June 11, 2008 at 11:42 PM by Dr. Drang
Yes, I’ve written a lot about weather forecasts lately. I like to think that my interest in weather forecasts comes from a combination of this year’s rainy and cold spring and my desire to ride my bike to work most days of the week. Getting an accurate forecast helps me dress for the weather and, in some cases, time my rides to avoid the heaviest rain.
Or maybe I’m just developing that peculiar interest in weather that comes with advancing years.
Either way, I’ve noticed that the online weather services play up the possibility of storms just as much as TV weatherfolks do. For example, over the last few days the National Weather Service, AccuWeather, and the Weather Underground have been predicting a 30-40% chance of thunderstorms in Naperville tomorrow and Friday—a reasonably high percentage, but not even to the level of a coin flip. Despite the less-than-even odds, all three sites have decorated their forecasts with formidable icons of thunderclouds, lightning bolts, and slanting rain. (To be fair, the Weather Underground’s icon incorporates a question mark in the cloud. But the question mark is pretty subtle—I didn’t notice it when looking at the reduced-size icon on my iPhone.)
The icons make you think the chance of bad weather is much higher than what’s actually predicted. Several times I’ve found myself planning to drive to work to avoid getting caught in a thunderstorm only to read the fine print and decide to ride my bike. I know I’ll get caught eventually, but so far my rides have been pretty dry.
Consider this my top tip for bicycle commuting: pack rain gear as if the thunderstorm icon is right, but make your decision to ride as if it’s wrong. You’ll do a lot more riding and won’t get nearly as wet as you think.