Fair Weather

It’s almost winter. The weather has been changing and there have been some pretty rainy days. While the weather’s gross and I have other transportation options, I still end up on my bike.

 

Fair Weather

 

I’ve been told I’m weird, but it’s all relative. Everybody’s bad weather commute has an element of the ridiculous.

And while I don’t really like being out in the elements it still makes the most sense to me. After all, rain is just water and a bike is just the quickest way through the mess. All weather is fair weather if you have a good raincoat.

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43 Responses to “Fair Weather”

  • I believe the often quoted comment is, ‘there’s no bad weather just bad clothes.’ The more you ride the plainer your post today is to see… Thanks Bikeyface! You’ve done it again!

    • Bob the Chef

      Tell that to Hurricane Sandy survivors. I’m sure an extra layer of raincoat and scuba diving gear would solve all of their problems.

    • Scott Wagner

      FWIW, I commuted on my bike (and ran some necessary errands as well) even as Sandy roared through my community. No form of transportation can mitigate the damage of an event like this, but that misses the point – in a less draconian storm, a bike is still a highly effective transportation tool if used with planning and intelligence.

    • LauriePB

      Actually, it was the bicycle riders that were the LEAST affected after hurricane SANDY, when car traffic and gas rationing and subway woes were disrupting almost everyone else! People were pulling their unused bikes out of the garage and basement and finding out that OMG! bicycling is EFFICIENT!

    • I moved to New York in August and it’s true that as a cyclist I was the first person in my Manhattan workplace based in Brooklyn to make it into the office after the storm. I have, however, moved to New York from London and, while I took a very robust view in London of what weather was suitable for cycling, I am mildly concerned about whether I’m going to be able to ride every day in the winter as I used to in London. I blogged about the whole issue here: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/11/whatever-weather-cyclings-proved-post.html

  • Steph VW

    Very true! I’d rather bike in the rain than wait for a bus any day.

  • Murali

    I have found that I get even more “return on investment” bicycling in rainy weather. My commute is exactly the same length, whereas the motorized communte will definitely get longer.

    I just need an extra minute or two to put on and take off the rain clothes.

    Plus, one of the reasons God made rain was for us to get a little wet occasionally.

  • Geoff Schneider

    I love riding whenever I can, but wet roads are not always safe when going downhill here in San Fran. I never trust the car drivers to see me or to act responsibly and my brakes are not as effective. A few too many close calls and I am now a weather wimp when i have steep hills to go down. When I do ride in the rain, I usually end up soaking wet with dry clothes waiting in my desk.

    • dr2chase

      Drum brakes, disk brakes. I got them pretty much for exactly that reason.

    • @Geoff: May not be an option for you right now, but disc brakes and wide tires have solved the stopping-in-wet-weather problem for me. I ride a Salsa Vaya, but discs are available on tons of bikes these days.

  • James

    I guess i am even weirder than you as i enjoy biking in the rain. even if im not wearing my rain proof clothing.

    • Matthew J

      Depends on the temperature. 80 and rain what raincoat? 40 and rain no raincoat can lead to hypothermia.

    • tiago barufi

      So I do, I love to ride in pouring rain, I ride slowly and feel really great. I don’t bother getting wet, but here the climate is mostly warm. If the latitudes was higher, things would differ.

  • Jon Webb

    When I started riding in the winter in Pittsburgh years ago I discovered that it is, indeed, all about having the right clothes. It took a while to figure out the right choices — merino wool base layers, insulated tights, gloves, etc. But now I can ride all year and it makes very little difference whether it’s warm or cold, clear, raining, or snowing.

  • Quincyclist

    This will be my 4th winter of cycle commuting in Boston. I need to psyche myself up but in the end I know I will. It’s all a matter of the clothing, as you and others point out. Incremental layering solves most of the problem, though hands are the weak spot in the bitter weather. I feel I need gloves not mittens for gripping but that means more surface area from which to lose heat. I also have rain attire except for boots; small black plastic bags are a waterproof if inelegant boot solution that serves me well (I keep several in my seat bag). As for snow and ice, I stay off the road until the streets are plowed but even then I’ve had to learn the hard way what black ice is.

    • dr2chase

      They’re noisy, slow, and demoralizing (i.e., tremendous character builder), but if you’re worried about the black ice or want to be able to go when/where you want to, there’s studded tires.

