My summer rain gear (for biking)
In much of the year, rain gear for biking is simple and obvious. You just cover yourself with reasonably breathable waterproof gear (jacket, pants, shoe covers, and helmet cover) and you're done. In the heat of summer this approach or downsized variants of it doesn't work; with conventional gear (even just a jacket with all its vents open), your choices are getting wet from the rain or getting wet from your own sweat as you cook inside your jacket. One popular summer option is to just shrug and get wet from the rain. Unfortunately this isn't really suitable for commute riding, at least for me, because all too often it involves getting totally, utterly soaked and having whatever I'm wearing be clammy and soggy.
My current approach is the following gear:
- Sandals instead of shoes, so that I don't have to worry about them
getting soaked. Both sandals and my feet dry out very easily, which
isn't true of normal shoes; if normal shoes get soaked, they may
still be sodden the next day.
(Before I switched to sandals, I had this happen to me. Biking the next day in still-sodden shoes was not a great experience.)
- A helmet cover, in part to keep water from dripping directly onto
my glasses (and eyes). I'd like to avoid putting a helmet cover
over my helmet because it means I have to do without my helmet
lights, but so far I haven't found any other way to keep enough
rain out of my eyes (my summer helmet's visor doesn't do it on
(I've may try wearing a cycling cap under my helmet in the hope that the cap's visor will do the job.)
- A storm poncho (aka rain cape); my current one is an inexpensive one from Sierra Designs that I picked up in a local bike shop at one point. The storm poncho is the most important piece of gear, because it's what keeps most of me dry without drowning me in sweat. However, there's a trick here.
A storm poncho by itself will leave you at least as sweaty as a regular waterproof jacket, because it's no better ventilated (in fact it's likely to be worse). So the trick is to gather up the front of the poncho and hold it up on the handlebars. This keeps the front plastic away from your body and functions as a big air scoop to keep cooling you. Of course I can't go very fast like this, but so what; I'm commuting in the rain (sometimes very strong rain), so I'm fine with being slow.
My experience is that this trick only really works on my commuter bike, which has riser bars. My other bike has drop handlebars and my one attempt to use the storm poncho there was best described as 'extremely awkward'; it was not really a success. My current approach is to not go on weekend group rides in the summer if rain is too likely, and otherwise to just live with maybe getting soaked if we get unlucky.
A storm poncho worn on the bike won't shield my lower legs (or feet), but that's okay; it's summer and I'm wearing shorts. My bare legs can get as wet as they want and they'll dry right off. Similarly I only care about keeping the rain off my upper arms (where my shirt is), not my bare forearms, which the storm poncho leaves mostly or entirely exposed.
(People who wear sleeveless tops here don't even have to care about their upper arms.)
(This elaborates on a tweet I made after a recent rainstorm ride.)
Written on 08 September 2016.