I’m a cyclist, and you’re probably a cyclist, which means we both check the weather an awful lot. We have a well-used weather app and we plan our life around it. If the app was pre-internet it would be dog-eared. It tells us whether we should go out or stay in and what clothes we should wear. Assuming it has just told us to go out, of course…indoor fashion advice is currently beyond it.
But, helpful though this is, cold hard data is nothing without local knowledge.
I live in a city – a small one – in the North of England. It’s called Lancaster, and my weather app thinks it’s lovely and warm. My bulging wardrobe of winter cycling kit suggests otherwise. Presumably because of the warming effect of all the tarmac and the concrete, which stores heat, or the thick-bricked buildings, which give it off like great Georgian radiators, the city is always warmer than its picturesque, rural surroundings.
The weather app gives me a temperature for Lancaster.
The cold bit is where all the cycling is.
So right now, early February, the app for my home location might say three degrees C; a common wintry temperature in these parts. But dress for three degrees at your peril.
Leave the city, head for a well-worn loop of prime cycling real estate, and you’re out in the sticks. You’ll soon hit zero. Factor in an easterly wind and you’re looking at a ‘real feel’ of minus two at best. If it then rains, and you get wet, you’ll be hypothermic before you can say “I demand a personal audience with the Met Office”. If you then get a puncture or some other mechanical, God bless you.
It was nice knowing you.
Your time on this mortal coil is now over (unless you have a tolerant partner or good friend within a handful of miles and willing to effect immediate rescue).
I get cocky and fall foul of this app/reality calibration issue at least annually. It happened in late January this year. App said two degrees, I said “ppfffsshhhhfftt!” and headed out for a two-hour session like a man with no memory and a fetish for polar survival. After an hour and twenty I was faced with the truth of the weather app. The temperature was well below zero.
It wasn’t just that my hands and feet were cold – though they were, excruciatingly so – but that parts of me that I’d never thought able to even get cold, were cold. Inside parts. The roof of my mouth, for example, even my brain. My jaw hung open, frozen in position. I couldn’t have changed gear or pulled the brakes if I’d tried.
I was single geared, one paced, and in a frigid death-pedal in the direction of my warm city-centre home.
I made it.
Thankfully someone was home, as the act of fishing the house keys from my jersey pocket might have finished me off. And then came the hot aches. Oh God! the pain as the warmth seeped into my bone marrow. Is there a deeper, more insistent pain than the hot aches?
Child-birth, some say, but I dunno guys…
“The app,” I muttered vaguely, through my frozen face, though the looks from my wife and kids suggested the words leaving my mouth barely resembled the ones formed in my icebound brain, “I forgot to factor in reality…”
I’ll remember the rule of the app now for the rest of this winter. I’ve had my brush with death for another year. I’ll remember it for most of next winter too, until one day I’ll forget it, nearly die, and learn my lesson all over again.