Trail Ramblings: Is It Better Riding In The Rain Or Snow? Either, If You're Prepared.

Your resolve to bicycle commute may weaken when you look at the forecast and rain and snow is what you see, but your plans don’t have to change if you are prepared. Cold weather riding in the rain is certainly different than the summer variety, and harder to stay comfortable in than snow, but it doesn’t need to be unpleasant and even has it’s perks. First, fenders are a must if you don’t want that skunk stripe up your back and they help protect. your bike components and whoever may be behind you.

dirty wet componentsAlso, slow down and beware of puddles that you can’t see the bottom of. Next, I’ll address the things I didn’t like about riding in cold rain when I started, and what I did about them. Some of you have your own solutions, so feel free to comment. These are just what work for me. If you can change clothes when you get to work it’s easy to carry dry clothes, just make sure they don’t get wet in transit, and that you have somewhere to dry out your wet clothes and shoes before you put them back on for your ride home. I cannot do that, so I’ll address riding in what you’re wearing to work. If it’s just a little drizzle, I don’t worry much about special gear.

umbrella user

Maybe a windbreaker or an actual rain specific vented jacket is enough if it’s not too cold. If it is cold, I have thermal rain resistant yet breathable options I have slowly accumulated. They are of hi-tech fabrics and are what I have paid the most money for. Unless it’s breathable, you could arrive being as wet under the jacket as over, and wet from sweat is less desirable than wet from rain. I have actually unzipped my rain jacket to see steam billow out so I make sure what I wear is breathable now. It’s important because you can get chilled when you get wet in the cold. That’s the reason not to wear an absorbent material like cotton next to the body. A thermal layer like wool or fleece over the wicking base layer should keep you warm even if you get wet, within reason. What has been harder for me to figure out has been how to avoid cold, wet legs. You can use rain pants if it’s really raining, but I get too hot.

commuter in capeI have been using a rain cape, which certainly helps and allows air circulation but doesn’t keep my legs entirely dry. What I use if it’s not raining too hard or it’s just simply cold are wind pants over my clothes. Another option that works for me is passing off cycling tights as leggings. Likely easier for a woman than a man. Thermal tights can get wet and still keep you warm. Next, dry feet can be a challenge. I’ve been wearing oiled leather shoes and boots with wool socks in light rain, and my feet have been staying dry. (I don’t commute in cycling shoes) My shoe covers are for lower temperatures, so I may get some simple non-insulated covers for just wet conditions. Rain and snow boots, I have found, sometimes funnel water into my feet as much as keeping it out. As for hands, waterproof thermal gloves, sometimes with wool liners if it’s not cold enough for Bar Mitts, and a cap or hood to keep the rain off of my head under the helmet, work for me. For conditions that are colder, it all becomes snow gear, which is easier to stay dry in.

n st signage
8th and N St.

Now what about those trails? It seems the kinks are still not worked out of the cycle path traffic lights on N St. but progress is being made on signage.

RI under penny bridges
Rock Island trail under the Penny Bridges.

Also, it appears the only thing left to do on the Rock Island under the Penny Bridges is landscaping. Maybe opening it back up will be our communal Christmas present.