Waterproof in Scotland?

October 5, 2015

Some time back in the distant past – or rather August – I was tempted by the Vulpine sale and ordered a nice merino polo top (one can never have too many merino tops) and, more daringly, a their “Epic” cotton rain trousers, reduced from how much!?! to just how much?! in the sales. Close inspection of the fine print suggests that they were merely rain-resistant rather than rain proof, but the cheery person who mans (or possibly womans) their twitter feed seemed convinced they would be ideal for the local conditions

Fast forward a few days and the trousers arrived and, magically, fit, despite the fact that I have – contrary to the trouser design ordinance of 1998 – hips, thighs, and a waist. They also looked very smart, at least adjusted for being a piece of clothing I own, and come in a colour other than grouse-shooting green. More importantly for the first six weeks I owned them they worked in exactly the way you want rain gear to work: it was never actually raining when I had to go out on the bike (there was one close call, but by the time I’d put the trousers on, it had stopped).

Unfortunately, possibly due to an unwary tweet to a Portlander who was also wondering where her rain had gone, the Weather Gods came back from their extended early autumn break and unleased a goodly portion of September’s rain on us today. Which was the day I had to cycle into Bigtown, spend a morning sitting in a meeting with the coonsil (and then going out and looking at various places where they might put some signs up to let cyclists know that – no pressure – but instead of pedalling down a horrible trunk road with HGVs roaring past you at two minute intervals, you could instead turn off onto a nice almost traffic-free route which has up to now been more or less the secret of a few locals, something which it has only taken the powers that be about 5 years to try and organise). The sort of day for which a pair of smart but rain-resistant trousers might have been invented.

So how did they do? Well, on the way in, they proved pretty good. Obviously I had used the intervening weeks of dry weather beforehand to not get round to re-proofing my jacket or re-waxing my boots so my feet and arms were a bit soggy, but the rain beaded up nicely on the trousers and then quickly dried and they were also not at all sweaty. The sitting in meetings part they performed with aplomb, looking at least as smart as anything anyone else was wearing and not being too rattly when I walked. Add in all the nice details (tab to keep the cuff out of the chain, magnetic button on the back pocket, hell, just having pockets which is not a given on women’s trousers) and I was pretty pleased.

On the way home, the rain was not so much heavier but – in the mysterious way that rain does around here – managed to be significantly wetter. Let’s just say that there are days when you get in and take your jacket and shoes off when you get in and put them in the hallway. And there are days when you take your jacket and shoes and gloves off and put them by the Rayburn to dry. And there are days when you get in and have to strip right down to your smalls in the bathroom and hang everything up in the bath to avoid flooding the kitchen floor – while silently blessing the fact that your towel is still hanging up on the Rayburn rail keeping warm – and today was one of those days. I can report that, as advertised, Vulpine Epic rain trousers are *not* waterproof in Scotland under those conditions BUT that my legs were the second dryest part of me after the ride. And the dryest? The top of my head, protected by my magical tweed cap – which has so far proved itself resistant to everything Scotland can throw at it. I’m guessing they know a thing or two about rain in Harris…

Vulpine are currently running a customer survey which is probably worth doing for the giggles if nothing else (no other cycling company that I know of acknowledges that ‘anything as long as there is cake’ is as much a type of cycling as the usual boring categories of road, mountain biking etc.). I’ve already filled it in, which is a shame because otherwise I’d be back on there now suggesting that if they really want to achieve ‘waterproof in Scotland’ status, they need to be looking into tweed.


The Only Forecast Worse…

July 20, 2015

…than the one which stubbornly refuses not only to correctly forecast the rain, but even to acknowledge that it is raining at all, is the one which correctly forecasts the fact that it will be hosing it down just as you are at the furthest point from home, and which you decide to ignore because, well, I’m not entirely sure why I ignored it, now I come to think of it. Probably because it’s been so wrong and so variable in the past that the one time it decides to be bob on, I no longer believe it.

Oh and ASBO buzzard decided to have a go at me again as well. As if I needed anything else coming at me out of the sky.

Having got home and got dry I was still pretty chilled and we ended up lighting the fire this evening. Summer, eh? Remind me why I moved to Scotland …

I suppose that’s what I get for attempting to enjoy what the weather gods throw at me.


