Author Topic: What's your rain riding plan?  (Read 700 times)

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Offline neilbrew

What's your rain riding plan?
« on: April 02, 2024, 04:51:25 pm »
This topic has been discussed before and is understandably subjective due to varying tolerance levels of personal discomfort. Right now, the weather is the typical Midwestern springtime nastiness; meaning lots of cold rain and wind. So, in preparation for my first West to East TransAm ride starting in May, it's the perfect backyard testing ground for my tent and riding kit.

Decades ago, when riding in rain I'd whip out the race cape and call it good. I'd sweat inside the non-breathable plastic material and get soaked everywhere else. In my 20's, I was able to endure a higher level of discomfort. Fast-forward to modern times, I avoid riding in rain to the point I didn't have much much modern riding rain gear. On tour, especially in the late springs of the Pacific-Northwest, cold rain is inevitable and unavoidable. In my backyard testing thus far, I've discovered that some of my old rain gear is no longer waterproof and some of my newer items, despite "waterproof" claims proudly displayed on the label, are not waterproof. I'm of the opinion that waterproof claims are more of a sliding scale and not an either/or in reality. The better gear may well prolong the soaking, but true riding waterproof gear in a downpour is a big ask.

I'm a little unorthodox in my clothing gear choices because I'm generally repulsed by the high cost and mediocre performance of much specialty cycling clothing, especially in the rain and cold gear categories. I've found some very good alternatives in other outdoor industries such as Scorpion convertible motorcycle jackets, Columbia PFG fishing pants, Rooster sailing-specific headgear, along with waterproof gloves from the cycling-focused brand Endura.

One rain riding area I'm still struggling with is shoe coverage. My old "waterproof" Pearl Izumi booties are not, or no longer waterproof; a big disappointment fortunately discovered through my backyard testing. They limit the shoes I can use because of the snug-fit design intended for road shoes. I had bought some way-too-expensive Assos waterproof socks, and they lasted one rain ride before holes in both toes breached the hulls of the waterproof membrane and flooded my feet like the Titanic. Before that, I had some VeloToze rubberized waterproof shoe covers; they were impossibility tight to get on and off and soon split rendering them them useless. Also, they were only for road shoes and provided no cold insolation.

If you were on tour and the forecast called for days of 45-50 degrees (7-10 celsius), wind, and constant moderate-to-heavy rain, describe your riding rain plan.


Offline Jocycleph

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2024, 09:28:36 pm »
I avoid cycling altogether when it rains. I am like you who is now older and can easily get sick after rising in the rain. I still got 1 good pair of shoes and a jacket that are still waterproof enough, but that’s about it. I am fortunate enough to work from home so in some rare instance that I need to go out in the rain, I just use public transportation, and use my stationary bike for exercise.

Online davidbonn

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2024, 10:59:17 pm »
Some context:  in 2011 I was on a trip in Vermont when Hurricane Irene (or more precisely its leavings) blew through and it rained about a foot over forty hours.  Last year I was touring on the Oregon coast in early October when an atmospheric river hit.  Both of these events led to a major change of plans.

There are some things you just can't control with heavy weather.  One of them is that if it rains a lot, it inevitably begins to flood.  That may block your route and force a big rethink of your plans.  The other thing is that in such poor weather, motor vehicles have an even harder time seeing you and a cyclist is likely to be even more unsafe than they normally are.  So you need to be extra aware, especially in situations with poor shoulders and poor sight lines.

Having said all that, if you are going to play outdoors sometimes it is sometimes wet outdoors and sometimes you will get a bit soggy.  If you have a positive attitude, a sense of humor, some tolerance for discomfort, and patience with yourself that can get you a long way and you can still have a great time.

If I can mostly dry out at the end of the days ride I will usually be okay to go the next morning into the teeth of it again.  So for me that means I am a lot more likely to try to sleep indoors during extended periods of poor weather, rather than camp each night.

