Red's picture

The best cycling rain gear is a shower at work, thick skin and lights.

No matter how good your rain gear, you will get wet. When it starts properly bollocking down, being seen is crucial.

Having said that, I love my bike commute to work.

Θωμας's picture

I cycled to school every day from kindergarten to the end of high school; high school was 30 minutes each way. And I do mean every day, rain, sleet, or snow. This was in the Netherlands, where this kind of thing is completely normal. Anyway, I'm responding to "No matter how good your rain gear, you will get wet" -- not correct. True, the usual cyclists' rain gear is made out of some breathing material that will leak eventually (happened to me on several occasions during my 30 minute ride to high school), but you can avoid that by using the heavier stuff sailors use. You do have to pace yourself when cycling in that kind of gear, though, or you'll start to sweat and then that sweat has nowhere to go... Not pleasant. But I used this for years; the coat was yellow and so visibility wasn't a problem either, and even in the most awful downpour, when I arrived at school the only parts of me that were wet were my face and hands.

Mark Penrice

Now there's a potentially (materials-) engineering related question: Are there any breathable materials that are still waterproof or at least so water-resistant that anything that gets in almost immediately evaporates back out again?

freiheit's picture

Technically, yes. There are materials or coatings that make water bead up and roll off and still allow the material to breath. However, the breathing doesn't work when they're coated in water. Only being breathable when it rains means that as a practical matter, waterproof stuff that has lots of zippers or packs up into a pocket is just as good, since you'll get just as much breathability and waterproofness by not wearing it when it's not raining and putting it on when it is raining.

Mark Penrice

Depending how quick you cycle and how bad the rain gets, some kind of goggles may also be in order.

I'm not even being funny, just basing it on my powered-bike experience. I fancy getting some to try for when the wet bit of winter settles in here - when it gets to a certain heaviness, the helmet visor becomes equivalent to a blindfold between fogging and it simply being rain-lashed (even if you have a wiper-blade thing on your glove or hydrophobic+non-fog coatings) and you can't continue at much more than a crawl (as in, seriously below even pedal cycling speed) with it open because it's like someone spraying a hose and pointing a desk fan in your face at the same time.

Some kind of eyewear that's a little more close coupled to your face but doesn't encapsulate your nose/mouth would be very useful. That or a motorcross/BMX helmet? Also it'll stop hair dripping in your eyes :)

Oddly I've found with bike clothing, so long as you don't mind the actual phenomenon of getting wet (e.g. it won't matter when you arrive, or you have a guaranteed-dry change of clothes at your destination), all you really need is decent wind protection (as afforded by leather trousers etc). Without the rapid cooling of forced evaporation, you get a sort of wetsuit effect where the water itself assumes something close to body temperature and offers extra insulation. You do have to be careful though, because on really cold days and without sufficient warm layers that moisture can be deceptive and somehow cools you down to hypothermic levels without you going through the shivering stage first, and you only notice when going back into a warm environment. Ouch. The coldest I've ever experienced (forcing me to seek shelter... and a hamburger) has still been at higher speeds in the dry than lower speeds in the wet, however.

And yes, lots of -proper- lights (not just those flashing LED things), reflective/fluorescent material, and maybe a mirror so you're forewarned of less attentive drivers or those who have ineffective wipers/misted up glass...

Fuseblower's picture

The only comment I'd make from a driver's POV is that the flashing lights are actually a lot safer on cyclists than anything that doesn't flash. You *notice* flashing lights - there are non-flashing ones all over the place. I wish that all cyclists would use them.

freiheit's picture

I find that normal cycling glasses and a visor/peak work wonders. Visor/peak on the helmet like many commuter and mountain-biking helmets have works ok, but a cycling-style cap with its visor works better. I get cycling glasses with interchangeable lenses and use clear or the light orange/yellow/whatever when it's raining.

Amake's picture

Better yet, a shower on the way to work! :D

TheCuriousOneTwo's picture

I commuted the last 6 months to school and loved it as well.

Commuting in the winter is awesome because it is easier to avoid getting sweaty.
If you are waring a scarf with glasses and they are fogging up try tucking the scarf under the nose pads and letting it hang like a bandana would (think old westerns).

Just be sure to avoid riding in icy conditions. Didn't know I was falling till I was on the ground.

