Yesterday was my first available window to get on the bike for the first time in over a week. Yesterday’s forecast was dry and low 40s in the morning, and showers and in the 50s in the afternoon. So it was a perfect day for a bike commute, as I could test my rain gear in both wet and dry conditions, as well as not having to deal with wet gear when I arrived at work. After all, if people in “bike friendly” Seattle and Portland can do it, why not me?
In the morning, the Burley rain jacket (no longer made) did double duty as a wind breaker. My custom rain pants from Foxwear have a furry lining on the inside and a water resistant shell on the outside, so I was able to use them to keep warm in the morning when it wasn’t raining. The Burley shoe covers (also no longer made) and my work clothes were in my Carradice Nelson Longflap saddlebag. The bike itself – a 1984 Trek 610 sport touring frame built up with modern day parts – is equipped with lights and fenders for commuting. So it was just the usual 11 mile morning ride into work – but with a different jacket and pants – along a popular cycling route on lightly traveled roads on the edge of suburbia.
After successfully dodging the rain small talk (for those of you not familiar with the local climate, rain is uncommon in Southern California, generally only happening between December and February) at the end of the day from all but one of my coworkers (“you know it’s raining out there”), I changed into my gear and headed home. The first mile was a good warmup with light showers. I was thankful for the custom made rain pants, as the legs were made long enough to go over the top of my rain booties, keeping my feet dry. But then the skies opened up as I got closer to the foothills! Just then someone in a SUV slowed down next to me and asked me if I wanted to ride home! Nice of him to ask, but I politely declined!
Staying comfortable in the rain is a balance between keeping the rain out, while avoiding the opposite extreme of sweating to death on the inside. The various jacket vents were open during the light showers, and when the rain came down harder, it was just a matter of zippering all of the vents shut.
The one downside during the ride home was when a raindrop missed my glasses and hit me straight in the eye, stinging it to the point where I had to stop and wipe it before continuing on. I’m wondering what was in that rain drop that bothered my eye?
Finally the downpour let up to showers on the last few uphill miles before my house. After unzipping all of the vents, I also had to unzip the front of the jacket as I was starting to overheat. As I pulled into my garage and hung the jacket and pants to dry, I realized that unlike previous attempts where I was either freezing cold and wet or swimming in my sweat, this time I finally had the gear dialed in! I could have easily kept on riding!
Of course, I still prefer riding in dry sunny weather over the rain – but the rain sure beats riding indoors on a trainer or riding outside in the strong Santa Ana winds any day!