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Biking in the rain

If you’re going to be biking in the rain, expect to get wet. But there are ways to make it more pleasant.

I no longer have to commute into work, so I haven’t written a lot about transportation. Today I got on my bike for my first ride of the cold & rainy season and it was absolutely delightful!

A friend texted me about a new welder he’d purchased and wanted me to help him set it up and teach him how to use it. Since I didn’t have anything urgent to attend to, I decided to bike over to his house which was less than 4 miles away. 

I could have walked – 1 hr 15 minutes.

I could have taken the bus – 35 minutes.

Or I could have taken an Uber – 13 minutes.

Biking over there took me 22 minutes and was so much more pleasant. 

 

Biking for transportation

I don’t bike for fun – sharing the lane with cars isn’t my flavor of fun. It’s hard for a driver to account for a bicycle since 99% of what they encounter are other cars. 

Flat tires. For those who commute regularly, there is the issue of getting flats. I have solid tires on my Brompton bike so I don’t have to carry any tools and won’t ever get a flat. 

Road safety. As for safety, as mentioned above, sharing the road is often unsafe. It’s a little better in cities where drivers are accustomed to cyclists which includes maybe 5 cities in the US. 

Bike storage. There is also the issue of storing your bike once you get to a specific destination. Not only must you find a safe place to keep your bike but you have to worry about locking it. No lock is theft-proof so you are always risking theft. And no, cops won’t give a fuck if your tricycle got jacked.

Bike attire.  Standard pants will get decrotched rather quickly if you ride regularly. Shoes will get soaked with water or be uncomfortable on pedals. Pant legs will get snagged unless you are the skinny-jeans type of person. You’ll soak sweat through clothes if you don’t dress right. 

Maintenance. If you don’t bike regularly, maintaining your bike becomes another layer of frustration which you’ll have to add to changing your A/C’s air filter, resealing your windows, resodding your lawn, and dental cleanings. 

Shitty weather. Once you have all the above figured out, you’ll have to tackle inclement weather. From too much sun, to too much wind. From ice-cold winds, to the skies giving you a golden shower. 

 

Biking in the rain 

For those of you who have successfully given up your car and rely on only your feet and your bike, you may find yourself needing or wanting to pedal to a destination even when it’s pouring outside. 

The first mistake you’ll make is trying to stay dry; it’s futile and you’ll spend tons of money on highly engineered clothing only to end up with squishy socks. 

It’s okay to get wet. You have that waterproof keratin layer, you’ll eventually dry off. And if you have the right clothes, they’ll dry off rather quickly, too. 

In order of decreasing discomfort, you’ll deal with:

  1. being cold
  2. wet socks
  3. wet shoes
  4. sweating
  5. wet panties
  6. wet pants
  7. wet shirt
  8. wet hair
  9. wet glasses

Being cold

The snarky reply to being cold when biking is to just pedal harder. 

Frankly, it’s as simple as that and I don’t have anything else more clever to add. Fortunately, I never have the cold problem, rather, I have the sweating problem. 

I get plenty hot when biking and won’t sport any more than 2 layers even in 30 degree weather because of all of my bodily juices. 

Being wet

When you are draining a pilonidal cyst, you can either accept that you’re going to be smelling anal discharge for the next hour, or you can fight it with a mask and Vicks rubbed on your upper lip. 

Synthetic clothes or high performance cotton, hemp, or wool are great options and will let you get wet without feeling terribly wet. 

As for wool, this is a vegan blog so no animals will be harmed in the making of this post. All my attire is synthetic, though I’ve since learned that they ain’t all that good for momma nature, so I’ll be slowly replacing them with high performance organic cotton or hemp – whatever is least processed. 

Accept that you’ll get wet and instead allow yourself some time to dry up before you have to make yourself presentable at your new destination. 

I promise you that you won’t die during an evening walking around with wet shoes and wet boxers. 

Sweating

The biggest issue for me is sweating. Now that I’m in much better shape, I don’t sweat as much as I used to but I can still drench a shirt. And slowing down a few minutes before your destination is a good way to dry off before arrival. 

Wearing fewer layers helps. I have one long-sleeved thin shirt and a thin, water repellant biking jacket. 

I start out with my shit all neatly tucked in. Once my body turns up the oven, I untuck my shirt, I undo the top of jacket, I unzip some vents under the armpits, and I’m golden. 

Wet glasses

I used to wear contacts but I’m much happier with glasses. 

And for those of us who commute on the bike, even if you have contacts, it’s safer to have glasses on, in case you get some road shrapnel trying to hump your corneal epithelium.

Since you’re moving, the water hitting your glasses is constantly getting pushed away. So, let it rain. Wet glasses won’t interfere with your riding. 

Cycling cap

For $35 you can buy high performance cycling caps which are made of thin material and have a brim, much like a baseball cap. 

Or you can just use your regular baseball cap which does the exact same thing. Since I shave my head, I have no hair to worry about. 

 

Travel light

Over the years I have mastered my bike commute and I travel much lighter than I used to. 

I have a Brompton folding bike which I can fold up upon arrival at my destination instead of having to lock it up. It also has a bike attachment which is much better than carrying a backpack on your back.

Backpacks add to your back sweat and trap rainwater between you and the bag. 

I have my phone in my pocket, bluetooth headphones on my ears, a cap, synthetic socks, underwear, pants, shirt, and a breathable cycling jacket. 

 

Upon arrival

Arriving a little earlier allows you to dry off and make yourself more presentable. Park your bike, walk around in your environment, and let your body’s heat evaporate some of the water. 

If you’re self conscious about the apparent urine stains accumulating in your crotchal region, choose black biking pants which hide the incontinent look. 

I take my cap off, I hang up my jacket, I dry off my face and my glasses, and I take off my socks and ring them out.

Sexy, I know. 

 

Once you get home

I know some of you have mud rooms and spare rooms and guest rooms and garages, and shit. I, fortunately, only have a bathroom and a wooden studio floor. 

In a tiny place, that much water evaporating off of your clothes will muggy up the entire place, unless it’s summer. Ring out as much water from your clothes as possible and turn on a small space heater. 

Alternatively, throw everything in the dryer. With synthetic clothes all you need is to get them from soaked to damp – the air will do the rest. 

As for the bike, it’s a Brompton, not much needs to be done. Shake it out to get the water out. Leave it in the bathroom to dry off overnight, ideally unfolded. 

Once every 3 months, apply a little bit of oil to the drivetrain and you’re golden. 

 

Commuting to work

Back in the day, when I was working full-time and commuting to Vancouver from Portland several times a week, I would occasionally have to endure a rainy commute. Figure, it took me around 1 hr and 30-45 minutes to get to my destination clinic, by which time I was soaked.

These situations are actually easier to plan for. It really doesn’t matter what you wear, you’re going to get wet – you’re going to be soaked. Again, allow extra time when you arrive to change into dry clothes, which, by the way, is one of the best feelings in the world!

Waterproof backpacks are ideal for this. They have an inner plastic lining which keeps everything dry, no matter how wet it gets outside. 

The bags which have that rolled up top create that perfect seal which prevents any water from getting in. You can bike in the elements for hours in the rain without a drop of water getting into your bag. 

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