Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to bicycle for transportation in the rain.

Mia Birk in her rainy town of Portland
How To Bicycle For Transportation In The Rain
By Bill Poindexter aka Carfree American

This being Bike to Work week many of the new cyclists may consider a rainy day a day to hop back in the car. Don’t fret my bike friendly Americans, a little rain won’t hurt you.

One of the greatest things about biking for transportation or travel is being outside and an active participant with the weather. There are few things in life more rewarding than bicycling in the rain.

Rain riding can be a fun, safe, and rewarding experience. The savvy carfree or carlite American can use the following strategies to insure a successful commute.

Thad Carson is a mail carrier and creater of Taddihogg
cycling hats. He commutes by bike all year long in all
weather. Here he is delivering hats on a rainy day.
 Carrying clothes and gear:
For dry clothes and gear: Stuff your items in a garbage bag and then insert them into your backpack.

Or pick up some quality panniers (saddle bags) that are waterproof and/or have rain covers.

I use Arkel panniers and Arkel rear trunk called the Tail Rider that has a built in rain cover.

Protecting your body:

I love this built in rain cover on the Arkel Tail Rider
 If it is warm wear your wick away bike clothing and get wet. If it is 70f or below you may want to wear a light rain jacket or poncho, but be warned, you will warm up quickly and will most likely sweat thereby getting soaked anyhow, so you will want to regulate your temp by, ideally having a rain jacket with a lot of vents, and if you do not have that, you can regulate temperature by zipping and unzipping and keeping your effort and pace to the point wear you do not sweat much.

My favorite rain jacket from Showers Pass
 What to wear, what to wear…in the rain?
I am a big fan of wearing anything for short nice weather rides, say a couple of hours, or rides where I am doing errands or rolling to my favorite bistro for dinner.

But…here it comes…

When the weather turns amiss I throw on my cycling gear-bike shorts, wicking shirts, and cycling jacket (if needed). Cycling clothes have evolved and serve a purpose-light weight, pull sweat/ moisture away from body, offer low wind resistance, and keep you warm on a cool day and cool on a warm day. With advances in fabrics you can choose wool or synthetics.

Bike shorts also are a must to the regular cyclist. The padding protects the tender underside and helps to insure a more comfortable bike ride. The shorts take a little getting use to, but once you get over the “diaper feel” you will use them on a regular basis for rides over an hour. Cycling clothes come in many styles and sizes so you do not have to have the look of a pro racer. As with all things cycling it comes down to your own individual style and preference.

Arriving wet:
Bring a towel, a change of clothes, find a bathroom and do your thing. I am told by female friends there hair and makeup are issues-well you just have to figure out a way to make it work.

If a wet day, you may also bring an extra set of cycling clothes for the ride home so you do not have to wear the wet ones you might have been unable to dry on your cubicle wall.

Excuse not riding in the rain.
Generally there are ways and routes to safely ride in the rain. Be creative, you can at the very least bike to a bus stop and take mass transit, or even walk, before resorting to using a car.

Some safety guidelines for rainy weather:

a. Use front and rear flashing lights day and night for more visibility.

b. During a thunderstorm find shelter and wait for storm to pass.

c. Down pours can be dangerous and hard to see the road ahead, best to find shelter and wait it out.

d. Rain can cause streets, lane lines, metal, or newly paves roads to be very slick so use caution especially on turns.

e. Be predictable to other cyclists and drivers by keeping a straight line.

f. Look ahead for debris caused by the rain and use caution.

After ten years of riding in all types of rain, I have found riding in the rain can be very rewarding and extremely fun! Anyone can ride on a nice day. The different feel, smells, sounds, sights, and feeling of riding in the rain makes any rainy bike ride more epic and allows for a great story after the ride.

2010 Ride for Silence was cancelled because of rain
but these folks rode anyway to pay there respects to
fallen cyclists.
“You rode your bike to work?” Your coworker will ask. “ Yup”, you say, dripping wet and smiling.
“In the rain?” The person blurts out loudly.
“Yup!” you say smiling even more.
“That is awesome.”…and so it goes.

Live and ride.
Peace, Bill

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