Fair Weather Cyclist

I’ve been thinking for a while now that I ought to become less feeble about cycling in the rain. What sort of cyclist – especially one who wants their bike to be their main form of transport, and even more especially one who lives in South west Scotland – wimps out at the slightest sign of moisture coming from the sky? After all, it’s only water, my skin is waterproof, you dry out etc. etc. – how bad can it be? On the other hand, as other people have said more eloquently than me, what’s the point of doing things the hard way and making oneself miserable, just to win some unspoken macho masochism competition? For the first half of this year, the problem solved itself because there was much less rain than anyone can remember, and the number of times I had to postpone a ride – or take the car – was pretty low. But normal service has been resumed and last week I didn’t go down for the paper on the bike once. Braving showers is one thing, but I still balk at setting off cold-bloodedly in the rain, knowing that it would persist for the whole ride. Was I a proper cyclist or wasn’t I? How serious was I about actually cutting the amount we drive when cycling wasn’t also the pleasant, easy thing to do?

This week, I was determined to be a bit tougher. Yesterday, I set off on a greyish threatening day in a gap between the showers and I got away with it – it was possibly the only dry hour of the whole early part of the day. Today was going to be a more challenging test; I had to be in Bigtown for 11 am and it was not looking good. By 9 am it was bucketing down and there was a severe weather warning on the Met Office website. This was going to be a good test of my new  resolve. I watched out of the window, as the hour passed until I set off, with no sign of it stopping raining. I’d be fine. I’d do it. I’d survive. I just had to nerve myself up to it, that was all…

I checked my email, and the event was cancelled. I won’t say I’m not relieved.

And yet, the issue hasn’t really gone away, just been postponed. One problem – and this is embarrassing to admit, having lived in what must be the wettest part of the country for two years – is that I don’t really have any decent rain gear. I have my scary yellow jacket but it’s not entirely waterproof and besides, it is really only fit to wear on a bike and so it’s no good for cycling into town and running errands once I’m there. And I don’t particularly fancy the sort of anorak that’s designed to be seen from the top of a mountain, or a rescue helicopter, which seems to be the only sort that can be found for sale in Bigtown. Somewhere out there, surely, is the perfect rain jacket – lightweight, stylish, breathable, smart, non-fleece, bike-friendly but not screaming ‘bike’ and definitely, definitely, definitely not yellow. It’s just a matter of finding it.

What do you wear?

16 Responses to Fair Weather Cyclist

  1. I wear wool – especially a lightweight fuzzy textured hoodie pull-on. It keeps me warm no matter how much water pours down and keeps off most of the wet. When I really must stay dry underneath (meetings, work, etc.) I am guilty of Yellow.

  2. Lynda says:

    The thing is, when cycling, you really do need to be wearing either scary yellow, or a colour that can be seen from a helicopter, so that the other road users can’t pretend they didn’t see you.

  3. Dom says:

    I wear a t-shirt. But then I’m a fair weather, summer cyclist who lives in one of the dryer parts of the country.

  4. disgruntled says:

    Emma – interesting, I wouldn’t have thought of wool as that waterproof (although I do have a guernsey that water just rolls off, duck’s back style).
    Lynda – truth be told, it’s a long time since I wore the scary yellow round here. Although I take your point (and you would at least want them to be embarrassed to admit they didn’t see you)
    Dom – ah, but it wasn’t so long ago that you weren’t a cyclist at all, these things do creep up on you, you know.

  5. 2whls3spds says:

    Depends on the season and how hot or cold it is, here in steamy sub-tropical Charleston the best bet is to ride butt naked, skin is water proof. However with discretion being the better part of valor, I usually ride in my regular clothes and dry out eventually. In colder weather or climates I prefer a cycling specific cape. I have two, one is my beloved Carradice Duxback, they do have a scary yellow version but I have the other. I quite often will wear a wool sweater underneath in colder weather. I also have a lighter weight nylon cycling cape from a US supplier I have been mistaken for Big Bird while wearing it…

    I am also know to ride with an umbrella in hand on occasion.


  6. yarb says:

    I have a (yellow) rain jacket but, even though it’s supposed to be breathable, I find it uncomfortably warm as long as the temperature is higher than about 5c. So for most of our many rainy days I just wear my standard gear; yes I get wet but I’d rather be wet and cool with rain than wet and hot and stinky with an excess of sweat. I suppose I just enjoy riding in the rain.

  7. yarb says:

    Oops, there’s an “and” there that should be a “than”.

  8. yarb says:

    Hang on, no, there’s not. Just ignore me.

  9. disgruntled says:

    Aaron – the Scots police are rather keener on enforcing the decency laws than their English counterpart (and our climate’s not generally up to it) so I think I need some clothes. I’ve thought about a rain cape (I’m worried about cross winds though) but really I need something for off the bike as much as on it.

    Yarb – ok, will do

  10. Kirsten says:

    I wear a lightweight, hooded, water-proof nylon windbreaker in bright turquoise — there are few outdoor things that color (especially on grey, rainy days), so I am quite obvious.

    If it’s really pouring, I can wear the hood under my helmet. A deep front zipper allows good ventilation.

    In very wet weather, I also wear black waterproof nylon pants over whatever pants I’m wearing. Black oiled leather ankle boots keep my feet dry, while ear muffs and neoprene gloves hold in the warmth as necessary.

    For foggy, drizzly, or dusk/dawn riding, an orange mesh vest with reflective stripes helps visibility, especially over the turquoise top. When parking, I remove the vest and pack into a pannier.

    So when I run errands, I have the choice of looking slightly weird — turquoise windbreaker, noisy black nylon pants — or removing those items (which pack down to nothing in a pannier) and wearing my street clothes. Either way, it’s less “bikey” than lycra or yellow jackets.

  11. disgruntled says:

    Am trying to picture the turquoise-orange combo. I’d imagine you’d be quite visible in that, yes.

    pac-a-macs are good, but then you still need a jacket for walking around (at least hear you do). Still, the other half thinks I should just do my own bloody shopping (his words) instead of asking the internet…

    (UPDATE: Hmmmm)

    • Kirsten says:

      Stylish coat, but is it waterproof? I’m all for style, but like you, I haven’t found a jacket that meets all my functional needs.

      Mostly, I carry a fleece, which when worn under the mac, affords me the warmth of a jacket. However, it is a bit fiddly to remove when ready to cycle home.

      • disgruntled says:

        You’d hope they’d not call something a mac that wasn’t waterproof, but what do I know about fashion? The Hobbs site says it’s made out of ‘raincoating’ whatever that is.

  12. Sarah says:

    If you’re considering the Hobbs pink mac, try the Marks’ one at 1/3 of the price. I am…

    Have a good browse through Wiggle – I found a relatively normal looking water resistant jacket with long arms for leaning forwards on the bike. Of course, it now has a liberal smearing of chain oil, which slightly spoils the effect.

    If it’s really peeing down then I just wear my hillwalking waterproofs with a hivis vest over. Or go some other time.

  13. […] after a long illness. My favorite bike-riding, fiction-writing ex-Londoner tries to reason with Scottland’s rainy season. Research shows cyclist and drivers are often the same people. An Aussie cyclist offers a little […]

  14. disgruntled says:

    There were some interesting options on Wiggle, clearly more research is needed. Shame I hate shopping. Maybe I should just go for the tinfoil-lined hat instead…

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