Bicycle rain gear has come a long way, baby. It wasn’t too long ago that cycling rain gear consisted of unused plastic garbage can liners with holes cut out for head and arms.
I don’t think it was even five years ago that my wife put plastic liners on the poor suckers who’d made it to the top of the local Mount Shasta climb without any bicycle rain gear.
Sure, they were fine coming up the mountain generating massive body heat, but the 14 miles downhill in the slushy rain/snow without protection had their teeth chattering and their core temperature plummeting.
At least with the garbage bags they were almost ready for burial when they tipped over. The local mortician appreciated not having to do as much prep work. He’s a lazy guy.
This last winter I did an awful lot of cold weather riding. Many rides were suffered through in close-to-freezing rain. Why do I bother you with what you don’t care to know? Well, contrary to some who assert that riding in the rain in bicycle rain gear elicits fond childhood memories, I found it to be moderately to severely unpleasant.
However……it was doable with modern rain gear. Now that I’m racing my bike, it was essential that I get a lot of riding hours in over the winter.
Modern Fabrics and Construction for Bicycle Rain Gear
First, a word about old-school fabrics. In a nutshell, this isn’t an area where it works to go retro. Non-breathable coverings such as sandwich bags work well for bologna sandwiches because bologna sandwiches don’t sweat. But you do. So don’t wear vinyls.
I’m old enough to remember when Wilbert Gore’s revolutionary Goretex fabric made it into the outdoor sports world. The claim was that it was waterproof and could still ‘breath’.
Sure enough, the pores are small enough to keep water droplets out but large enough to let the outdoors person’s sweaty water vapor out. Goretex and materials like it are the backbone of modern bicycle rain gear.
Sealing and taping the seams of rain gear is also important because the sewing machine is a very efficient hole puncher in otherwise waterproof materials.
Like all bike gear, good bicycle rain gear tops are cut longer in the back because you’re supposed to be bent forward on your bike like the road monster that you are. Even then, the rooster tail up your crack is one extremely unpleasant aspect of rain riding.
On rainy days I tend to take my mountain bike out, even on the road, because I can put on my detachable fenders and rooster tails are tamed. The fenders make my mountain bike look like an ‘enduro’ motorcycle, not a Pee Wee Herman geekcycle. At least that’s what I tell myself.
As I ride more, I’m aware of more and more cyclists getting hit by cars. To be fair, I know of cars being hit by cyclists, too. But either way, the cyclist gets the short end of the stick. So….if it’s not too much to ask, gravitate toward bright-colored bicycle rain gear and reflective items on the gear.
Take a look at the openings- around the neck, waist, and wrists. Has the manufacturer given these orifices some thought? Is there elastic around the waist, even an adjustable shock cord? Are the wrists adjustable? How about the neck?
This wouldn’t be a place that you’d want to feel the strangulating caress of vinyl. And then there is the zipper. Does it have a covering flap? If it doesn’t, you’re looking at a real budget garment.
Sometimes there are rainy rides that begin in the rain and end out of the rain. Sometimes there are rides that begin out of the rain and end in the rain. Either way, it’s nice to have bicycle rain gear that packs up relatively small so that it can be carried compactly when not in use
The cheap rain jacket that I own doesn’t have rear pockets. I’m always trying to get under it to get at the cycling jersey pockets that hold hidden treasure.
Bicycle Rain Gear Eliminates Winter Blues
I’ve given you some rain gear characteristics. I’m not going to pretend that riding in the rain is inherently pleasant, although the sense of conquest from not letting weather push you around has merit. What else are you going to do?
Ride on the trainer until every last neuron is fried? Not ride at all until every last adipose cell is fully inflated?
After many a foul weather ride, the answer to my wife’s question of, ‘Well, how was it?’ is…‘Most triumphant!’
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