Riding in the Rain in Seattle

This is an updated and republished post from 05.

RainLast weekend was quintessential Seattle weather in October. Stunningly beautiful one day and rain the next. I mostly welcome the rain, it cleans the air, the city, and signals that Fall has arrived. The Fall is the time of year when I spend hours of my weekends riding the city, the suburbs, and country. When you ride in Seattle, you’ll need a rain bike and the proper gear.

My rain bike is a custom Davidson — it’s a touring/road bike with long-pull brakes and eyelets for mounting fenders and clearance. The frame material is titanium, for all-day riding comfort and the geometry is relaxed.

New for 07, I’ll also ride the Modal, a concept travel bike that’s equipped with Hed’s carbon commuters Jet 60 C2.

My weather gear is a mixture of Windtex from various vendors, Windstopper, and microclimate liners from Craft. I wear 3 levels on my body

  1. Craft liner
  2. Windtex jacket
  3. Outer shell

and knickers or tights with pads. Gloves, booties, and a cap are essential as well. I use Windstopper gloves with a liner inside. On really wet days, I’ll bring extra gloves and change them 1/2 way through the ride. For my feet, I’ll wear normal socks, with a light lycra cover and a Windtex bootie. However, I’m trying a new bootie from Sugoi that’s “a fleece lined rubberized laminate that keeps water out and heat in.” I tested the booties this weekend and they’re very well made, kept my feet dry and combine my two-layer bootie method into one. I think they’re too hot for warmer days, but Sugoi obviously has product designers on staff that ride in the rain. I wear a Windstopper cycling cap with a bill, ear flaps, and fleece lining. The bill keeps the water out of my eyes, and when it’s even colder or I get chilled, I flip the ear flaps down and stay warmer. Little changes like covering ears, or changing gloves can make an enormous difference, when I’m in the May Valley, it’s pouring, and I’ve still got 2.5 hours to ride.

WindtexThe reason Windtex/Windstopper works in Seattle, is that you’re going to soak through eventually (sometimes in minutes), no matter what, so you want to block the wind and stay warm. While you’d think that Gore-Tex would work well, it doesn’t because it’s too hot. And that’s the main problem you face in wet weather: staying warm, but not hot and sweaty. Windstopper from Gore-Tex works the same as Windtex, it’s great for gloves and hats, but still too hot for body wear and too thick to be used in jackets. Windtex is a light, stretchy heat-regulating membrane that repels wind and water.

Note that a 3-layer system will fail if you’re not moving and burning calories to stay warm. Stopping in the rain is always dangerous in the winter. It usually doesn’t get that cold in Seattle, but you’ll start shivering within minutes of stopping to fix a flat or for coffee.

When it’s colder, I’ll add a set of arm warmers and Smartwool socks. Another tip is to make sure you’re eating and drinking. It’s easy to forget to eat when it’s cold. You don’t want to bonk in wet weather because that makes for one miserable ride.

Last year, during our unbelievably wet Spring, I was underdressed, underfed, and bonked. Pam was nice enough to pick me up and take me home.

For 07, and the more casual rides, I’m wearing Ibex Wool sportswear. I wrote about how well their knickers worked during a Fall storm last week.