After a beautiful late summer and very dry September, normal rain has now resumed, it seems. I’ve noticed fewer people cycling. Why are we so programmed to avoid water?
We need water, we can’t survive without it. Compositionally, our very beings are mostly composed of it, so I’m not sure quite why we’re so averse to the stuff.
Eau dear. (see what I did there?)
My average weekly mileage has dropped a bit recently and I’m blaming the old sky juice.
Perhaps that witch in the Wizard of Oz has something to do with it. You remember, the one who melted, screeching “I’m melting”, just in case we didn’t fully understand that she was in fact dissolving before our very eyes. I guess that means she never washed, ever. Stinky witch.
The 6 crappiest excuses you’ve ever used to avoid cycling in the rain.
If you’re guilty of any of these then you need to HTFU, as they say. (See the infamous rule 5)
#1 I haven’t got a decent waterproof jacket.
Guess what? Your skin is pretty waterproof! So, if you get wet, what’s the worst that could happen? Clearly, it’s not nice to get cold on the bike (cue flashback memories of my worst epic ever).
If it’s reasonably warm anyway, you’re not going to freeze, so getting a bit moist won’t kill you.
Having said all that, nobody wants to be uncomfortable and that old saying is certainly true – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. So if you’re dressed appropriately, it won’t phase you.
Personally, I use an altura night vision evo jacket when it’s tipping down. It’s fantastic in lower light levels too, because of all the reflective bits. Cars give you a slightly wider berth, I’ve noticed, which is always nice.
#2 I hate getting wet feet.
Overshoes can be your friend here. But they only go so far. I have some inexpensive neoprene ones by BBB which are fairly thick so there’s an insulation benefit as well as the waterproofing. However, in really wet conditions the water still gets in through the holes in the sole of the shoe, and this leads to the dreaded SSS. Soggy Socks Syndrome. Thicker socks, possibly of the merino wool variety, can further complicate the condition and lead to SSSS – Soggy Spongy Socks Syndrome. But seriously, merino socks are great in really cold weather – highly recommend them. And if they do get wet, you’ll still be warm. Warm and wet? Bearable. Wet and cold? No thanks.
A very simple and effective solution is to
spend lots of money in a bike shop pop some plastic bags over your feet before putting your boots on.
It looks daft, and makes a funny sound if you dance about.
I love it that you’re now imagining yourself dancing about in your cycling gear with plastic bags on your feet. Morrissons or Sainsbury’s?
Of course, if you’re very serious and like spending money, there are proper winter boots on the market.
Like these Northwave winter boots at Wiggle.
#3 Won’t my bike melt?
Stop right there.
No it won’t. You’re going to have to do better than that.
Keep an old towel in the shed/garage and just give it a wipe down afterwards to get rid of excess water. Use a bit of WD40, or GT85 (nicer smell) on parts like the front mech and the derailleur, brake pivots. Avoid areas where there are bearings, like the headset and the bottom bracket. The spray will dissolve the grease – not good.
#4 I might get cold.
If you go out unprepared, get wet, have a puncture and end up standing around for a while, your body will cool. If it’s windy, then yes, you could start feeling very cold. The obvious answer is to go prepared. Wear a good long sleeve baselayer. I got a fantastic one by Under Armour from Sport Pursuit when they were on a crazy offer. A quality long sleeve jersey will help too. Get one with that microfibre wind block stuff.
A good jacket is going to make a huge difference, but don’t expect to always return home bone dry. Some may offer greater waterproofing but less breathability, so you end up sweating and suffering the old “boil in the bag” feeling. It’s usually a compromise between waterproofing and breathability, with the more expensive items managing to do both rather well. A key issue is taped seams, so look out for that when you’re shopping around.
Gloves are an essential item, I find. I cannot stand having cold hands.
It goes back to being 7 or 8 years old and playing football at school on a frozen, frosty, rock solid pitch, being bossed about by an old teacher who was actually a retired old copper with an axe to grind. I think he enjoyed watching us suffer and turn blue. When the session was over, I can still remember fighting my numb fingers, willing them to undo the soggy laces, and the pain that you get when the blood begins to return too quickly and it throbs like hell.
So, enough of my flashbacks.
I’ve been through tons of cycling gloves and currently have 4 pairs that cover me for absolutely anything. I covered them in more detail in this post about cold weather riding, so I’ll not go into it here again.
Except to summarise that the Sealskinz All Weather Cycle Gloves gloves are not very waterproof at all (but ok at temperatures down to about 5 or 6 C).
For lower temperatures, I find the Sealskinz Winter Gloves to be fantastic. I’ve ridden in sub-zero conditions and felt just fine.
Bib tights can make a big difference if you get some of those thermal micro fleece lined ones. Personally, I buy the DHB ones from Wiggle. By pure coincidence (honest!) the DHB range has just turned 10 years old and they’re having a bit of a sale, so it’s a great time to check out the range.
#5 My hair might get wet.
#6 The water sprays up my back and makes my bum wet.
Yes, this is annoying and uncomfortable and makes your Mrs play hell if you accidentally, absent mindedly go to sit on the sofa when you return. Sorry dear!
Mudguards will totally eliminate this and the first time you ride with them in the rain, your attitude will be transformed forever. I promise. Probably.
People generally go for SKS Raceblades or Crud Catchers. I didn’t have much luck with the Raceblades – they sheared in half! I now use a very inexpensive guard (only about £12) by Zefal which is more akin to the old MTB style. It doesn’t extend all the way down the wheel, so there will still be a bit of spray for those behind you. But if you’re riding alone, it keeps you dry, which is the whole point.
Retrain your brain to enjoy the rain.
The object here isn’t to spend lots of money on bike kit. It’s to remain comfortable whilst riding so that it’s still a genuine pleasure to be on the bike. Even if it’s tipping down.
You can be wet and comfortable. For some people, this may require a mental shift.
If you naturally feel any resistance towards going out on your bike when it’s wet, it’s worth getting over it. There is something utterly delightful about riding in the rain.
Maybe it’s the strange satisfaction one can derive from thinking that everyone else must assume you’re “bonkers”.
But why? It’s one of the natural laws of the Universe that things (and people) tend to follow the path of least resistance.
Riding in cars, saying yes to donuts, watching TV, it’s all minimal resistance, passive stuff. The alternative is harder.
When you choose to get on your bike, you’re making a positive choice, a determined and conscious effort to swim against that current of passivity that seems to take most of the general population along with it.
You’ve taken control back, and it feels freaking awesome.