Monday, September 8, 2008

Shame, Shame, Go Away ...

I'll Try Again Some Other Day

Shame on me... I could have cycled to work today, but I didn't. When I woke up early this morning, it was raining. It was more than a gentle rain, but not a deluge. By the time I showered and dressed, the rain had stopped. I did ride the bus, at least, so I still didn't have to worry about the drive and parking. When my bus got downtown, the rain had picked back up again, so I probably would have gotten wet had I cycled in.

"I don't mind getting wet in the rain," is what I've always told myself. But normally when I have that thought, I'm imagining June or July. This unseasonably cool September chill would have been very cold in the rain.

Being a new bike commuter, I'm still working out all these issues. I'll need to figure out what kind of rain gear works best for me.

Here's a list of what I think I need:
  • Rain jacket, cape, poncho, etc. What works best for cycling?
  • Rain pants. Again, any ideas on the best for cycling?
  • Neoprene booties to keep shoes and feet dry
  • Neoprene gloves
  • Something for my head
    • Rain jacket with hood?
    • Shower cap over helmet?
    • Forgo the helmet and wear a rain cap, in the style of the trustworthy Gordon's Fisherman?
  • Make or buy a rain cover for my pannier, as I'm not sure if it's waterproof.
If any of you hardcore commuters or touring cyclists happen across this post, please comment with your rainy weather riding tips and help me avoid bearing the shame of squandering another perfectly good commuter day.


munsoned said...

Here's the deal about waterproof bike clothing - there's no such thing. Sure the rain will bead off of "waterproof" stuff for a while, but if it's truly impermeable, you'll end up sweating buckets under it anyway.

Pretty much, if it's coming down outside really well, you're going to get wet. The main issue, as you mentioned, is keeping warm. When it's 50 degrees and raining, it becomes an issue of layering. I rode my 3 miles in this morning with wearing bike shorts, regular shorts, a wicking t-shirt, a rain jacket, wool socks and cycling sandals, and a cycling cap under my helmet. In other words, I need to be lecturing myself on the benefits of better layering. After I got halfway there, I realized my hands were freezing so I should have brought my mid-weight gloves, and my jacket was acting like a sail while riding into the NE wind. I should have worn my wool long sleeve baselayer, a jersey, and my cycling vest. I have forgotten since last winter/spring, that the upper body layering system I just described works amazingly well. You can add arm warmers for cooler weather, or you can unzip the vest/jersey to cool off. This morning, my rain jacket was pretty worthless after the water had soaked through it. Had I been going any longer than 3 miles, I might have been in trouble.

A wool long sleeve base layer is very nice, but not necessary. If you have any long sleeve non-cotton shirt, it'll probably do the trick. Then, depending on how cool it is, you can add just a vest, or also a jersey/wicking t-shirt for more warmth. A cycling vest is very nice though. It keeps your core warm and is easily stowable if it dries up.

I usually wear a cycling cap when it rains. It should keep your head fairly warm and provide some water blockage from the eyes.

With regard to your panniers, most aren't water proof. So either put the contents of your panniers in waterproof bags, or make/buy some pannier covers.

Feet are kind of a personal preference. If you wear cycling shoes, you can get fancy neoprene shoe covers that have holes for the cleats. If you wear regular shoes, you can get some gore socks to hopefully keep your tootsies dry. My feet sweat with just socks on, so anything on my feet is going to get wet. I usually just layer up my wool socks and call it good.

Hopefully Brady can give you some pointers that he's discovered since all this stuff is more recent and new to him. I kinda forget, suffer on a few rides, and then readjust to the weather.

Scott Redd said...

Hi Munson:

Thanks for the cool and rainy weather advice. I know there's advice all over the net, but I think it's great to get localized and specialized advice from folks in my own community.

It was so gorgeous out this afternoon that I was kicking myself on the entire slow bus ride home for not being prepared to ride. As fortune would have it, I missed the one I needed to get me the closest to home (due to construction downtown), so I hopped a different one that gives me a little more of a walk home. The walk was nice.

After work my wife and I hit the Sports Authority and the Trek store. We both got wicking base layer; long sleeve top and bottom. I also got a DryLogic long sleeve shirt with a zipper near the neck.

At the Trek store I got a pair of fingered gloves and a rain jacket that looks like it might do the trick for all but the heavier rains. I wanted hi-vis, but the one they had was colored "Storm Blue." Why would you want to wear something the same color as the storm you're riding in? :)

I'll still need to get something for the legs to go over the base layer, but we've probably got some time before it's that cold. Keeping the core warm will go a long way, I'm betting.

Where do you find all your woolens?



brady said...

Leave it to Munson to post a comment that is typically longer than most of his blogs. Good post, friend, and you've covered everything (and more) than what I would have contributed. As I was good at drawing lines in grade school, allow me to underscore the pointer on warmth.

Since your commute is relatively short, warmth and waterproofing your panniers are your keys. I imagine somebody out there has really good gear for long touring rides in the rain, but as Munson said, wool and/or synthetics are your best bet. If your pannier has space, pack an extra set for the ride home if rain is in the forecast.

