Ride Like You Want To: Riding in the Rain

Riding a bike makes you feel like you’re 12 again, but riding in the rain makes you want to jump in puddles.

I didn’t ride in the rain for years, but as my aversion to taking bus has grown over time, I’ve embraced riding in the rain. Today I discovered that my rain kit is complete. The secret is gear, rain-ready gear. See my tips for staying dry on wet days below.

Before and After
Before and after. Lurking below the rain gear is a happy, dry bike commuter.

Essential Rain Gear – I’ve listed these in order of importance, but they’re all essential for a totally dry ride.

  • Fenders: Who knew fenders keep you so miraculously dry?! Regret is a wasted emotion, but I regret not riding with fenders for the last four years. Now that I have them, I’ll never go back. Street cleaners, drizzles, and downpours are no match for my Honjo fenders (Note: there’s no need to go as high-end as hand-hammered Honjo, but they do look good!) I recommend front and rear fenders. The front keeps your feet dry (!), the rear protects your back and your buns.
    Honjo fenders on a Surly Pacer

    • Rain Jacket: Any GoreTex or waterproof shell will do. I prefer Patagonia Women’s Rain Shadow Jacket. It doesn’t have pit zips or any such frills, but it’s lightweight, totally waterproof, and sleek.
      Patagonia Rain Shadow Jacket

    • Rain Pants: Today was the maiden voyage of my new Club Convertible rain pants by Portland-based, Showers Pass. I used to ride through the rain in leggings and change into dry pants at the office, but rain pants are a much better, although far less flattering, solution. The Showers Pass rain pants are black with a hit of reflective for a nice combination of subtly and safety. They’re higher waisted than any pants should be – they actually reach my belly button – but that turns out to be a good thing on a bike. They’re a wide straight leg – their Rider Pant is far slimmer – but their zippers and Velcro make them easy to get on/off and synch down for riding. They’re super lightweight, completely waterproof, and while I’m not into logos, seeing their “showers pass” language on rain-covered legs is reassuring.
    • Rain Shoes: Bean Boots or bust! Made in Maine, Bean Boots are an American classic with a snug fit and versatile look you can rock with dresses, denim, and foul weather gear.

    Showers Pass Rain Pants

    Tips for Riding in the Rain: As usual, these tips are geared toward women, but they can be useful for men too.

    • Protect Your Pony (if you have one): I usually wash and dry my hair and then let it flow under my helmet. A simple brush-out at work does the trick, but wet hair is harder to resuscitate. So put your hair in a ponytail and tuck it into your jacket for dry keeping while you ride. Then proceed with your normal grooming ritual at the office.

    • Make-up Later: Unless it’s absolutely pouring, any helmet will keep the rain off your face. Helmets with a visor probably do an even better job. But, a few rain drops will make contact with your faccio, so apply mascara when you get to work, lest you look like a basket case upon arrival.
    • Mind the Gap: Where your pants hit your shoes and your cuffs hit your gloves, water may flow. Take care to synch your pants over your boots and your cuffs over your gloves.
    • Lookout: Everything is murky in the rain, including you and your two-wheeled friend. Wear something reflective, turn on your blinkies, and use exagerated hand signals when riding in the rain.
    • Caution, the Road is Wet: Ride *slowly* in the rain. Wet roads are slick which means you (and everyone else!) need more time to top or slow down. Pay particular attention to the front right tire of nearby automobiles and if you do slide a bit, try to relax and ride it out.
    • Just in Case: Toss an extra pair of socks and underwear in your bag, just in case. I’ve never had to use them, but it’s nice to know they’re there.
    • Hydrate: Catch a drop or two of rain on your tongue and remember what it was like when we used to jump in puddles.

    Read more Ride Like You Want To posts here.

  • Comments

    1. Steve Dinn says:

      I’m a tall guy, and I have yet to find a rain pant that suits me for cycling. They are always too short! Cycling pants have to be a bit longer than normal because your knee is bent most of the time, and we don’t want our ankles exposed to the elements, do we? I take a 34″ inseam in jeans, and most rain pants just don’t cut it.

      I’d love to hear suggestions from other tall cyclists out there for what to wear on your lower half to stay dry on the commute.

      • Robert Smithlin says:

        First of all: love the post! I live in the greater Seattle area, and I can’t stand weather stopping me from my commute to/from work. Unfortunately for me, I work in a business casual environment and it’s no fun biking in slacks for 12 miles each way. For me, it sounds like Steve could benefit from using the ‘road bike booties’ that you see hardcore cyclists wearing on their joy-ride on the weekends. I use those in conjuction with tights, and although you have to spend some serios moola to get waterPROOF ones, water-resistant ones will keep you feet dry for about 20 ish minutes of high-speed riding in some pretty wet conditions. You could use those tucked under the water-proof/resistant pants to make up the length difference.

        I keep pretty comfortable (notice I didn’t say dry) by assuming I’m going to get a bit wet (not to mention dirty), and plan for changing clothes at work and using fast-drying biking gear (Sugoi reflective tights & a low-end wind breaker-ish thing). That way I’m dry at the start both directions, and with how often the conditions change it’s nice to have layers and options to fit each part of the ride. That’s why I use the Timbuk2 Tandem Panniers, which are great in rain/office environment. They do have the potential for leaking depending on how windy and intense the rain is, but that also depends on how much you’re trying to fit in.

    2. Khalid I says:

      I hate to be a jerk but the first line has a typo.

      your vs. you’re


    3. Lizzy says:

      Oops! Updated. Thanks for calling it out.

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