My landlady rents out her garage to a gentleman who fills it with an array of sparkling, chrome grown-up toys, including two motorcycles and a red Corvette. While we can always tell when he’s stopped by to maintenance them from the prolonged engine growls emitted, sending our cats into agitation amd the volume on our speakers up a few notches, he’s a nice guy and we don’t see a reason to complain.
However, Mother Nature may have other ideas.
Whenever this gentleman has washed his Corvette, it has never once failed to rain for a solid week. Remember last June? He gave the car its first shimmer-inducing soak of the warm weather, and it promptly proceeded to pour for the duration of the month. Same this past October, and when we saw him outside two weeks ago with his kids, peeking under its protective wintertime sheath, we cautioned him accordingly. He waited until the day before the predicted storm to douse and wax it for springtime splendour, and while some may see that as a pointless move it was no less a considerate one.
That being said, it’s going to rain this spring regardless of whose classic model gets the hose. And every daily cyclist ought to be prepared for said downpour. As cycle commuting is generally more enjoyable than being stuck in traffic or subject to a bus’s fickle arrival time, it is only to one’s advantage that they prepare for precipitation.
As I generally do not believe that anyone needs to buy or wear any “special” clothing for cycling, there is a difference between dressing for a ride and dressing for the weather. Just as it is not advisable to wear fur-lined coats in July nor bermuda shorts amidst late-February blizzards, there are a few items to add to one’s ensemble in order to ensure the maximum happiness whilst being pelted with raindrops en route.
For mist/sprinkles/light rain:
Fenders: The water is coming from the sky, true, but is also getting kicked up from the pavement by a bicycle’s wheels–and if the rain were like NYC tap water, the moisture that will be accumulating on your pants is akin to Coney Island sea sludge. It also fouls up your bike parts. A metal set is best, for both front and back wheels, but they also make individual fenders that can strap or screw on to the seatpost.
Rain jacket: Warm rain may feel good at the time, but give it an hour and you’ll be soaked and shivering, and doubly so in cold and rainy conditions. The best way to remain warm is to stay dry, and the best way to stay dry is to wear a waterproof or water-resistant jacket. In a pinch, any poncho or slicker will do. For maximum rain coverage, go to a sporting goods store and pick up a North Face or Marmot; for all that and added warmth, go Gore-Tex.
For heavier rain:
Boots: To keep your feet dry, aim for rubber boots with thick soles. Try to get some that have a tightening strap at the top, otherwise rain will fall directly into the boots…and stay there. If they do not have such a strap, try fitting your pants over them, or taping/tying them shut.
If you’re madly serious about keeping your feet dry, I have also heard that securing plastic bags over your socks helps moisture stay out.
Gloves: Again, anything waterproof or water-resistant is sufficient. For extra protection, remember to pull your jacket sleeves over the glove cuff. Otherwise, the water will run right off your sleeve and into your glove.
Rain pants: Northface, Patagonia, Marmot, Columbia, and others.
Miscellaneous: Lights are recommended when conditions are adverse.
Cutting a hole in the bottom of a garbage bag makes for a cheap and quick poncho. With a little duct tape, several garbage bags, and a little ingenuity, it’s easy to keep dry on the commute.