If you are 100% committed to commuting by bike, then rain is something you'll have to deal with. However, taking the bus on rainy days is a very good option, saving you a lot of time and grief. So here's what I do: If it's raining in the morning, then I'll take the bus. If rain is in the forecast but hasn't yet started & radar looks reasonable, then I'll cycle in. Unless it's a full blown thunderstorm in the afternoon, I don't mind riding home in the rain. It's certainly a lot less of a hassle dealing with cleaning up at home than grooming for work. If thunderstorms prevent me from riding home, I feel reasonably safe leaving my bike secured at UP - as you well know, a dream ride can remain unlocked weeks before anyone will touch it...

Scott Redd said...

Thanks for the comment, Brady.

One thing I'll add is that when the buses begin operating with the bike racks, you'd be able to transport your bike one or both ways if the weather doesn't work out.

I'd have to get a U-lock before I'd consider leaving my bike overnight. I doubt my cable lock would last long on an attack. To any would-be thieves reading this, I lock it right next to the brown Cannondale. :)

I can see that dressing for cool weather will take some fine tuning. Yesterday at low-40s, I was comfortable with baselayer, shorts, and a couple of shirts. This morning at low-50s, I was hot with the same configuration.

What do you fellows do with the face and eyes when it gets really cold? I've seen pictures of one Omaha commuter wearing a snowboarder helmet with goggles and a balaclava mask. Maybe eyeball freezing temps are the logical cutoff point for deciding whether to ride or not.

brady said...

In cool temps, the balaclava works extremely well beneath the helmet. It's also nice because you can get creative with folding it and wear it as a skull cap if the weather turns warmer, or even stuff it in a pocket. I'll wear sunglasses for the wind. When it gets really cold, I combine the balaclava with a wool skull cap for the head.

Protecting the extremities will also go a long way to keeping you happy. I cover my cycling shoes with neoprene booties, but leather boots for the ankles and wool socks will likely work just as well. For the hands, I bought a used pair of Lobster Gloves from Munson that are fantastic.

munsoned said...

Remember that morning, last winter, when it was -8 degrees F? Yup, I rode to work in that. Watching my breath turn from fog to ice instantly was very interesting.

With Balaclavas, you have to be kinda careful. Too heavy and you'll overheat. Too light and it won't work in the really low temps. I actually have 3 balaclavas mainly because I "lost" one, bought another, then found it again. Then my mom, with good intentions, bought me one that was basically expedition weight. It didn't fit well under my helmet and was just too hot when exercising.

For glasses, I have 2 pairs with interchangeable lenses. Both also have prescription inserts. One is my lightweight summer version with 2 dark lenses sets to choose from. The other is my older, bigger set for better eye coverage. I just use clear lenses with those since most of the time it'll be dark or cloudy anyway.

For wool, I love Smartwool products. They are expensive, but if you can hit a Canfields sale or online sale, then you can save a little bit of dough. The nice part about wool is that you can wear it many times before it stinks. If you read my odoriferous post, you'd know that clothing that doesn't take on my BO is quite....uh...refreshing. I'll wear my Smartwool base layer (which I got for 1/2 off at a Canfields sale) for a week at a time between washings. It's good stuff.

For legs, I do various stuff. I tend to wear manpris/shants/knickers/whateveryoucallem over bike shorts with leg warmers when the weather is just cold. If it rains, I forgo the knickers and wear Amfib tights over my bike shorts. The front of these tights are fleece lined Neoprene. So it takes quite a bit to get cold with the Amfibs on.

Biker Bob said...

When it's cold and it rains, any long commute will result in wet clothes. But with the right layering you wont get cold even if your soaked as long as you keep generating heat. Unless it's down around or below freezing. That's a different ball game.

When the temp drops, I find that Bike Sleeves, Bike leggings, a sleeveless vest and various base layers can give you a lot of versatility at staying warm.

Keep in mind that being too warm can cause a problem too. If it's cold enough and you overdress and start sweating, you could end up getting very cold very quickly. Unzip or remove layers before you get to that point.

Some other gear that I used a lot last winter includes:
-SHimano winter boots
-Light weight material Balaclava
-Lobster claw gloves (used at below 20ºF temps)
-Toaster full finger gloves (mid-weight glove)
-Wool sweater from thrift store
-Running light weight wind shell
-Running wind pants (nice ones with articulated knee area)
-Wool socks (use several times between washings...I love wool)
-Clear tape over the vents on my helmet
-Carbide studded snow tires
-"Fenix L2D" light on helmet and bars (one flashing ALWAYS)
-Cell phone (for the uh-oh moments)
-Neck gator

Anyways, have fun commuting this fall. Fall is the BEST time to be out on a bike (in my opinion)

Nicolas Marchildon said...

Last year I purchased a real rain jacket, those that are bright yellow and really don't leak. I added rain pants, booth covers and a cycling cap to go under my helmet. The jacket's cap is off under light rain, but if it becomes heavier I put it over my helmet (it is big enough).

I uses the same when riding under snow, but I add a face cover and sometimes ski googles when it is below -10 Celcius.

My ride is only 4 km, and under heavy rain I arrive mostly dry, except for the sweat I generated under my rain coat.