Weather and Climate:
The Second Most Important Factor While Traveling
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, the 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 to 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 Kathmandu 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 heatwave. 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 makes 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. The ever-helpful Lonely Planet books are also full of information on the best time to visit different countries. See our resources for more useful links to help plan your trip.
May the wind always be at your back,