Cyclists: Beware of fast-changing Fraser Valley weather |

Cyclists: Beware of fast-changing Fraser Valley weather

Keith Sanders
Mountain Biking with Keith
Courtesy photo
Staff Photo |

It’s June and the trails are riding more like it’s early May. Our wet spring has slowed the melting of the snow and drying of the trails. Unpredictable storms don’t help at all with planning a ride.

Sure it’s bright and sunny when you are getting ready, then as you begin your ride the clap of thunder overhead may cut it short. This unsettled weather is a great reminder of how unpredictable the weather here can be and all the more reason to make sure you are prepared when you head out on your ride. Even a short ride can go wrong in a hurry.

I try to avoid storms at all cost, but with all the riding I do I occasionally get caught out by a storm. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does it is usually by a quick-moving storm.

Several years ago I was riding in the late summer with some friends. Our route was Tipperary, which we had done many times before. We left Fraser under partly cloudy skies. As we crossed the first stream and climbed through aspen groves the clouds thickened and thunder rumbled in the distance. The bright sun fell victim to the darkened skies as we neared the top.

What had been scattered sunshine was now becoming dark, yet it was still afternoon. Before we could descend and head for home the storm opened up. Normally we would have put on our rain gear and cut the ride short. This storm was a bit different as it didn’t start to rain; as luck would have it the rain was skipped in favor of heavy hail. Toss in some bright lightning and thunder that boomed directly overhead.

Our best choice was to take cover and wait it out. We found a stand of thick new growth trees and used that for shelter. Normally our storms move quickly and don’t last that long. This was far different. Thunder, hail and heavy rain didn’t seem to stop, and just when you thought it was bad it would get worse. After about an hour the main part of the storm moved on allowing us to ride home in a steady heavy rain, which was a welcome relief from the hail.

This situation could have gone wrong very quickly. Fortunately everyone was prepared. We had waterproof jackets and found shelter right away. If this wasn’t the case, we could have quickly been in trouble with hypothermia or worse. There are a few key items you always take with you on a ride, one being a waterproof shell.

Our mountains can create their own weather. How many times have you gone out on a ride under the sun while the south end of the valley was socked in by weather? Shells take up very little room and weigh next to nothing. There is no reason not to bring one along. It could save your life. Make sure your shell is waterproof. The standard for waterproofing is very broad ,often confusing and not always truly waterproof. The varying degrees of “waterproofing” follow:

0-5,000 mm rating: No resistance to some resistance to moisture, can handle light rain, dry snow, no pressure;

6,000-10,000 mm rating: Rainproof and waterproof under light pressure, handles light rain, average snow, light pressure;

11,000-15,000 mm rating: rainproof and waterproof except under high pressure, handles moderate rain, average snow, light pressure;

16,000-20,000 mm rating: rainproof and waterproof under high pressure, handles heavy rain, wet snow, some pressure;

20,000 mm+ rating: rainproof and waterproof under very high pressure, handles heavy rain, wet snow, high pressure.

One thing to note is that the shell may say “waterproof” but may not meet your needs. It is important to know how waterproof your shell is in order to be aware of what type of weather you can endure.

We have several local shops that have a good selection of shells. If your shell isn’t quite what you need then look around for one that suits your needs. Our local sales people are very knowledgeable on what works and doesn’t work in our environment .

The take-away from all of this is be prepared. Have the proper clothing and equipment with you to meet foreseeable situations.

Make time to get out and ride. It will do wonders to your mind and body. Repeat often and enjoy until your smile hurts.

Looking for more information or want to get involved as a mountain biker? Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!

Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach him at

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