I have always loved water, since the day I was born.  Riding my bike in the rain is no exception.  I’ve riden through thunderstorms, rain at 34ºF, even during a light snowfall (though I am expecting to ride through quite a bit more snow this winter).  Winter gear will have it’s own page, this page is for non-winter rain, or everything over 32ºF.

First, let’s talk about ideal conditions: Summer Showers

It’s hot and your ride report says ‘intermittent showers.’ This is the best ride I can hope for.  Intermittent showers can be wonderful partway into a ride, if you’re prepared for it.  It becomes a refreshing cool-off, cleaning off the sweat and grime.  After the rain lets up the sky always looks amazing, and sometimes there’s even a rainbow.  Unfortunately, you will have to be careful how sharply you turn on wet pavement.  I made the mistake of turning too tightly in the rain and still carry a scar from it.

Prepare yourself for the rain:

  • First of all, stay positive.  I cannot stress this enough.  People are water resistant!  Unless you are the Wicked Witch of the west, you will not melt in water.
  • Ride with fenders.  I have a detachable fender which has repaid for itself multiple times over.  Even though I detest the look of full fenders on my road bike, I ride with at least this back fender as I detest it slightly less than I detest the skunk stripe that results from no fender.
  • Wear stuff you don’t mind getting wet.  Moisture wicking fabric tends to dry fast, which makes it ideal for riding in wet weather.  In a perfect world I’d ditch my shirt and ride with just shorts.  The less you’re wearing the less you need to dry after, this can be important if you’re on your way into the office.
  • Waterproof your music.  Be it a ziplock bag, a nifty case, or a special pocket in your backpack, have something.  Electronics and water do mix, but with disastrous results.  In the worst of times I’ve tucked my iPod up under my armpit to at least block most of the rain.  It still works!
  • Waterproof sunglasses.  In a perfect world they’d be polarized but still wearable at night.  I don’t own waterproof eyewear, and I regret it every time I get caught in the rain.

Once we start getting colder, the rules change.  Now we’re in a downright dangerous situation.  Now you want to avoid getting wet as much as possible.  I’ve added a *star next to the items I still need.  Let’s start at the top:

  • Head: Waterproof *helmet cover, *full head cowl, *eyewear.  I used an ear-covering headband and wind resistant face mask.  The face mask did not work, mostly because I could hardly breathe through it, but also because it completely failed to keep me dry in any way.  It would also cause my glasses to fog up.  Regardless, it was absolutely mandatory at the beginning of a cold ride.  The headband also had the unique quality of filtering out wind noise.  I could hear my music and the surrounding environment (cars) better.  Remember to cover your ears, trust me.
  • Torso: *Weatherproof jacket, moisture wicking underlayer.  Keep the water off your thermal layers, and ride home warm.  Don’t over-layer: remember that when you work hard you generate heat, so you may not need as many layers as you think.
  • Hands: *Weatherproof gloves.  I tried buying gloves that were just windproof, hoping that it was the combination of wet and wind that really made things hard. They don’t cut it when it’s cold and raining.  Pay the extra $10 and get waterproof.
  • Legs: *Weatherproof bike leggings, *Shoe covers.  I managed without the $100+ rubber pants for the first bit of the year by wearing my bike shorts, some sweat pants, and waterproof ski pants.  The ski pants were just a shell but they held the water off, in theory.  The whole thing would have worked but the pants have lost their ability to withstand water.  Or maybe they never had this ability.  I never bothered with the shoe covers.  They just seemed like a huge gimick.  You could accomplish the same function with a plastic bag over your foot.  I went without, and just let my foot get wet.  This was a terrible idea, in hindsight, but I still refuse to put $40 down on booties.  This winter I may circumvent the problem by wearing waterproof boots and using clip-in pedals.

See Winter Bike for more about what bike I plan to ride during and after snowstorms.

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