Bicycle Commute in the Rain

Along with summer in my part of the world comes afternoon rains.  I’ve learned a few things during my last few weeks of bicycle commuting.

My initial plan was to bring a rain coat and some rain pants.  I lugged the rain coat and rain pants back and forth in my back pack for a couple months before we finally got some rain.  During the first rain storm I stuffed my backpack in a garbage bag and put on my raincoat and rain pants.

The raincoat and rain pants kept the rain out, but I had another problem.  They didn’t breath, and I started sweating… profusely.  Pedaling a bike is a good way to build up some body heat, and with all that heat trapped in my rain gear I was getting really sweaty.

So basically, I could be wet from the rain, or I could be wet and sticky from my sweat.

After that first rain storm I ditched the rain gear and decided to just get wet if it rained.  I didn’t have long to wait for another rain storm later that week and I tried going without any rain gear.  This worked ok, but with even a mild storm I was soaked through and through.

This week I tried something else.  I had read about people using rain capes.  I had never heard of a rain cape, but apparently it’s like a rain poncho without arm holes.  Rain capes may be common in other countries, but they are hard to find here.  Since I couldn’t find a rain cape, I decided to try an old poncho I had stored away.  I packed that in my backpack to try during the next rain storm.

The poncho actually worked pretty good.  I stretched it out over the handlebars and it kept me mostly dry by making a little tent over me and my bike.  Of course the storm I tested in was really windy, so my feet and legs still got wet.  If I’m in a more gentle rain shower with my poncho, I think I’d actually stay mostly dry.  Even better, I didn’t get all sweaty because I could get a breeze up under the poncho. Even better than that, when the rain stopped, I let the rain poncho fly up around my neck and it was an instant superhero cape.  :)  That made it so I could stay cool and look cool at the same time.  (I looked cool in my mind anyway, I’m not sure what all the motorists thought.)

The rain poncho will be my rain setup for the foreseeable future.

On the topic of rain, I created a rule of sorts of when I’ll ride and when I’ll drive.  I’m not such a hard core bicycle commuter that I refuse to drive on occasion.  Here are my drive vs. ride rules.

  1. I’ll drive If it’s raining in the morning.  There is no sense getting soaked on the way to work, especially since we don’t have showers at work.
  2. If the rain forecast is 60% or less, then I’ll ride my bike.  You’d think 60% is a pretty good chance of rain, but from my experience it’s more likely that it will by dry when it’s time to go home.

More often than not, I’ll choose to ride my bike if there is even a remote chance that it might be sunny on the ride home.  There is nothing I hate more than to drive to work because it’s supposed to rain, and find it to be a beautiful sunny day as I exit the building.  I’d rather ride home in the rain than drive home in the sunshine.

One more thing I should mention is that I leave my work shoes at work.  That makes it so I can wear my running shoes on my bike and not have to worry about ruining my good work shoes by getting them all wet when it rains on the way home.  Plus my running shoes dry faster so they are usually dry for the ride to work in the morning.

I’m really hooked on bicycle commuting and even rain won’t stop me.  It’s been great fun and I’m still very much enjoying the daily rides.  In addition to the rain gear I updated some of my other gear as well, but I’ll save that for another post so check back soon.

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  1. Karen (Scotland) says

    Oh, this made me laugh out loud, really! I had visions of you proudly cycling away with your super hero cape, which was funny enough, but then the fashion designer from The Incredibles popped into my mind and I ended up laughing even more…

    Love your sensible attitude to commuting by bike and the idea of a poncho – nothing worse than wet knees. I am trying to use my old bike more and more (need a new one but struggling to find one I like – might have to get it in Holland – think I want an ‘oma” bike but need to find one that will cope with Scottish hilliness) but I can’t bring myself to deliberately go out in the rain on a bike.

    I struggle to justify the time a bike ride takes me. If I drive, I am in town in less than five minutes, complete errands, and can be back home in less than an hour. If I cycle, it takes me half an hour to get into town and half an hour to get back. (It’s down a glen then up a hill to town. Then, obviously, back down the glen and up this side again.)

    My husband says this will be less of a problem as my fitness increases which I guess is true but not much consolation as I push my bike up yet another hill. And maybe I just need to look at the cycle as “me” time or something, and not as wasted time.

    Careful with that super hero cape – you know what happened to Syndrome…


    • says

      Glad I could brighten your day. :) We’re lucky where we live, there aren’t any hills so it makes biking a bit easier. My new bike has a really low first gear that’s made for hills, so maybe you need something like that.

      The area we moved to after we sold our house is really close to shopping and dining, so we’ve started riding our bikes instead of driving a lot more. Most everything we need is just a few minutes away by driving or by bike, so it’s often easier to just hop on the bike. When we lived in our house, it was more like your situation. Town was about 10 minutes away by car and about 30 by bike. We biked into town on weekends sometimes, but that was more for pleasure than for a purpose. I can say living close to things makes it easier to use the bike over the car.

      Too funny about the Incredibles. I’ll try to be careful with the cape.

  2. Marijke says

    I used the poncho rain gear when I lived in Holland. Your legs and feet will always get wet, but at least you won’t overheat. Glad you found a solution to your problem.

    • says

      I was just thinking about this yesterday after I rode home in my heaviest rain storm so far. My poncho kept me mostly dry but my shoes were soaked. I have a pair of water shoes, so I’m thinking about packing those in my panniers for the rainy days. They’d get wet, but at least they would dry fast and I wouldn’t get my running shoes wet. I only own two pairs of real shoes, my work shoes and my running shoes. With my running shoes wet I’m down to flip flops or water shoes.

  3. says

    I found this after getting stuck in a downpour this morning and now I have soggy toes :) I’ll be looking for shoe covers and I’ll report back if I find anything…

  4. Bill Hoover says

    I really appreciate the input. To the Scottish gal I recommend an electric assist rear wheel, if it can be afforded. Your commute cries out for the ebike kit.

    As for soggy shoes, I’ve read full fenders WITH GOOD
    MUDFLAPS does wonders for limiting soggy shoes on commutes!

    Lastly, there’s a famous “rain cape” made in the UK (EUROPE?) that commuters love, waxed cotton!?!, which are hard to find here in the states, but are much loved by users
    over in ‘the old world’. 😉

  5. Bill Hoover says

    Oh, forgot to say I can’t recall rain cape maker, but Google bicycle rain cape and it’ll prob’ly pop up.

    B’bye’ and happy commuting sqq however it works for you!


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