Riding in the Rain

Jack Donohue


There are many different attitudes toward riding in the rain. My attitude is just stay home and drink beer. Despite this healthy outlook, I inevitably find myself riding in the rain quite a lot.

There are those who just gird their loins and ride in whatever weather. They usually have closets full of foul weather gear of every description. Now, I've heard of the great technological marvels of Goretex, Latex, Permatex, etc that are supposed to make riding in the rain a pleasant if not ecstatic experience. They are said to "breathe" thus letting moisture (sweat) through, while keeping bad rain out. I don't think so. Basically, we are dealing with immutable laws of physics. You're exercising hard, you sweat. If you seal yourself up to keep the water out, you keep the sweat in, no matter what the Tex advertisers say. The only useful invention in rain gear for cycling in the last century is pit vents. Of course, these have drawbacks, too. I have an old rain jacket with mesh sides that I carry in my commuting bag for emergencies. It works fine, except when you have windswept rain in which case the vents don't provide very much protection. My favorite article of rain gear is an old yellow rubberized jacket. In a former life, I was on assignment at a chemical plant in Houston, and after wearing it a while, thought it would make a fine souvenir. Some people collect Disney memorabilia, or Elvis relics, I collect rain jackets that say "Gulf Cedar Bayou Chemical Plant." Anyway, it is extremely effective at keeping rain out. As far as the sweat issue, it is about three sizes too large (they didn't have a lot of choices at the plant boutique) so there's plenty of room for sweat to circulate, if not escape.

A lot of people swear by fenders. They are supposed to keep rain from being thrown up at you from the front tire. So, maybe they do, and I actually have a front fender on my rain bike. But if you're out in the rain for more than about five minutes, your feet are going to get wet, fender or not. The only time I really felt the need for a fender was riding the Proflex in the winter with the studded front tire. There was quite a collection of salt, sand, and other debris on the road, and that tire was quite effective at flinging it all into my face at any speed greater than about 5 mph. So I had to say "no más" and rush over to the bike store for a front fender. But fenders for rain protection, nah.

So, if you ride in the rain, you will get wet, period. No amount of technology will prevent this. But the good news is, once you're wet, you won't get any wetter. Saturation is a wonderful thing. And as long as you stay warm, and try not to think too much about the comfy chair you could be in at home, it can be a, well, not awful experience.

Little Jack’s Corner was a column published in the CRW WheelPeople newsletter that Jack Donohue had written for more than 20 years. It is a humorous mixture of personal bicycling experiences and observations. This article is reprinted from WheelPeople November 2000