Invisible from Space

July 13, 2015

I have a bone to pick with the Weather Gods, the Met Office and possibly the laws of physics, or at least those pertaining to the workings of the rain radar. Today it was definitely raining. It started off raining quite heavily, as forecast, and then it settled down into a fine, steady, pacing itself sort of rain, which was not in the forecast, the Met Office having predicted it to be ‘overcast’, easing to ‘cloudy’ later (and if anyone can explain to me the difference between ‘overcast’ and ‘cloudy’ without resorting to semantics I would be grateful). In fact, as the morning wore on into lunchtime, and the rain continued unabated, the Met Office continued to insist that it would not rain, and in fact it was not currently raining, wet stuff falling out of the sky or no wet stuff falling out of the sky. Nor was the rain radar any better, because it too apparently cannot see the sort of rain that the Weather Gods specialise in round here (I believe it’s known as a smirr; the Scots naturally have a complex taxonomy for rain although in my experience it all gets you equally wet in the end).

I had a paper to fetch, so having delayed as long as I possibly could, I finally convinced myself that it was clearing up, and headed out only to realise that yep, it was still raining and far from easing off, it was now getting steadily wetter. I was sufficiently soggy to attract attention in the shop (sample conversation: Me: I was hanging on in the hope that it would clear up as that was what the forecast said. Papershop Woman: (with some bitterness) What, in Papershop Village?) and what the Scots would call fair drookit by the time I’d got home.

So I think the Met Office needs to raise its game here and stop messing around with meaningless variations on degrees of cloudiness, while putting in some serious work around the detection, forecasting and distinction between a haar, scotch mist, dreich day and a smirr, or at the very least, let us know when it might actually stop…


Vengeance is Theirs…

April 12, 2015

The ‘Friends’ of Bigtown’s park are a lovely bunch. Enthusiastic, committed volunteers who only want to see their newly refurbished park used and loved by everyone in the town, supported by a similarly enthusiastic and proactive coonsil officer. They are also, clearly, terrible sinners in the eyes of the Weather Gods; I am, by comparison, their ewe lamb.*

Exhibit one: Easter last year. The opening of the newly refurbished park. All week, the sun shines. Then, on the day of the actual festivities, for which we had arranged a family ride among other events, the heavens open and it rains all day, until all chance of fun has evaporated and then the sun comes out and the evening is rather gorgeous

Coincidence? Perhaps. But then, Exhibit two: the Christmas fun day in the park. Lots of activities planned including our cycling Santa and Christmas bike ride, for which many reindeer heads had been created. OK, so a weekend in December is always going to be a bit of of a gamble, but we weren’t expecting rain, hail, sleet and horizontal snow – right up to the moment when the decision was taken to cancel, upon which it naturally cheered up.

And then today. Exhibit three. Another Easter fun day with a bike treasure hunt planned. I have to say, my expectations for the day were fairly well managed by now, although we’ve had almost a week of glorious weather, The forecast was for heavy showers, which can mean anything. This morning the Met Office had moderated that to ‘light rain’ which sounded like an improvement until I realised this was just the Met Office averaging out ‘heavy rain’ and ‘no rain’ over the course of the day, which is not the same thing at all. But never mind, we had a gazebo to shelter under, while should any kids actually turn up, they could be out in the rain hunting hidden bike parts. The rain duly started as I was preparing to set off so I packed spare gloves and dry socks and donned my rain gear. And then the rain started to look a bit funny. A bit like snow. A lot like snow, actually. Snow AND rain. Rather hard icy painful sort of snow, as I discovered as I pedalled doggedly into Bigtown, arriving just in time to learn that the event had been called off.

Well, I say called off. Postponed to next week, in fact, although I’m not sure we will be joining them this time around. Not unless they’re planning some serious whisky libations to the Weather Gods, possibly backed up with a goat sacrifice or three. Otherwise who knows what weather we might have to endure.

wet cycling kit

Still, at least my kit might have dried off by then. Oh and the minute I got home? It stopped snowing and the sun came out.

* Actually come to think of it, that enthusiastic coonsil official may be the problem – can’t have the natural order of things turned on its head like that…


Winter, Actually You May be the Boss of Me…

March 12, 2015

I will be honest with you: I was not looking forward to getting out on the bike today. The forecast was for it to piss down with rain and the forecast had duly delivered. I had a number of things I needed to do in town, including return my library books – overdue library books wait for no man, woman, or fair weather cyclist – but the truth is, any other week of the year I would probably have wimped out and found a way around the problem that didn’t involve pedalling 45 minutes into the unrelenting rain (and a headwind), a damp and dripping visit to various establishments in Bigtown, and then 45 minutes pedalling back. But not this week, because this week is errandonneering week, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to knock off three more errands in one day, especially given how far I am behind.

At this point, bike blog narrative conventions dictate that I should discover that in fact, cycling in the rain was not so bad after all, and that I was glad the challenge had got me out on the bike. Because yay, bikes!