Sidhekin's picture

Just make sure to use studded tires when conditions may be icy.

I have far better grip on ice than I have on, say, wet leaves ... ouch ...

Mark Penrice

Oh god, this.

I've managed to motorbike and even pedal bike quite happily on snow (just have to keep a very conservative pace and be prepared to balance by skidding your feet sometimes) - and quickly enough to beat the snarled up car traffic - as the high contact pressure of your narrow tyres gets a surprising amount of grip on the white stuff. But when it gets icy, all bets are off unless you have those trick arctic tyres.

Can't skid your feet to balance when even your shoes lack grip. Nor can you attempt to countersteer, etc. You're going over, and there isn't even that nice soft snowy surface to land on any more. Black ice season is the only time I keep the 2-wheelers firmly in the garage and put up with whatever the traffic throws at me.

And be doubly sure to wrap up extra warm with wind-cheating clothing. Riding at even 10-15mph is like adding a moderate breeze on top of the low ambient temperature. If you go faster you're stepping up towards gale forces. ("Wind is ALWAYS cold" :-))

I'm just concerned about the effect it has on your lungs. Pedal cycling season tends to end for me when I get off at the end of a ride and can't stop coughing for ages because my lungs and airways are chilled to the point of severe irritation from the combination of cold air and rapid, deep breathing, neither of which are a problem on their own. Maybe if you wrap your face in a scarf etc it's better? I shall have to experiment :p

sinn7's picture

Having actually cycled in the lashing rain for the first time in years today, this made me laugh much more than it probably should have!

Pierre Lebeaupin's picture
Pierre Lebeaupin

The weather around Paris is certainly better than in the Pacific northwest, so in my case it's not as impressive, but I did commute to work by bike every day for 3 years and a half, whatever the weather: heat wave, hard rain, harsh wind, snow and freezing temperatures… Well, I did have an exception for ice (I'm not suicidal). I did not have it too hard since it was only a 15 minute commute.

Note that I was cycling in sportswear, then I would go straight to the WC to change into proper work clothes and shoes brought in a backpack, the backpack would also have extra underwear in case the rain was really hard. The backpack should also contain proper reflective gear, a pump, and a tire repair kit (just in case).

Andrew's picture

I'm not looking forward to snow-tires madness. Or is that snow-tyres madness?

Mark Penrice

I'm waiting with anticipation to see if the all-season tyres I special-ordered for the car are actually any good on snow and ice. They've certainly been perfectly good in rain and summer heat so far... Much better than the budget horrors that were on when I bought it. Now they just have to give better winter performance than the otherwise decent but decidedly summer-spec Firestones et al that were on my last one...

John H's picture
John H

I have a friend who once rode his bike along Lake Michigan in the winter. Everything was going great until a huge breaker swept him off the bike and threatened to drag him into the water. He managed to keep himself and his bike out of the lake, but he never did that again...

air384's picture

I also live in Vancouver and I basically did the same thing a couple of years ago (including the trip to MEC!). It's definitely doable and definitely worth investing in some good gear. I find my fingers tend to start going numb at around 5C, so get some good, wind/waterproof gloves. My favourite gloves are actually cross-country ski gloves, rather than bike gloves. I also recommend a good fleece balaclava; it keeps the wind from creeping in and freezing my neck. I love MEC's Darwin 2 backpack for commuting since it comes with a built-in rain cover and a helmet holder. Other than that, I even bike in the snow - it beats waiting for a crowded bus. Have fun!

fire_guy's picture

Hank Scorpio escaped into Canada and now bike commutes apparently.


Speaking of biking, I'm thinking of taking it up for fitness as well as fun, what advice could you give to a person considering taking up biking, who also doesnt have fitness. Specifically, I apparently live in an area that's pretty good for mountain biking, so I'll probably take that up

freiheit's picture

Go to a real bike shop (not walmart or a department store), preferably locally owned. If you can, check out a few different local bike shops. Get a bike, get it adjusted to fit you so that your leg is extended almost all the way at the bottom of the pedal stroke, but where you don't have to rock your hips or stretch out your leg to reach (most bike shops will take a few minutes to help you get that much down). Throw your leg over it and ride. Maybe also get a pump, tire levers, spare tube, patch kit and learn how to change a flat... If you have questions, is a good place to search or ask.

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