Stinging in the Rain

Thursday was one of those days when you look out of the window and think “thank God I don’t have to cycle anywhere today in that” as the rain lashes sideways past the window. The only problem was I did have to cycle somewhere in it; I had to be in Bigtown to catch a bus to go and meet someone. I told myself that it always looks worse from inside than it does when you’re actually out in it, put on the full monty raingear (apocalypse-proof jacket, rain skirt, leggits, tweed cap, gloves), remembered to pack a spare pair of gloves (I have yet to track down a pair of actually waterproof gloves, and there are few things more miserable than putting on wet gloves after you’ve been sitting in the warm and dry, so the only option is to pack as many pairs of gloves as you have journey legs) and set off.

As I’d hoped, it wasn’t too bad at first. The trip into Bigtown is generally done with a tailwind, and rain is a lot less unpleasant when it isn’t being blown into your face. In fact, I was cycling along musing about the fact that I’ve probably ridden through more rain in the past year than I have in my whole life up to then, and that I’ve gradually accumulated the right kit, and a few ideas, to make the whole wet-weather cycling thing if not pleasant, then bearable. I started putting together in my head a blog post of all the things I’ve learned in the last year to provide others with the benefit of my accumulated wisdom, entirely forgetting that I had not only blogged the day before about the imminent arrival of spring – but had also tweeted happily about the joys of cycling with a tail wind…

So I shouldn’t really have been surprised when the tail wind suddenly sprang round to hit me hard right in the face – enough to actually bring me to a standstill – and whipped off my cap and flung it into a puddle before settling into a punitive gusty cross wind for the rest of the ride into town. In the course of the next 30 minute I was to learn several entirely new and exciting facts about cycling in the rain when you have angered the weather gods:

1. Tweed floats. Indeed, an upside-down cap can sail quite a distance along a puddle when the wind takes it

2. Leggits are no protection to your shoes if you have to wade through the water to retrieve your hat.

3. A rain skirt is no protection at all when it is blowing a hooly and the rain is simultaneously coming at you from the side, front, above and possibly below

4. When your apocalypse-proof jacket starts to let in water, the pockets are where the water will accumulate and are therefore a poor choice of place to store your mobile phone, your Guardian voucher, and your dry gloves

5. There is no weather so unpleasant that it cannot be made more unpleasant by a driver choosing to pass you at speed through a puddle.

In fairness, I can’t really blame number five on the Weather Gods (but seriously drivers, what is it with close passing cyclists in the rain? Do you think we are out there getting wet for fun?)

By the time I had reached the bus stop and steeled myself to spend the rest of the day in wet socks, I had decided to hold off on that ‘top tips’ post until I had another decade or so’s experience to draw on. Meanwhile, I will rever to my former position, that the best wet weather gear of all is a roof.

Anyone commenting to the effect that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, will be hunted down and drowned.

16 Responses to Stinging in the Rain

  1. Well I’ve only been fully soaked (to the extent that you simply ignore the water and plough on wet through) twice in 50 years of cycling. I’ve got wet yes, but again the choice of clothing can make all the difference. Dark wool/viscose mix for trousers (or skirts) is a material that doesn’t look ‘wet’ when wet and is a lot more comfortable than denim when it is (and it dries out quickly)

    In most circumstances also just a few minutes sheltering from the burst of a heavy shower keeps you from the worst effects of a rainy day. Seems to work for me – never carry waterproofs, but do wear tweed jackets.

  2. I feel your dampness. I remember working in offices in Holland during the 90’s when I was in my twenties and there would be several of us sitting at our desks with wet thighs and feet all day. An umbrella on a bike offers limited protection from horizontal precipitation. Eventually I invested in an enormous pair of army surplus motorbike rain trousers. Ironically, rainwear, wasn’t that easy to find over there (especially not flattering)! Hot soup and an iron constitution seems to be their preferred protection.

  3. commuterjohn says:

    Many years ago when mobile phones first became pocket sized I found out the weak point on a waxed jacket with one….when water goes in the pocket with the flap pushed in it does not come out and mobile phones leak!
    After drying it out over the fire to find it still did not work I took it to be repaired.
    The repair shop claimed I had dropped it in the bath which I denied truthfully! So they eventually gave me a loan phone whilst they repaired it.
    No more wax jackets thanks.

  4. Andy in Germany says:

    reminds me of the epic trip to get the Bakfiets back from Amsterdam: on day one we had head and side winds all the way and the cover is like a sail. I nearly ended up in a canal several times.

    After a couple of days of wet/dry weather I remember a point where it began to rain heavily and we were so used to being soaked that no-one bothered to mention it.

  5. I need to check the pockets of my new wax jacket – the old one had drainage holes.

    It’s good to know that tweed floats.

  6. disgruntled says:

    Dave H – I’d have said real drenchings were rare too, until this winter.
    Christine – interesting that the Dutch haven’t solve *everything* about cycling (something of a relief too)
    John – there’s a similar design flaw with the Brompton basket – you basically end up with a little lake in there
    Andy – I have yet to reach that point. Although I have reached the point where you can get no wetter.
    Rachel – well, it floats up to a point, anyway. I retrieved it before it had had a chance to prove its buoyancy for too long

  7. Sue Greig says:

    Thursday was horrendous – I am surprised you weren’t washed away. I’m impressed that you survived at all!

  8. disgruntled says:

    I’m not 100% sure that I did…

  9. Jenny says:

    Er, my deepest driest sympathies. My toes curled up just reading your post, finding it hard to imagine HAVING to go out in weather like that rather than choosing to, which I don’t. I am a complete wimp when it comes to rain, and only cycle when there’s a chance light shower or less to go on. Sorry, endless days of summer here make my comments rather heartless. I hope you’ve dried out.

  10. disgruntled says:

    I think we may be having your rain

  11. […] favorite Scottish bike blogger writes about getting caught in a stinging rain and offers advice for surviving such. And appropriately closes with this line: “Anyone […]

  12. WOL says:

    Most motorists suffer from the common malady of not being able to think of others. They are heedless of the consequences of their actions I think it would take the tables being turned on them to “raise their consciousness” as the saying goes. As a rule, they don’t do it intentionally, they do it thoughtlessly which is, in a sense, worse.

  13. disgruntled says:

    Perhaps everyone should be forced to do a year’s cycling before they are allowed to get their driving licence (of course time was we all did that as teenagers …)

  14. […] bad weather, there’s only bad clothing’ – we’ve dealt with this topic many times before, and I’m afraid it’s total bollocks. Decent rain gear does one thing and one […]

  15. […] although despite all the practice I discovered I was still a complete novice at cycling in the rain and lost my glasses to a passing tractor […]

  16. […] have said that I’ve lost my ability to deal with the Scottish weather but the truth is, I never did master the ability to cycle in the rain and not arrive at the other end looking like a drowned rat, however much wet-weather gear I […]

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