What this blog is about

Bicycle commuting, bicycle touring, bicycle racing; bicycle ADVENTURING.
To the grocery store, up a mountain, across the country or to the finish line--
it's all an adventure.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Preparing for Rain

The fenders have officially been living on my commuter for a few weeks now. I took my fenders off for the summer and after the first reminder of rain, they scampered back on.

The rain had only been teasing.

We've had a dry, dry fall so far and I haven't really had to deal with commuting in the rain and looking presentable afterwards. You see, dressing for rain as a recreational/competitive cyclist (at which I have more experience) is completely different than dressing for bicycle commuting. First of all, you're working much harder (we presume) on a recreational ride and secondly it doesn't matter if you show up to the coffee shop with a mud face and sopping shorts. The added tricks of bicycle commuting is that you don't want to be sweaty, soppy or muddy. We presume.

Keeping the mud away isn't terribly difficult. Some cool fenders and mud flaps should keep the dirt off your slacks. However, sweat and sop pose the problem. A lot of rain wear is not terrific at ventilating. If you're not wet from rain, you're wet from sweat! Also, vanity must be considered. A lot of rain wear is just plain geeky and how are we going to promote bicycle use if you look like an astronaut?

I've been thinking for a long time about getting a "rain cape" such as one made by Carradice in the UK or stocked by the Center for Appropriate Transportation in Eugene, OR. A rain cape is basically a poncho that is looped over your handlebars, to create a sort of portable tent over yourself. This keeps your torso and thighs dry, but your lower legs can still be vulnerable to road spray. Booties and spats, as stocked by CityBikes in Portland, OR solve that problem too. 

It seems to me that the cape/spat combo should keep you dry without cooping you up in a hot, sweaty rain jacket and pants. So why am I writing about these products theoretically instead of having already purchased and tested them? First, I'm wondering what details a 'cycling
 specific' rain cape will have to make it worth $70 instead of a cheap basic poncho. Second, while I see the value in high-visibility yellow, I'd like to look at least halfway chic on my bicycle.
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