You will be rewarded massively in poor weather if you can keep your gear well-organized.  No matter how waterproof your panniers and other bike bags are, they are much less waterproof when you have to open them up and dig through them during a downpour.  And no matter how waterproof your panniers are the stuff in them will get just as wet if you put wet stuff in them.  So I try very hard to have some panniers and bags (especially on the drive side) that I only get into at camp at the end of the day.  Ideally it is only one of the non-drive-side bags that has layers and emergency items and the front bag that has lunch and my phone and wallet that I get into during the day's ride.  Also, I carry a small mesh stuff sack and fill it with wet stuff and strap it to the top of the rear rack rather than put that wet stuff back into a pannier.  At least in theory that wet stuff can sort of dry out, or at least drain, if the weather breaks temporarily.

Like others, I am not super impressed with outdoor clothing technology that is supposed to keep us dry.  To be fair, it is a tall order to keep someone who is exercising hard (like riding a loaded bike up a long hill) reasonably dry in very foul weather.

In temperatures described by the OP, I'd probably be wearing very thin synthetic base layers (they absorb very little water, much less than merino wool), some plausible rain parka (see below), thin base layers or tights on my legs, and perhaps waterproof socks and gloves.  And maybe a buff under the helmet.

On raingear, one thing to consider is Frogg Toggs.  They are ugly, shapeless, and not very durable.  But a full set (jacket and pants) are available at Wal-Mart for about $30.  And they perform about as well in terms of waterproofness and breathability as gear costing ten times as much.  If you are fussy and careful with them they will keep you pretty dry in appalling conditions.  I dislike rain pants and figure that my legs are pretty waterproof and will function okay even when wet.

While not strictly speaking "raingear", lightweight wind shells and pants provide very good insulation for their weight, absorb very little water, and dry out very quickly.  I always carry them on a trip.

I like the Showers Pass waterproof gloves and socks and they work for me.  Also there are many low-cost (around $15) neoprene booties on Amazon that will keep your feet warm, if not dry.  You need to be careful with them because if you wear them for multiple days without letting your feet air out you will risk trench foot.  Sometimes I remove the insoles in my shoes to make room for the booties.

In foul weather, I'd expect to maintain a slower pace and keep the stove and cookpot handy to brew up.  Also I'd expect to be eating more and would pay more attention to hydration, as it is easy to forget to drink when you are soaking wet.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2024, 11:20:48 pm by davidbonn »

Offline jwrushman

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2024, 08:02:13 am »
My contention is that if you ride in the rain you're going to get wet and that the goal is not so much to stay dry, but to stay warm. If a fabric is truly waterproof, the rain may not penetrate, but you're going to be equally wet from the perspiration you generate. And my experience is that fabrics that are touted as breathable, don't breathe as fast as I generate sweat.

I've been generally pleased with my Showers Pass rain gear. But I wish their "pit zips" were even more substantial.  I've tried neoprene socks for warmth when bicycling in the winter , but they were too bulky. I would have had to purchase a larger pair of shoes. Instead, I wear my usual Darn Tough socks with my cycling shoes and add shoe covers from a company called Deflect.  This works well for me in rain as well as cooler weather.

And like one of the previous posters, I plan my ride so that I'll be staying someplace warm at the end of the day.

Online davidbonn

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2024, 10:20:29 am »
No matter what waterproof/breathable technology you use in your clothing, once the outer fabric wets out it will no longer breathe.  And in any event if water is beading up on the fabric the clothing will not breathe through the water droplets.  None of these fabrics will perform very well when dirty, and if you are realistic on journey they will be dirty more often than not.

Baggy and loose fitting raingear will be somewhat more comfortable and less steamy than tight fitting shells.  And ventilation options are very important.

I really dislike rain pants.  One reason is that even when equipped with side zippers they vent poorly.  Side zippers are also a major and likely failure point.  The other is for such an expensive clothing item they are astonishingly easy to pulverize on an adventure.

Offline John Nelson

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2024, 11:26:30 am »
On tour, I ride regardless of weather. For me, riding in the rain is no worse than sitting around all day.

Offline neilbrew

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2024, 02:54:12 pm »
"...if you ride in the rain you're going to get wet and that the goal is not so much to stay dry, but to stay warm. If a fabric is truly waterproof, the rain may not penetrate, but you're going to be equally wet from the perspiration you generate."

