Tag Archives: rain

Winter Tips from a Rain Expert

ACAGuestPost1My first guest blog post for Adventure Cycling Association went live on Friday. Winter Tips from a Rain Expert reveals most of what I’ve learned dealing with Portland rain over the years.

Riding in the rain was one of the more challenging obstacles I faced as a bike commuter, and I hope this article might help other people power through their resistance to the wet. If you like what you see, I hope you’ll share the article with others—I’d love to get lots of readers and feedback.

I’ll be doing a couple more guest posts for Adventure Cycling over the next several months. At the moment I’m brainstorming ideas for my next post. What would you like to see?

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Filed under Bicycles, Montana, Oregon

A Struggling Relationship with Rain Capes

Rain capes and I have had a long and tenuous relationship. Curiosity interested me for years, but I didn’t have the opportunity to try one out. Now I have. And I want to like, them—really, I do—but the reality of using one has not matched up so far with how they’ve been explained to me.

If you’re not familiar, a rain cape is supposed to work like a big tent that shields water from your body underneath. Practical applications: if you hate wearing a rain jacket and rain pants, or perhaps if you are too short, too tall, too big, or too curvy for the few decent selections out there on the market. Available sizing got you down? No problem, a rain cape is for you!

But if you live in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest (like I do), beware.

In Montana last summer, I received a bright red rain cape from the Dutch company Fast Rider. It worked when I biked a few blocks in Missoula’s spring showers, but I knew the ultimate test of this rain cape’s abilities would be testing it during a Portland winter.

Since coming back home last fall I’ve worn this rain cape out on three occasions:
• Riding downtown to see a bike-related brown bag presentation and meet a professional contact in person for the first time. The rain was pouring. While my top half stayed sufficiently dry, my pants were sticking to my legs when I arrived at City Hall. They remained so for hours. Tres professionnel.

• Biking about an hour to my friend Chris’ house the evening before Thanksgiving. Despite almost never having any unwanted attention while riding my bike, on this round trip I had a person from a car holler at me as they drove along a major street while I was waiting for a light. I had a frozen custard (or something similar) thrown at me on Williams Avenue (it hit my shoulder). Then I had a group of high school kids next to me at a light roll their window down to ask if I was warm biking in the rain. It felt like my bright red rain cape was a matador flag, invoking ire as I crossed town.

• Yesterday I journeyed to inner southeast. As soon as I left my house the rain went from pouring to drizzly, and stayed there most of the time I was in it. Result: while the rain cape protected me well from the top, my socks still got wet from the spray being kicked up by my wheels from standing water on the pavement.

If getting unwanted attention and wet pants from pavement moisture wasn’t enough, there’s also a signaling problem. When your arms are covered by a big tent of fabric (and your wrists are pulled through the loops inside), it’s impossible to signal your turns.

In theory, there is a solution to this. I like to call it the Bricker signal, for the person who introduced it to me. It involves using your head to communicate your intent (you may have to click the image to see what I’m talking about):

Of course there are problems. The Bricker signal isn’t exactly street legal. It’s not as easy to see a bobbing head as it is to see as an arm, and the signal may be misinterpreted by those around you (“I’m going to turn left” could mean “go ahead, pass me on my left”). So far I haven’t had any problems with the Bricker signal, but then again I live in Portland where people are largely used to riding courteously around bikes, and I am a pretty defensive cyclist.

In short, the results of my rain cape experiments have been achingingly inconclusive. Two of the three times I’ve worn it out, it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth. I really like having gear options, because I don’t really relish needing to don my ugly rain gear to ride most of the year. But there are more mundane options that can get the job done, like a heavy wool peacoat. I am keeping the rain cape in my closet for now, but maybe not for long. We’ll see.

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Filed under Bicycles, Montana, Oregon

This Shower Cap Is My Destiny!

As Pacific Northwesters are well aware, parking one’s bike outside can often result in a wet saddle due to our ever-present rain. Even in summer. Many of us deal with the problem by carrying a plastic bag or shower cap to put over our saddle while we’re away from our precious bike. Sure, you can get a fancy saddle cover at CleverCycles…but why?

In December 2009, expecting my Sweetpea to be delivered forthwith, my mom gifted me a very stylish shower cap for Christmas. For the bike. While the shower cap wasn’t a perfect match with the whole package, it did work with the frame and had some serious character. Bonus—besides protecting my precious Brooks B17 Special from the rain, since this shower cap wasn’t clear it could also potentially thwart thieves, who also like to steal Brooks saddles. Can’t be tempted to steal what you don’t know is there, right?

Anyhow, I’ve been using this shower cap for about two years now—a year longer than I would have liked. Toward the end of my time in Vancouver BC, I noticed small holes that were starting to let rain permeate now and again. When I was home briefly in April I searched high and low for an exact replacement, to no avail. During the summer I searched on Ebay, trying to find something that would look just as splendid. Nothing.

(Although if I could have found where to get one in the US, this Hello Kitty/Union Jack shower cap would have been great.)

Whipped around in the wind for more than 20 hours to and from Montana on the back of my car this summer, the thing was really looking shabby. And sporting a large rip (left).

Knowing something needed to be done, Monday evening I went to check out the shower caps available at my local Fred Meyer.

Pink. Purple. Some barely discernable textured flowers on them. Yawn.

But wait…what was that?

My shower cap! Just one. In the very back of the bunch. This shower cap was my destiny! I quietly shrieked, snatched it, took a photo, and sent it by text to my mom: OMG OMG OMG OMG.

The new shower cap looks great, and now I know how to keep myself supplied. It may be just a $2 shower cap, but it’s the perfect solution to my practical needs and my wish to be inexpensively stylish.

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Filed under Bicycles