So it’s national bike-to-work week. Bike-to-work week is intended to encourage first-time bike commuters, and unfortunately, the weather in Maryland this week has not helped the cause. I rode in a steady drizzle Monday morning, Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon the rain had stopped, but it was still damp and chilly. This morning was a bit of an improvement. I actually saw someone else on a bike. The dreary weather is finally supposed to get out of here for Thursday, and for “Bike to Work Day” on Friday, so I hope to see a lot more riders towards the end of the week.
Riding in the rain can actually be fun, although it does require a bit of an investment in proper clothing and equipment. Here’s a list of stuff I consider essential for wet commutes.
- Fenders. An absolute must. They keep 90% of the mud and slop off the bike and the rider. Full-coverage fenders are best for really wet conditions. Clip-on fenders are OK in a pinch, but avoid deep puddles and expect the bike to get dirtier.
- Lights. I use my headlights and rear flashers for visibility whenever it’s rainy or overcast out.
- Rain pants. Keeps legs dry. Even with full-coverage fenders, I find that I still get mud on my legs without rain pants.
- Hi-visibility vest or jacket. It’s important to stay visible in these conditions.
- Rain jacket. You’ll certainly want one if it’s chilly, or during a heavy downpour. But if it’s over 70 degrees out, you might want to skip it, as you’ll get just as wet sweating underneath it as you would from the rain. Mine has a hood that I sometimes put up underneath my helmet. There are also covers you can get that fit over the top of a helmet to keep rain out. I’ve not tried one of these, but may at some point.
- Shoe covers. These keep your feet dry. Very important if it’s cold. I use the Performance brand neoprene covers with rubber soles. These work best in conjunction with rain pants. The pants cuff should go over top the shoe cover to keep water out. Without this, water will get inside and your feet will get wet.
- Waterproof gloves. I haven’t yet invested in these, but would like to find a good pair that is breathable and sheds water effectively.
Anyone can ride in the rain, but as you can see, it takes some planning to actually ride comfortably and safely in the rain. That’s why most of the people who do it are die-hards. It took me about 2 years to accumulate enough gear where I felt properly equipped to ride in the rain. It’s really something you have to ease into.