food lovers, book nerds, and tourists seeking the Golden Gate Bridge, the Richmond is known for many charms. Its climate, particularly in summer,  is not one of them.

My apartment abuts the fog flow up Geary Blvd from Ocean Beach, so when it’s hot in the East Bay, nature’s air conditioning pours it on here. As I write, it’s 57 degrees and foggy here, 63 degrees and sunny in SOMA, and a full 10 degrees warmer in the Mission.

With that much variation, being prepared can make the difference between a comfortable commute or arriving a sweaty, soggy, or chilly mess.

My tips for surviving summer biking in San Francisco:

  1. Accept that looking outside your window will not tell you what it’s like where you are going, but technology can. Local weather apps SF Climates (iPhone) or SF Weather (Android) can help you prepare.
  2. Dress in your usual layers but consider leaving off the sweater/jacket/hoodie at the start of your ride. If you feel completely comfortable, you’ll likely be pulling over in 10 minutes to strip off a layer once your body warms up.
  3. Try a light scarf  or even arm warmers instead of a jacket.
  4. Don’t forget your sunglasses.

If the chill air and fog start to get me down, I try to remember how it warms up in the fall and that I only now have to wear rain gear a few rides a year.

And how much I do love the fog horns.

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