  • I’ve always enjoyed biking in bad weather. In some ways, I prefer it to everyday cycling. It gives one a sense of accomplishment when you get where you’re going using a mode of transportation that 99% of people wouldn’t even contemplate using in such weather. It’s kind of a way to separate the wheat from the chaff. The real cyclists don’t reach for their car keys just because the weather’s bad.

  • Rain yes, as long as it doesn’t freeze for me, I get on the bike. Right now it’s snowing and I haven’t got studded tires.

    • How long have people been using studded bicycle tires? I used to cycle in snow quite a bit in England and Germany in the ’80s, but I never heard of them. Is it an American thing?

      I’m not much into accessories, and I’ve never had many problems cycling in snow, so I haven’t looked into studded tires, but I keep hearing about them. I guess it would be nice to be able to cycle a bit faster in snow, but do they work?

    • dr2chase

      Since the best studded tires come from Finland, I’m not sure it is an American thing, especially given the popularity of (automobile) ice-racing in Scandinavia (yes, I learned to drive in a Saab).

      Their main advantage is on ice, not snow, and they don’t make you faster, except in the sense that not slipping and falling is faster. You get some extra grip in light snow, but as soon as it is too thick for the studs to reach through, they make no difference. If you’re only riding on roads that are competently plowed+sanded+salted, you probably don’t need them, but if you end up on roads that are merely plowed, or want to ride out to visit the ice-fishermen, or want to go out in the middle of a storm, they’re helpful. With a longer winter commute they are helpful because you never quite know what the afternoon will bring, or how sloppy the plowing was three towns over.

      And ice really is pretty near frictionless; with studs, you can feel when you hit it, because the bike speeds up a little bit. You DO NOT get full traction from studs; (from memory) at about a 38-16 gearing on ice, the back end comes loose if I stomp on the pedals. You have to be much more careful when braking; if you’re not comfortable locking up your front wheel, it’s rear wheel only. For example (notice the paired scratches, from and rear): http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr2chase/6267972404/in/photostream/lightbox/

    • I must admit, although I’ve never used any studs or chains on my tires, and although I’ve done quite a bit of ice/snow riding, I’ve never fallen on snow or ice. Slipped, sure, but fallen, no. I think mostly that must have something to do with the speed I go on ice, which is very slow – so slow that I’m easily able to put a foot down to stop a fall. I seriously doubt that I have any special ice-cycling powers. I guess I must be a very conservative cyclist.

      Since I don’t fall, is there any use to these for someone like me?

    • dr2chase

      Your experience is completely backwards from mine — only time I fell on ice was going very slowly — but if you are happy without them, I would leave well enough alone. Even with the sometimes-icy bike trail, 95% of the time they are not necessary. Otherwise, they’re noisy, slow, and expensive, and you’re some hundreds of miles south of Boston, right?

    • I am now. But we still get snow and ice occasionally, and this year, I get the feeling that we’re in for a real winter.

    • dr2chase

      @IBC – if you do intend to try them, I can give you some recommendations.

      Don’t bother with chains unless you are only riding in thick snow. I followed instructions on the internet to make some ( http://www.cs.hmc.edu/~ben/chains/ ), and they worked as advertised, but the vibration on pavement was insane. I was afraid I might chip a tooth, never mind what it was (rapidly) doing to my hands.

      Peter White’s got pretty good information at his site about studded tires, and his prices are good ( http://peterwhitecycles.com/studdedtires.asp ). I can add the following: http://dr2chase.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/snow-tire-review/

  • Brian

    Yup. Cold rain is actually easier — I can just put the rain gear on over my regular work clothes. Warm rain is annoying. Waterproof bags (I use a SeaLine kayaking duffel) are also key.

  • Scott Wagner

    I rather enjoy rainy day commutes, except for the days when the temperature is just above freezing and the nasty, gluey, frigid raindrops drill into my face like cold needles. Otherwise, the rain (or snow) is refreshing and puts an entirely different glimmer on the world through which I ride.

    Yesterday and today, visiting Seattle, I rode in the region’s hallmark November rain, joining hundreds of other yellow slicker clad cyclists busily making their way through the city. In particular, I was impressed by the sight of scores of blinky-light bikes with yellow-clad riders emerging in a large phalanx from the Seattle ferries through the pre-dawn gloom. Nobody seemed to even notice the rain!

