It was raining like crazy all day yesterday. I had agreed to go to a party in the evening, so I decided, in the spirit of adventure, to find out whether my bike raingear was up to the task of keeping me relatively dry and comfortable on a 9.6 mile ride in moderate to heavy rain.
Answer: relatively comfortable, yes, relatively dry, no. I was warm enough (mostly; I wish I had worn my long-fingered gloves), but my jacket soaked through eventually, and the rain came in between my tights and shoes my ankles to wet my feet, so that even wearing waterproof shoes was only somewhat helpful. The jacket was marginally breathable enough, and the weather barely cool enough, that I didn’t sweat too much, but I got wet from the rain instead. This is the eternal problem of cycling raingear. Some people swear by Gore-Tex, others say that it leaks or doesn’t breathe. I’m thinking of getting a cycling cape — apparently a place in Oregon makes them.
The waterproof shoes did show their value when I ran into a huge puddle in Mountain View. The entire right lane was covered in water to a depth of about six or eight inches, and I was nervous about riding through it, so I got off, walked up the cross street until I could get on the sidewalk, and walked through a shallower part of the puddle that was on the sidewalk (still 3-4 inches deep). And my feet stayed dry through that.
As I’ve found before, rain pants are not worth it; I just wear my bike tights, which dry quickly and are warm and comfortable even when wet (the microfleece layer stays soft against my skin and doesn’t feel wet). I also don’t bother with a hood or helmet cover; instead I comb out my wet hair when I get someplace. I wear my cycling glasses because I hate getting rain in my eyes, but I do take them off every so often to wipe them off, and occasionally when I get tired of trying to see through them.
My conclusion is that I need to find a better upper (or maybe alternate several, using the current one for light rain, a cape for warm and wet, and a truly waterproof jacket for cold and wet), and get some of those booties/gaiters for my ankles to limit the drippage. I hate wet feet more than I hate almost anything else.
Overall, I did enjoy most of the ride. There wasn’t much traffic on a rainy Saturday between 5 and 6 pm, so the ride wasn’t stressful. The trees are turning colors, making the scenery interesting, and the cool, dull color of the light was soothing. It was nice to try the central route in relative daylight, and see the interesting things I passed by — parks, schools, cool houses. Everyone still had Halloween decorations up, which was also fun. I wasn’t in a huge hurry (though it took longer than I expected — oops) and was riding my old commuter bike, the first long ride she’s been on in a while, so I just toodled along, feeling relaxed. However, I was very glad to get home and change into dry clothes and warm up in my cozy blankets.