Riding in the rain can be uncomfortable, cold and just daunting. But this year, I needed to get into race shape for the Bantam Classic, an event run by a close friend of mine, and the torrential rains of Northern California meant I needed to train on rainy days. I never thought I would ride in the rain, but I wanted to beat my time from the previous year, which meant training in the rain was mandatory. Here is what I learned as I transitioned not only riding in the rain, but being comfortable and actually enjoying it:
- Warmth is key.
- If my head, hands and feet get cold and wet, I’m not going to enjoy the ride.
- If it’s raining I’m going to get wet, but some key products can help make that into more of a minor annoyance than a ride stopper.
I found myself overdressing slightly knowing I could shed layers anytime if I warmed up. I start with a warm, wool base layer. My favorite is the Merino Base Layer from Capo Cycling. It keeps my core warm and doesn’t hold too much water, even if it’s coming down hard. A solid rain jacket helps too. My outer layer of choice is usually something incredibly thin and lightweight, but unless temps are in the low 40’s or high 30’s, I would rather breathe as much as possible and just plan on getting wet. You will get wet no matter what, so staying warm is the #1 goal which is why I choose wool and layer properly. I find myself wearing my Capo wind vest to mitigate as much rain as possible to start the ride, but it has a couple vents on the back to breathe. I end up getting just as wet inside a shell, from sweat, as I do outside from the rain. Castelli makes a jacket called the Idro that looks super packable and still blocks water and breathes that looks interesting. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a bib that handles the rain any better than the standard issue bibs, so no great tips there.
While my head usually runs really hot (which is not fun in the summer), on cold rainy rides, even I like something to cut the cold. While most skull caps are too warm for my head, I love the veloToze Helmet Cover. For starters, it breaks the wind, which can be chilling and increase the rate of evaporation, while still allowing my head to breathe. It is also waterproof which makes the water falling from above run off the outside of your helmet rather than down around your face, ears and neck. This helps keep the water off my glasses and face which reduce fog and condensation on my lenses. Lastly my initial purchase was black, but then I much a bright color could be to help cars see me in low light so I got the Viz-Yellow. I like to have bright colors high on my profile and the movement of my head helps me stand out even more. When I plan for riding in low light or rain, I want to be seen.
For my hands, I haven’t found a good waterproof solution so I settle for warmth. I have two pairs/styles I use for different temperatures. For super cold wet days, nothing beats my Capo Lombardia DWR gloves that are similar to snow gloves. On days where it’s wet but not as cold, I go with the Giro D’Wool gloves because, although wet, Merino wool stays warm and my hands don’t get too clammy and pruney.
Finally, to keep my feet warm and dry, I love the veloToze Tall Shoe Covers. I have used veloToze shoe covers in the past but mostly for cold weather to cut the wind and keep my feet warm, but the added benefit of having dry feet at the end of a long ride really is a win. Initially my feet would stay dry the majority of the ride and then I would find some water sneaking up through my cleat holes. I solved this by removing my insole and placing a strip of packaging tape over the cleat holes from the inside of my shoe and then replacing the insole. This worked wonders and kept my feet 100% dry through the whole ride.
I started carrying my veloToze Tall shoe covers with me on any ride that had the potential for rain just in case. They pack smaller than the size of my phone so why not have them on me! I also found a dual-purpose use for them. Placing the veloToze covers between my phone and my body kept my phone dry and allowed me to lose the plastic baggie I had always brought for my phone, which made texting and emailing easier and faster at stops. Plus, if it started raining, I could put on the shoe covers and throw my phone inside the package to keep it dry in a pinch.
Other essential rain items are bright, flashy things. When drivers are fighting the rain on their windshield, their reaction time goes down so I need to be seen. I run front and rear lights on all rides that are rainy, foggy or have even the slightest chance of dawn/dusk. I even run lights on most of my winter rides because the daylight changes so quickly and on a foggy day climbing and descending tree-covered roads it might as well be dusk or dark. Again, not worth being hit because you wanted to look cool in all black. Capo makes some clean kits with reflective materials that are colored and patterned to look like a normal kit until the light hits them. Anything labeled SL on their website should be reflective.
The last thing that is on my road bike for a few months of the year is my Ass Savers fender that easily slides right into my saddle and blocks that butt spray you get on a wet day. I leave it on until March or April. Even if it’s not raining, I know mountain roads are likely to have constant, unforgiving runoff even on 70-80 degree days.
I also prefer heavy duty winter tires with a slight bit of tread on them. Debris is throw up from cars hitting potholes and that debris often ends up in the bike lane. I don’t want to stop to fix flats ever, let alone in the rain, but I also want to trust my tires on those wet descents. My favorite winter tires are the Vittoria Rubino Pro Endurance G+. They were recommended to me by Kevin who runs Breakaway Bikes in Santa Rosa. I have found myself stocking up on them for next winter already. They rock and might end up being a good year round tire for me with our rough, nasty (and epic) roads in Sonoma County.
Lastly, and unrelated to rain riding other than the added risk of crashing or being hit, I never ride anything without my Crashtag which is a titanium medical ID tag I wear around my neck. Because of the magnet fastener, if I am found unconscious (or worse) an EMT can simply pull it off my neck without removing my helmet and instantly find my date of birth, contact information for loved ones and other info like blood type, drug allergies, medical condition and indication that I am an organ donor. Plus it opens beer with the built in bottle opener, so I’m always prepared.
Now that I have the right gear, I can be out in the rain for hours before I got soggy and whiney and I have found that I actually enjoy a nice rainy day ride. Enjoy!
Written by Seth Beiden. Learn more about Seth by visiting Dawn Patrol PR's website.