Rainy Season 2010

I’ve ridden in sideways, full-frontal, deluge, drizzle, mist, freezing, bounce-off-the-top-tube-into-your-face rain. Snow, blizzard, freezing fog, and wet dust storms that spit mud drops. On one particularly epic Mt Rainer ride, a Forest Service Ranger handed me a plastic garbage bag so I could make it down the road a few thousand feet into warmer weather. I shivered so badly, the bike shook.

When the temps dip below 32, I don’t ride. Here in Seattle temperatures that low don’t last long. And I stop for hail too, it’s just really unpleasant. Wait a while and it’ll pass.

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Related

Like Pacific Northwest writer Tom Robbins, we’re actually fans of bad weather – for the first three months of the rainy season at least. It cleans the air, reminds you of the hard work and the struggle it takes to get really good at something.

A steady, windriven rain composes music for the psyche. It not only nurtures and renews, it consecrates and sanctifies. It whispers in secret languages about the primordial essence of things. –Tom Robbins

It also destroys drivetrains and bubbles up debris from ditches into your path. Grunge describes the music from this place, it sounds like gray skies, and is also what covers your bike when you get back home.

While readers are offering their tips on commuting and riding in the rain in another post, David is out riding and reviewing more winter gear somewhere in New York at the moment. For 2010, the most-talked-about technical material is eVent. We’ve seen prototypes from our partners and Joe, a long-time team member and training partner, was testing Hincapie’s eVent jacket on a ride last week.

eVent Appears on the Ride today

I’ve been racing for 23 years in the Northwest. We are one of a few states that live/train/race consistently in the rain year round. I’ve had every kind of “rain jacket” on the planet. To be honest the old “Gore-like” jackets we had made for us 15 years ago was as close to a “as good as it gets” as I’ve had. Until now that is, this new eVent Jacket is simply the best wet weather garment I’ve ever had. Yes, you can out-sweat it but it takes some work. It breathes better then most “breathable” fabrics but it is completely water proof, not to be confused with water resistant.

If you have to ride in the rain (and cold) this is the best jacket you can buy. It never ceases to amaze me at how most people will NOT spend money on “rain gear”. Maybe it’s because of previous new fabric technologies NOT living up to expectations. This one will. Being DRY and WARM is worth the few extra dollars for this garment.

Note: those Gore-like jackets Joe refers to still come out in the worst weather. I’ve got two. One in rotation and the other stashed away. I use it as an outer shell and renew it with NixWax. No jacket has ever worked better in the worst-weather, to date.

Soak Through

I judge a rainy ride by the time it takes to soak through. You’re going to get wet, the challenge is staying warm, but not too hot. I’ve got an eVent jacket coming to test and expect more from other manufactures. Note for the purposes of this post, eVent is for training, touring, and the big miles. My fav jacket for urban riding is this Ibex Soft Shell prototype and a full compliment of wool. It’s replaced the Vertigo Loden jacket and PreCip shell I wore last season. The prototype eventually got released as the Vim Hybrid.

Tip

  • Extra gloves
  • Socks
  • Extra shell or vest

Changing gloves and socks makes an enormous difference on a ride. Also bring a backup shell or vest to put on if you get too chilled. If a rest stop has a blower, use it to warm up your socks. We use the Louis Garneau booties with a lyrcra bootie underneath and wool socks. Keep the shoes loose so your circulation doesn’t get cut off when your feet swell.

Flats

Cyclists have all sorts of theories on not getting flats. Some attribute it to karma and others to not riding in the gutter. It’s the rubber. Get a tire with the most rubber you can and check the tires for cuts and tears. I don’t use Mr. Tuffys as they feel like you’re riding with sand in your tires. They also make your tubes more prone to pinch flats. The tire of choice for this winter is the Ultremo DDs. I also use Michelin Pro 2s, but not the Pro 3s. They cut too easy. Another good winter tire are Continental All-Weather Grand pix. They’re a bit stiff, but good for the puncture proofness.

Wear What Works

The division in cycling between the lycra-wearers and not doesn’t make sense to me. Why wouldn’t you wear the best material for the ride? Commuting to work for an hour, sure wear a thrift-store Pendleton and some cut-off army surplus pants.

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Riding hard with the boys on the weekend and then it’s best-of technical materials. My closet has equal parts of both and I even mix them up. A Windtek vest over a wool liner for the brisk mornings with light rain.

Not my thing, but tweed is popular too.



6 Comments

My eVent jacket is apparently showing up TOMORROW.  I got SOAKED last weekend…and Joe was dry on top.  Damn.

My next project…ice/snow bike.  Sub32 - SO WHAT?!

It’s funny to hear talk of eVent as if it were something new. It’s been on the market for quite a while. I’ve been wearing eVent only since I discovered it in 2004. 66 North was an early adopter of this clearly superior waterproof-breathable, and I have yet to have to retreat the storm shell I got in 4 (I live in Portland). Under a microscope, it’s obvious why eVent breathes better than Gore-Tex.

http://www.eventfabrics.com/eVent_technology.php

My favorite cycling jacket is the Showers Pass Elite 2.0. It’s hard to sweat in this thing, and it just will not wet out. The fit is also, thankfully, more medium, versus Euro slim.

I do wear a Gore Bike Wear cap under my helmet usually, but if it really starts pouring I pop the Elite’s hood. I’d wear an eVent cap if I could find one. I also wear GBW gloves, warm and waterproof, of course. Again, I’d upgrade if I could find an eVent model.

Riding in the nasty is a blast when you’ve got the goods to stay warm and dry. I wear all wool (I recommend Ibex, Woolistic, Smartwool, Wabi Woolens) underneath. Nothing better, all year long. I will never go back to lycra. Wool is cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cool. It’s amazing.

I also have eVent pants from 66 North, but I never wear shoe covers. I usually wear waterproofed leather, and in the winter my favorite riding shoes are insulated leather Merrell mocs that I mink oil. My feet never get cold or wet, and I don’t have to put on those goofy shoe covers/booties.

One of our industry contacts toured their factory last year and told us eVent was purchased by GE. There hasn’t been a push into high-performance cycling gear that we’ve been aware of and I guess that’s GE marketing the material better and to more markets. Like Joe said and I noted in the post, we’ve got these ancient shells made with a Gore knock-off that until now worked the best if reslicked with NikWax.

The problem with Gore here in the Northwest is it’s just too hot, almost the same as wearing a plastic rain cape, and getting soaked inside and cold from your sweat.

Layering gear is like the framebuilders building frames that are *vertically stiff and horizontally compliant*. We’re always looking to drop another layer or wear a thinner one. That’s to cut the bulk, weight and get more comfortable when you’re out for 5 hours in the cold wet. I think cold wet is a bigger challenge that just cold. Pearl Izumi’s gear is unusable, for example, as they’ve got (or had) the Colorado demographic where Sugoi in Vancouver BC knows the wet. I presume Showers Pass knows the wet too.

The reason Windtek and Wool works so well here is that you’re going to soak through. Staying warm, but not too hot is the challenge. Just this week, I was trying out Bontrager’s rain shell—breathes pretty well for a rain shell, but also soaked right through when it poured.

That’s a good tip on the Showers Pass Elite.

I love your picture of biking in hail.  OK if I put it with a link to your blog on mine?  Not a monetary blog (unless blogspot uses it that way), gets a few hits every day.  http://jbw0123.blogspot.com/  I’m using it to motivate myself to get out of my car.

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