In reality, it was every bit as wet and miserable as I had expected it to be. Looking on the bright side – and I’m conscious I’m scraping the barrel here – I did take the opportunity to discover that my new tweed cap is just as waterproof as my old one, and considerably more waterproof than any fancy new technology that has been developed in the meantime. I was also encouraged to discover that when your boots are filling up with water, it does at least take your mind off the fact that you can only use your biggest gears. And I have finally learned that when you get home from a wet ride, then life will be much more pleasant for you the next time you go out if you remember to take your soggy gloves out of your pocket and hang them up to dry along with basically all your other clothes.

wet kit

What I didn’t remember was to take any pictures until after I had set off for home again, so these will have to do.

bridge in the rain

Errand 5: sorting out a birthday card and present for a friend. Category: social call (well, remotely, anyway). Observation: there’s always one wag in Bigtown who will say ‘lovely day for it’ as they pass a drenched cyclist.

 

 

rainy road home

Errand 6: returning library books. Category: arts and entertainment. Observation: There is also always one cheerful soul in Bigtown who will say encouragingly ‘and they say it’s to stay set in like this all day’ as you set off again on your bike

 

coffee and doughnut

Errand 7: visiting the bank. Category: Personal business. Observation: there is no coffee and doughnut quite so well-earned as the coffee and doughnut you have after you have finally got home and into warm dry clothes after being thoroughly drenched on the bike.

 

 

Total 16 miles.


Sales Pitch

February 24, 2015

I had a train to catch this morning, which meant getting up at some ungodly hour – although sadly I actually woke up at a marginally more godly hour which meant scrambling out of the house in more of a hurry than I like to be, thinking ‘ah is that rain? Probably not heavy enough for the full rain gear, might just get away with it…’

Three minutes down the road, the Weather Gods woke up and started turning the taps on. I didn’t fancy two hours in the train in wet trousers so I stopped and pulled out my rain skirt and attempted to put it on in a hurry. This proves easier to do when you’re not battling a stiff breeze and frozen fingers and watched by a curious crowd of sheep* and hurrying to get the whole palaver out of the way before one of your neighbours drives past and finds you apparently dressing on the side of the road. I was just bending down to finish off the final step (attaching the elastic cord that keeps the whole thing from turning into a spinnaker) when a little dog appeared behind my legs, closely followed by concerned dogwalking neighbour who had spotted my bike sans me, and then me apparently doubled over in agony, and was checking to see if I was okay.

Having reassured her I was fine, and merely eccentric, not injured, told her I was rushing for the train and then explained why I wasn’t on my usual train-catching bike (the Brompton; I had no idea people were paying such close attention), I zoomed off again (tailwind assistance fortunately enhanced by the rain skirt) into the now clearing weather. The rain skirt works best as a rain repelling device, I’m finding, and the more complicated it is to put it on, the better.

Still it was absolutely pissing down by the time I pulled into the station forecourt with  five minutes to spare, so that’s something. And a fellow passenger was very taken with the rain skirt – I had by this time abandoned all pretence at decorum and just whipped it off in the booking office – so there’s that too. Why cycle clothing companies aren’t inundating me with free samples of their wet-weather gear I will never know. Round here, even the non-cyclists can see the benefits.

* None of them was called Keith; I checked.


Wet January

January 26, 2015

Well, I’d been hoping the Weather Gods would follow the lead of the bulk of my increasingly grumpy Twitter timeline and go in for a ‘dry January’ (we, on the other hand, are having a cake-free January, which is worse) but no such luck – in fact they seem to have been competing to see just how much of a soaking they can give me whenever I venture onto a bike. On Friday, even my wellies failed to keep my feet dry after the water just rolled down my trousers and into my socks, a fact I had forgotten until I put them on again the next day and went squelch. The Rayburn has been working overtime drying out my damp cycling gear; the kitchen is always permanently draped with yesterday’s trousers, socks and gloves, waiting for me to return from my latest drenching so I can swap them for today’s.

Today, though, it was neither raining nor icy. The sun was out and all the birds were singing as though spring was just around the corner. I stood around admiringly making helpful comments as the other half switched my ice tyres off the bike, and it was off for the paper with a song of my own in my heart, a song which lasted approximately half a mile until I could no longer ignore the fact that the icy-cold spits of water landing on my face were in fact raindrops and that it was in fact raining, again, stopping only briefly to sleet.

Oh, well that’s not quite true. It did stop for a moment and the sun came out and lit up the silvery underwings of a flock of fieldfares as they flashed away from me and over the hedgerow into the next field, before the soaking resumed. A nice reminder that there are birds that fly south for the winter and end up here as a balmy alternative to wherever it is they are from. Wet and miserable as I was, it’s good to know that somewhere further north there is therefore undoubtedly a cyclist who is enduring conditions which are even worse.

Although they’re probably not having to endure it without cake.


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