That's the tricky balance, isn't it? The rain gear must have physical ventilation or you'll drown from your own sweat. No doubt the breathable fabrics help, but in my experience, it doesn't breathe enough for me. Irregardless of the air temperature, I have such an internal temperature difference when riding compared to standing around that actual underarm and back openings are a requirement for me.

davidbonn, I agree, I've got a similar plan to air out wet items outside of the panniers the next day after a soaking....I expect there to be something in the on-bike "drying rack" rotation every day. Also, a wet tent will be in a pannier with other wet things, and dry things with dry things in other panniers. I neglected to mention in my original post that I did try a Frogg Toggs rain suit, however, I found the material too fragile for riding and the cut was more appropriate for parachuting rather than riding, so I abandoned that idea.

Great input all, keep it coming!

Online davidbonn

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2024, 10:23:50 am »
...I expect there to be something in the on-bike "drying rack" rotation every day. Also, a wet tent will be in a pannier with other wet things, and dry things with dry things in other panniers. I neglected to mention in my original post that I did try a Frogg Toggs rain suit, however, I found the material too fragile for riding and the cut was more appropriate for parachuting rather than riding, so I abandoned that idea.

My hard and fast rule is that soaking wet stuff never goes back into a pannier.  In the worst case that would be my tarp and stake bag, wet socks, and wet raingear.  Everything else will dry well enough just by being worn if it isn't hosing rain.  And all of the wet stuff will easily fit in a small mesh bag on top of the rear rack.

I agree about the limitations of Frogg Toggs.  But even with all of their flaws they keep the rain out and breathe pretty well and are inexpensive and widely available.  Also the bulkiness and loose fit contributes a lot to their breathability.  So it is kind of a "pick your poison" situation.  Some of the more expensive variants do seem to have a less generous cut and might be more durable.

Offline canalligators

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2024, 10:21:43 am »
Agree on two points: stay warm and stay visible.  Motorists universally do not understand how poorly they can see on a dark, rainy night.  They always out-drive their visibility.  I try to stay on lit streets.

You might stay dry on a short ride in moderate rain, but otherwise you will get wet, to some extent.

A personal annoyance: I hate water running inside my helmet. It annoys the hell out of me, and it can be cold.  The solution is a cover, made for purpose, or a cheap shower cap. Or put up your hood under the helmet.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2024, 12:13:21 pm »
On tour, I ride regardless of weather. For me, riding in the rain is no worse than sitting around all day.
+1.  I only retired recently, so nearly all of my previous trips required me to keep on a schedule.  (I think once there was a day to play with.) I put on my rain pants and Showers Pass jacket and ride.  During my ACA organized, unsupported trip on the Northern Tier, we rode in a steady, cold rain from Bay View, WA to Rexford.  Two days later we crossed the North Cascades Highway in rain that turned to snow before the first summit.

Back in 2014, I had to descend Skalkaho Pass in MT (7,300') in heavy, very cold rain.  Before heading out for the trip I came down with a case of weight weenie-itis and decided to leave good rain jacket behind and took only a cheap, plastic jacket.  I also left behind my warm, waterproof gloves to save weight.  By the time I made it to Hamilton, I was hypothermic to the point where I was suffering from slight confusion.  My hands had felt like blocks of ice during the descent.  I could barely operate the brakes.  Fortunately, the descent was not technical.  Ended up getting a motel room and soaking in a the tub to get warm before I could go out for dinner.

I will never make that mistake again.  If I am going somewhere where the weather could deteriorate, I will pack rain gear that keep the as much of the wet ou and keeps me warm, even if it makes me sweat inside.  Sweat isn't going to kill me.

Offline neilbrew

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2024, 03:20:27 pm »
Quote
My hard and fast rule is that soaking wet stuff never goes back into a pannier.

Allow me to clarify, I meant a wet tent may have to be packed in the pannier temporarily in order to get on the road, however, once it warms up I'd pull the tent out at a stopping point and let it air dry.

Online davidbonn

Re: What's your rain riding plan?
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2024, 09:20:10 pm »
My rain riding plan today was to wait in the shelter at b.side Motel and RV (Bandon, OR) until the rain let up to set up camp.  You could see blue sky to the W through the sheets of rain so I could assume it was temporary.

Now sitting here assiduously digesting dinner under a blue sky.