I’m going to admit something here: despite a lifetime of walking, running and riding through Seattle’s seasons, I’m always ill-prepared for a late-summer downpour.
When I arrived at work yesterday, my fluorescent windbreaker and cotton t-shirt were soaked through. My wet SmartWool arm warmers (lovely though they are!) provided little comfort. Droplets of water clung to the lenses of my glasses, obscuring my vision – terribly annoying, and, yes, a safety hazard.
Far from relishing the ebb and flow of the seasons in the city I call home from the seat of the only vehicle I own, I had spent my entire 7.1-mile commute contemplating where I might locate and purchase a gas-guzzling vehicle to redress my transportation woes. And I despise driving.
When I pushed open the door to the office, Lamar, front desk volunteer extraordinaire, looked me up and down. “True commitment,” he said. “Or stupidity,” I replied.
He continued: “You know, I used to hate riding in the rain. Until I figured out how to do it.”
And so, courtesy of Lamar Bass, longtime Cascade volunteer, former long-distance rider, and owner of the voice you’ll hear at the other end of the line if you call the Cascade office, I give you:
Tips for riding in the rain (or, How to avoid the rainy day blues)
- Invest in a wool jersey. And really, wool everything. Wool is expensive but worth the price, as it will keep you warm even if it gets wet. (Show support for your favorite bicycle club by sporting one of ours.)
- Wear glasses? A cloth cycling cap, worn under your helmet, will help keep the rain off your lenses.
- Pack a change of clothes. Waterproof panniers come in handy, but if you’re looking for a cheaper option, plastic bags will also keep things dry in transit. And don’t forget extra shoes. I made that mistake yesterday, and my socks were soggy all afternoon.
- Remember your lights. The days are getting shorter; don’t let a nighttime ride take you by surprise! Flashing LED lights (white for the front and red for the back) will increase your visibility in inclement weather even if it’s not yet dark. And check the batteries and positioning of your lights – they won’t do you any good if they’re dim or hidden.
- Check your brakes. You’ll need them to be in top working condition. Remember to take it slow and brake early and often, especially on newly-wet roads, which are particularly slick.
- Avoid painted and steel surfaces. When the roads are wet, vinyl striping, painted crosswalks, sewer covers, railroad tracks and the like will be very slippery. Use extra care.
- Ride around the puddles. Standing water may be hiding a pothole that could cause a crash or damage your tires.
- Fenders are a good idea, as they’ll help keep the mud off your back and out of your chain and cassette.
- A brightly-colored, waterproof (!) rain jacket will keep you dry and warm and increase your visibility. This is, of course, intuitive. But given that my days of summer bike-commuting seem to have led to amnesia regarding what constitutes appropriate rainy-day attire, I think it bears mentioning.
Of course, it goes without saying that you’ll be wearing a helmet and carrying a set of basic tools, a spare tube, and a patch kit, so I’ll leave those off the list. If you have wet weather tips to add, please share them!
Good luck, and don’t lose your resolve. If you need encouragement, feel free to call the office – Lamar will be happy to assist you.