How To Ride in the Rain

Earlier today I was at the Apple Store in University Village and overhead some employees talking abut riding to work in the rain. As you’d expect I engaged the conversation:

At the Apple Store answering questions about riding in the rain with their staff – via Twitter 4 hours ago.

The problem the staffers had was they loved riding to work in the Summer, Fall, but not so much in the rain. Yep – it sucks. Had to agree and explained they could make it much more tolerable with fenders (or at least a fender) and the right gear. I didn’t talk about spending on bike geek gear, just a wool liner, shell, and a change of clothes in a pack. For the budget conscious, a Filson jacket from a thrift store will work just fine, as discussed in this post earlier.

Wet longtail

In lieu of my annual post on the wet weather and bike miles, readers how do you ride in the rain? What tips do you have for someone, like the Apple Store staffers, who are just riding to work?


Hefty bag over irish knit sweater (the wool is waterproof) and plastic grandma bonnet (meant to go over bouffant hair-do) over helmet. Change of pants in bag.

Looks stupid, but works great.

I pretty much just deal with reasonably warm rainy weather—just throw on a waterproof vest to keep my core warm.

My fall/winter rain kit (commuting):
The North Face hardshell
TNF waterproof boots
Pearl Izumi Gavia gloves
Craft rain pants

It’s not the best setup.  The weakest links (gloves and pants) are actually the only cycling-specific gear.  I’ll forgive PI for softshell gloves not being totally waterproof (I’m replacing them with Glacier neoprene), but there’s no excuse for the Craft activewear.  The pants aren’t long enough to go over boots so I usually put knee warmers over the cuff to keep the boots from being buckets, and there’s no excuse for rainy day activewear being totally black without reflective accents.  Even the hiking boots have reflective surfaces, FFS!

I’d like to go in the direction of a full coverage rain cape and an Alfine build of a singlespeed Ti 29er frame for the unpleasant days.  40mm studs in winter, 32-35mm slicks otherwise.

For winter (since I live in lovely warm Canada), out comes the:
- rain helmet cover (yes, helmets are mandatory here)
- rain pants (also good for staying warm through our colder months)
- rain jacket (a nice bright yellow with fluorescent stripes)
- booties (although normally only when it is really doing the monsoon rain number)
- waterproof gloves
- bright lights on front and back of the bike (personally, I like at least 150 lumens or more on the front, and I am very fond of my 140 lumen tail light from Dinotte).  I prefer having a spare light mounted on the handlebar as well, in case one fails (the Planet Bike 2W light is perfect for this purpose).

For those of us in Canada, MEC is a great place to get most of this geeky stuff; summertime allows pretty well anything as acceptable cycling gear, but when winter descends, the tough get out the real bike gear…


Rear rack with a small extension of an old tube mudflap for a rear fender. Smartwool long underwear and nylon pants for the usual Seattle drizzle, legs stay mostly dry and pants dry fast. Cheap cotton gloves work fine for me. Any ol’ hat that fits under the helmet. This assumes you can set gloves, hat, hoddie, or whatever out to dry while at work. Putting clothes on that are still wet from the morning ride to go home makes for an unpleasant ride. For the rare down pours: a rain coat, rain pants, and small plastic bags for my feet. My most important rain adjustment was changing my 23mm hard road tires for 28mm softer all weather tires. The few more flat tires is made up for no more crashes in the rain.

regular clothes, covered by a paradise umbrella:

Just a 7 mile commute near Tacoma, with options to bail and hop a bus if it gets nasty.  For real rain, I have a screaming-yellow, waterproof PI jacket (with hood), but for drizzle or less, I use a breathable, bright-yellow Novarra convertible jacket.  Either one gets layered over 1 to 3 ls tees(wicking and warmth layers) and a ss summer jersey (for color & pockets if it gets too warm for the jacket).  Novarra Headwind pants are windproof and water resistant.  Much below 40 deg and I’ll add a Pepper Skins base layer to keep legs warm.  Performance neoprene booties for wet or very cold days.  Using plastic strapless toe-clips - no cleats - so the booties have no cleat holes and provide total protection.  Strap-mounted fleece ear warmers keep ears toasty (and dry in the drizzle).
Still looking for good gloves.  Neither glove brand I’ve used was bike-specific.  The one that was warm & dry has now come apart in bike service.
200 lumen Cygolite MilIon on helmet, which means I have to use the rain hood under helmet.  White led flasher on the bar, 1/2 watt tail blinky & secondary flasher on rear.  BikeGlow on frame + reflective tapes & stickers on frame & helmet.
Bike is a claimer - Huffy Alumina hardtail with added plastic fenders and rear rack, running Conti’ city tires in place of original MTB Kenda’s.
Performance transit “messenger bag” style pannier holds anything I need to ferry in and has a hi-vis yellow cover to keep things dry in real rain.
Cheap ($12) wraparound safety glasses instead of bike specific eye protection, and I’ve found that RainX inside & out minimizes rain blur & reduces fogging.
I’m lucky - full size locker at work, shower & hair dryers, locked bike shed, and a drying room for wet gear.  Rode through first week of Dec. last year.  We’ll see how long I last this year.  Icy roads or snow will put me on the bus (or telecommuting).

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