I’ve been told that novice bikers who don’t like to invest in all the gear for biking follow the 30% rule. That is, if the weather dude says there’s a 30% chance of rain, they don’t go. I personally follow the 50% rule, where if the weather says it’s higher than 50% chance of rain, OR if it’s raining when I get up, I don’t bike. To save myself, I pack a tiny rain-jacket in my bag at all times from April through about October. This was a requirement anyway, since I walk a lot and I hate umbrellas. My bag is waterproof so as long as it’s secured, my stuff stays dry and I only end up with damp pants.
Of course the weather today wasn’t rain, but a constant drizzly mist, like standing under the misters at the San Diego Wild Animal park (or that awesome place I ran into in Japan). So I was damp, but not unbearably so.
The real problem I have is I like to walk (and bike) to the point that I work up a bit of a sweat. Doesn’t take much in summer, but even in winter, I’m a bit hot. When I biked in April, I put on my peacoat and had at. Now that it’s spring, I have a sweatshirt (hiding under my desk at the moment), and come summer I have t-shirts. My itchy fabric issues being what they are, everything is cotton. This makes a problem with rain, since most of my rain gear is waterproof which means it’s like biking in an oven.
There are two kinds of ‘rain’ jackets out there: waterproof and water resistant. The basic issue is that unless you go for the grand daddy of waterproofing, you get PVC and that’s a sauna. Think of PVC as the kind of rain jacket you had as a kid. Then think of a dutch oven. That’s what your armpits will smell like. Personally, even though I know the good rainproof stuff is great, I like the middle of the road, water-resistant, stylish stuff. Like the Barbour Two-Pocket Utility Jacket. That’s a waxed jacket which is waterproof enough for me up to and probably through winter. There’s also the Plaid Raincoat which is great for spring.
If you ask me, the fashionable biker should look to none other than the equestrian for fashion advice. One of the most fun things (to me) about riding horses was the clothes! Even Western riders get in on the game, with gaudy attire. But the English riders, they have fashion and function hands down. As I slowly pad out my biking kit, I ask myself ‘What would my mom do?’ and I remember that she believes in looking good. Sure, she’ll slap on jeans and an older shirt for a trip to the barn, but she’ll look good. And if she can, so can I.
I’m going to close out by mentioning the grand daddy. If you’re the kind of person who likes biking and wants to do 100 miles or nothing, then you get Gore-Tex or something like it. Gore-Tex is magic. It’s layers on layers of 2 or 3-ply laminated nylon (or polyester), bonded together so that sweat goes out, but water can’t get in. These are waterproof, a little less so than the PVC, but more than anything else. They’re heavier and thicker too, but this is what you want for a monsoon.
Which is why I’ll never get one. If I wake up and there’s a monsoon, I’m calling in ‘rain’ and working from home!
Next week is Bike to Work week in Chicago! Wish me luck!