  • I think wet weather commuting is all relative: relative to your tolerances, safety, bike, clothing, and commute. What works for some doesn’t work for others. I’m glad that Bikeface found her happy gound.

  • As my daughter visiting from Scotland says TX Fall is like Edinburgh high summer, we are just getting to the point where we can actually wear rain gear without getting heat prostration (and wetter than we would without the rain gear). I ride in anything short of a hurricane as far as winds are concerned, and light rain without waterproof gear. Moderate to heavy rain is dependent on outside ambient temperature, as TX people keep their A/C turned to way too low a temperature to get wet during the summer whether from rain or sweat from wearing rain gear. If it’s cold enough to wear rain gear without sweating then I wear rain gear in moderate to heavy rains and ride in same. Or if I have a dry change of clothes at my destination I ride in moderate to heavy rains when it’s too warm to wear rain gear.

  • Robbie craig

    Normally able to cycle to work I all weathers. Currently 40mph winds on south coast. So I am afraid that I wimped it an drove to the station. We all have limits…

  • Samhy

    Usually, like you, I prefer biking to other ways to commute when it’s raining. But, now that the days are getting shorter, I always feel that everyone thinks I’m on a suicide mission. The combinaison of night and rain seems not safe (I mean even less safe than the usual perception of “riding a bike is so dangerous”). So sometimes, I take mass transports for peace of mind.
    Oh, and what drivers don’t realize is that a rainy day doesn’t mean it’s going to rain all day long ;)

    By the way, I’m curious regarding your galoshes. Do you keep them all day? Do you have spare shoes at work? I might buy some one day.

    • “But, now that the days are getting shorter, I always feel that everyone thinks I’m on a suicide mission.”

      Yeah, but you know you’re not, right? So it’s fun.

      Unless you think you ARE on a suicide mission. In which case, the bad guys have won.

    • Samhy

      “Yeah, but you know you’re not, right?”
      Yes, I know I’m not. I’m perfectly happy and looking forward to the next day :)

      “So it’s fun.”
      Well, when it leads to have to convince again and again the ones you live with that you’ll indeed come back home safe and sound, the fun part is not that obvious. One step at a time as it’s said and honestly it’s getting a little bit better.

      Have a good ride everyone!

    • Well, if the ones you live with buy into the ‘cycling is deadly’ propaganda, you probably need to show them the statistics, which are cited and interpreted here:

      http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm

  • Lee Hollenbeck

    I love my Showers Pass rain jacket, perfect for me.

  • Patrick Cafferty

    Wow – way to miss the point, Bob. There’s a pretty big difference between a rainy day and a hurricane. It must be awfully tough to be you.

  • Studded tires are popular in our city area, Alberta for those who cycle through ice and snow. You can hear those tires crunching along on pavement.

    I cycle only on dry pavement during winter. I haven’t yet bough studded tires, but my partner uses his set.

  • Heather

    Hee hee. All you need is the right gear. As miserable as it must look, with the right gear I’m usually cozy, and then happy to be cycling and get warmed up. Cycling is usually faster than driving or taking public transit. If I go into the city, I have to take transit. Once I get in from the boonie bus and go to get the next bus, I will keep walking until the bus finally comes. No way can I handle standing and waiting especially in the cold. I don’t know why more people don’t do that. In urban centres bus stops are every 1 to 2 blocks so just keep an eye out for buses and keep going. Normally buses come every so many minutes, but sometimes they get backed up or delayed. I recently covered 6+ blocks and a major bridge before the bus finally arrived. If everyone did that instead of standing for 30+ minutes, they’d be much healthier.
    One thing for drivers to consider: I know it must be sooo boring to be in a car which is basically a house on wheels with heat, couch, music, even dvd players, but can you slow down a bit and give cyclists a break, let them go when they have the right of way? We’re out in the cold getting wet, it’s dark, and just want to keep riding to stay warm! It takes seconds for you to slow down for cyclists, and then you can speed up again. I try to follow the rules of the road etc but still get cut off time and time again. I’ve got the lights, I try to make eye contact, but still invisible or not important enough to slow down for.

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