Though many of us believed that it would never happen again, over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen some decent rain storms make their way through the city. Not nearly enough to make up for the drought, but it is a start. Normally, I must admit, I am a complete wimp when it comes to riding in the rain. I will usually avoid it at all costs. Which is funny because I don’t have any particularly bad experiences, but it just doesn’t strike me as the thing to do. When you decide to go car free, you don’t really have a choice and last week I had to make a couple of trips in the rain.
In doing so I learned a couple of really important things: first that riding in the rain can not only be refreshing, it is a lot of fun and secondly that there is nothing to it. I own a decently expensive rain suit made of some not-to-be-named breathable fabric that I purchased when I lived in Chicago. In Chicago during the spring and fall you can get these really chilly rains that can make a damp ride down right miserable. For those kind of rains a nice rain suit or poncho is critical to save you from just hating every second of your ride.
For some reason, probably because of the price tag, I feel the need to don my full set of rain clothing to face a summer Oklahoma rain storm. However, as much as modern breathable waterproof fabrics are a great improvement from the rain gear of the past, the fact is that they still suck if it is warm out. The amount you end up sweating when all geared up is just as bad as the moisture you would have gotten from being exposed to the rain (and it smells worse). If your ride is reasonably short and you plan on changing clothes at your destination, just get rid of the gear and let the rain fall. A warm summer rain just feels fantastic especially after the heat we have just been through.
For longer rides, I know that rain can lead to some chaffing issues that should be avoided and in those cases I would recommend getting a riding poncho versus a full rain suit. At least with the poncho you can get some air flow and they make some really nice special built ones like this. However, on Freewheel I have frequently used the large garbage bag to great effect and you can’t beat that price.
The only other tip to keep in mind is that even with an aluminum or carbon fiber bike, you will still have steel components on your bicycle. It is important dry out the crevices and nooks and crannies when you finish your ride if possible. At the very least, give it a nice rub down when you get home. Additionally, you will need to add some fresh oil to your chain and generally you should schedule your chain and gearing for a nice cleaning after some riding in the rain.
But I think the important lesson to take away is that you should just really enjoy the ride and not be afraid of a little damp. The world looks really neat on a bike in the rain . . .