Shop tip – riding in the rain

By Patrick Loftus, Service Manager

Just because the rain is around the corner doesn’t mean you have to put the bike away. Riding in the rain can be a pleasant experience, if you’re prepared. Wool, water proof/resistant shoes, and wearing multiple layers are great places to start. Today we’ll cover various strategies to keep you comfortable and safe on rainy bike rides.

1. Fenders

Best coverage  – Find the widest full fenders with bolt-on struts that will fit on your bike. Planet Bike Hardcore Fenders ($34) are a good option and come in three different sizes. Adding mud flaps will increase your coverage. The closer the fenders are to the ground, the drier your feet (and the person behind you) will be. Full coverage fenders will also keep your bike cleaner in the winter, prolonging the life of parts on the bike. If you only get one piece of rain gear, get good fenders.

Basic coverage – Clip on fenders, such as Planet Bike Clipon ($16) or PDW Sodapop ($20), are less expensive, and still keep you pretty dry, but don’t do much for your feet or bike.

Least coverage – In a pinch I’ve even cut up a two liter plastic bottle and zip tied it to the down tube on my bike. It’s not great, but better than nothing. Rear racks, such as Planet Bike’s Eco Rack ($26) can keep the splash off your back.

2. Seat

Get a leather covered or plastic seat with minimal seams so water can’t absorb, or a seat cover to keep a wet seat from soaking your pants. If you have a fancy leather saddle, such as a Brooks, you will want a nice quality cover to keep it dry. Plastic grocery bags work as seat covers if you have nothing else.

3. Lights

Carry extra lights and/or batteries during the winter, as you are using your lights more than you did in the summer. We carry light sets ranging from $16-$55 that will keep you visible.  Reflectors on your bike and clothing will also make you more visible to other road users.

4. General safety

Wet roads and wheels mean it’s taking everyone longer to stop. Ride over road obstacles (rail tracks, leaves, grates, utility covers, etc.) straight on without leaning, as they will be very slippery.

5. Head and face

Best coverage – Helmet covers, such as Jandd’s ($18) are basically a rain jacket for you head.  They don’t vent well, but will keep rain and wind off your head.  On really cold days a scarf or balaclava, such as Ibex Merion Wool ($30) will keep you warmer, but will get wet.

Basic coverage – A warm hat, such as Ibex Merino Skull Cap or Double Darn Wool Cycling Caps (both $30), under the helmet will keep you warm and dry in all but the worst downpours.  I like wool because it’s still warm when it’s wet.

Least coverage – A shower cap will work as a helmet cover.

In addition – if you wear glasses, find a hat with a good brim to keep as much spotting off your glasses as possible.

6. Torso

Best coverage – A high quality, bike specific rain jacket works best.  Bike specific jackets are cut to fit well while you ride.  They have longer arms and come down farther over you back for additional splash coverage, and under arm zippers that will keep you from overheating.

Basic coverage – Any rain jacket will do. Resale shops have great deals, especially in the off season.

Least coverage – You’ll look a little silly, they’re hard to ride in, and they’re sweaty, but those cheap emergency ponchos offer the most coverage for the money. Just be careful that they don’t get caught in you wheels or chain.

7. Hands

Best coverage – Warm, water proof gloves are best. We have really warm gloves from Giro ($60) that come with a liner and a shell. Two layer gloves dry faster than normal gloves and provide options depending on temperature. If you find a double layer glove overkill, the Giro Blaze 2 glove ($40) are pretty warm and water resistant.

Basic coverage – Find something with a tight weave for wind resistance. Wool or synthetic fibers will dry faster than cotton. Again, you don’t need cycling specific clothing to ride a bike. Any winter glove will work. Cycling gloves put more material in high wear spots, making them more durable in the long run.

Least coverage – I spent last winter in a convertible fingerless glove/mitten that I found at the Army surplus store for $10. They were not water proof, were slow to dry, but were always warm. In a pinch I’ve used the rubber mechanic gloves we have at the shop to add a water proof layer to normal gloves.

8. Legs

Best coverage – High quality bike-specific rain pants are amazing. They have reflective striping, built-in leg bands to keep your pants out of your chain, water proof zippers that let you reach your normal pants pockets, and a big enough opening to get them on and off while wearing shoes.

Basic coverage – Any multi-sport wet weather pant will work. Ski or hiking pants won’t have the nice features, but will keep you pretty dry and are usually cheaper than bike rain pants.

Least coverage – Wear tights under your pants or skirt. Any material that wicks moisture away from the skin is a good option. Multiple layers will keep the wet layer off you skin and allow it to dry faster.

9. Feet

Best coverage – Shoe covers are like rain jackets for you feet. They’ll make any shoe wind and rain proof. There are different styles depending on what kind of shoes you wear. Some are big enough, with durable soles to cover normal shoes, such as Showers Pass Club Shoe Cover ($40). Some will have a cut out for pedal cleats. Most shoe covers are not designed to walk in and will wear out faster if you do.

Basic coverage – Choose your winter footwear wisely. A water proof/resistant shoe or boot and warm socks will work in all but the heaviest rain.

Least coverage – On bike tours and mountain bike rides, I just use bread bags (over the sock, but in your shoe). Bread bags are far more durable than other plastic bags and really easy to come by. Your shoes will get soaked, but your feet will stay warm and dry.

You don’t have to break the bank to be comfortable riding in the rain. I wear a lot of wool and carry extra socks on really wet days. Thrift and secondhand stores can be a great source for inexpensive wool or outdoor gear, especially in the off season. If you want to see what items we carry, or ask our mechanics how they deal with the rain, come on by the shop.

Illustration by Britt Appleton

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Hours: Open Wednesday-Friday 11AM-7PM & Saturday/Sunday 12PM-5PM. Closed Monday & TuesdayBike Shop Address: 1700 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211

Phone: 503.287.8786