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Saturday, November 27, 2021

An ultimate ranking of biking weather, according to UC Davis students

Which types of weather do students love to bike in, and which do they dread?

By SONORA SLATER — features@theaggie.org

The street is deserted, a torrent of leaves tumbles across the Russell bike path — for every inch students pedal forward, a vicious gust of wind blows them back two. Defeated, they wonder if choosing to bike to class was really worth avoiding the throes of a crowded Unitrans bus.

For all the convenience that bikers enjoy in Davis, there are a few significant inconveniences they face as well: people who don’t understand bike circles, overly bold squirrels… and weather. 

Arriving to class drenched in sweat from cycling in 90-degree heat, contending with fog that limits visibility and conceals potential hazards, or tolerating a wet bike seat and a soggy backpack can all be challenging, but each weather also has its perks. 

According to Davis students, how do the different biking conditions stack up? Based on data collected in a survey of 19 current or former Davis students ranking their experience biking in sun, wind, cold, rain and fog on a scale from one to five, the average of their ratings determined the (somewhat) definitive ranking of biking weather at UC Davis. 

5th Place: Rain

Rain had the lowest average score: 1.42 out of 5. There were a variety of complaints about the challenges that biking in rain poses — and since Davis has an average of 66 rainy days per year, student bikers will have to face those challenges frequently during the upcoming winter months. 

Davis rain is so common that it gives name to one of the most infamous markers of a new student: the freshman stripe. Even for students whose backs aren’t damp from their bike tires and unfortunate lack of fender, Julie Daseking, a first-year graduate student in the UC Davis School of Education who also attended Davis for undergrad, said it’s nearly impossible to get to class dry during a downpour.

“Horizontal rain is the absolute worst — say goodbye to dry pants,” Daseking said.

4th Place: Windy

Wind followed close behind rain with a score of 1.53, though this data might have been negatively impacted by the recent windy weather. 

Wind can be a truly dangerous condition to ride in; the fear of wind-struck fallen branches could possibly be the only thing that convinces students to actually wear helmets while riding around campus.

Nic Lattig, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major, acknowledged a potential benefit of wind but emphasized its hazards.

“Wind keeps the rider cool, but 30 mph winds are dangerous,” Lattig said via Instagram Direct Message. “Wind is awful because you can’t see and you’re blown 3 feet back for each foot you pedal.” 

On Oct. 11, a somewhat gusty day, second-year biological sciences major Olivia Yoder gave her opinion.

“Today taught me that wind plus dirt plus biking is the least fun,” Yoder said via Instagram Direct Message.

3rd Place: Foggy

Fog had a much higher score than wind and rain, with an average rating of 2.95 out of 5. When early-morning fog shrouds campus, it turns each tree into an indistinct shadow and each corner into a mystery. The conditions might be haunting, but students tended to agree that they were less unpleasant than wind or rain. 

As with rain, many students currently on campus have never experienced biking in fog, perhaps skewing the results toward their romanticized imagination of quiet foggy mornings but failing to account for the lack of visibility and dampness it creates.

One survey respondent who gave high marks for foggy weather acknowledged that they had not biked in either rain or fog before, and therefore did not know for sure how good or bad cycling in those conditions would be.

Alumna Kristen Krick, who’s had lots of experience with the Davis fog, expressed a more negative view.

“Fog makes riding sucky, due to the more potential cow poop smell,” Krick said via Instagram Direct Message. 

Tied for 1st Place: Sunny and cold but clear

Each achieving a score of 4.12 out of 5, opposites sun and cold, sans rain or fog, tied for the best biking weather. Despite the threat of sweat, a sunny, clear day was a favorite because of its perfect visibility and the comfort of warmth. 

Others had a strong preference for cold and clear days, which allow riders to stay cool while avoiding the hazards of other winter weather. 

Though cold and sun received high scores, the pool of respondents were fairly divided — and passionate — about their number one choice.

While many survey respondents expressed love for sunny rides, Lattig held an opposing view: “Sun is bad,” Lattig said via Instagram Direct Message.

As the Davis temperatures trend downward over the next few months, it’s likely students will experience all of these conditions. Regardless of your weather preferences, bike safely, and be thankful that so far, we haven’t experienced the weather favored by Raaghav Saxena, a fourth-year animal biology major: “It’s best when hailing, obviously.” 

Written by: Sonora Slater — features@theaggie.org

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