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Basic Ways to Stay Dry this Winter & Spring

by Bike Shop Girl

Rear Velo Orange Fender

The snow is melting outside which will leave me for a wet commute to work into the morning.. Here are the basic ways I keep dry during the rainy season.

  • Fenders – Full coverage fenders are best but even a race style fender that clips on and off quickly will keep the mud off your back and a good amount of water out of your shoes.
  • Plastic garbage or freezer bags – I’ll reuse either a plastic grocery bag or a gallon freezer Ziplock bag over my socks, prior to putting my feet into my shoes.. Make sure the bags are tall enough to be pulled up under your pants.. If wearing spandex with knee warmers I’ll put another pair of tall wool socks over the plastic bags, this is mainly to keep the plastic out of my chain and chainrings.. *This helps cut down on the cold from wind as well
  • Wool – It keeps you warm even if it gets wet and doesn’t soak up the water as much as cotton.
  • Messenger Bag or Backpack – As long as you don’t overheat with the bag on your back, it normally will keep some rain off your back if its a short distance.
  • Huge Garbage Bags – A couple times I’ve ridden to work with no need or thought of rain over clothes and had to ride home with two huge garbage bags on my body.. One of them for the top with holes for my arms, and one on the bottom with two holes for legs.. Properly duck taped together of course!

What are some basic ways you keep dry?

 
The Chariot Summer Sale - 2013

23 Responses to “Basic Ways to Stay Dry this Winter & Spring”

  1. Sean says:

    Wet, cold feet are the worst, so around here we add a “friender” to our fenders – i.e. an extra wide and long flap added to the bottom of our fenders. The rear one almost drags on the ground, front one is extra wide to help keep the BB and feet dry. We fashion them out of anything – milk jugs, mouse pads, old footbeds, etc. It’s best to attach them with some pop rivets and/or contruction adhesive.

    I have also had great success with SealSkinz Chillblocker socks . They are fleece lined and waterproof but may be used in a layering system. I personally use a Smartwool sock, Sealskinz, Shimano cycling boots, then a shoe cover. This keeps my feet dry and warm and the worst of times (-20C)

    I use a messenger bag and it does keep my lower back warm and dry. While the panels are made of “waterproof” lined cordura, the compartment under the flap isn’t completely sealed off so I put my clothes and laptop in one of those super big, heavy duty ziplock bags. They are light blue, heavier duty plastic, pretty cheap and can be reused virtually forever.

  2. BluesCat says:

    A couple of weeks ago I would have been a Smart “A” and said “Move to Phoenix!” But almost a year’s worth of rain in four days at the end of January shut me up.

    Layers. Of wool or a stinky synthetic. That’s the key to keeping warm and dry, no matter what your riding equipment is. Think “backpacking clothes.”

  3. Bike Shop Girl says:

    Great feedback guys! I’m going to look into those Sealskinz. The thing I absolutely hate the most are cold, wet, feet.

    Keep up the comments

  4. GentleStove says:

    I have SealSkinz, and since they aren’t breathable, my feet sweat in them like crazy. The result is still wet, but not soaked, feet. :)

  5. Matt says:

    Where I am (VA) there’s very few times I need to bike in a downpour. The rest of the time, I don’t really worry about getting wet much – as long as my work clothes are protected, I’m generally OK.

    On the way home from work, it doesn’t matter how wet it is – I can just change and put clothes in the wash. As long as I’m warm enough, it’s fine.

  6. Thomas Brock says:

    I’m a big fan of layers, whether it’s socks, pants or shirts/jerseys/jackets.

    I’m not a big fan of bike-specific clothing, so I’m usually wearing some sort of mish-mash of warm clothes.

    When it’s raining and cold, I often have on a set of athletic warmup pants and shirt under windpants (insulated) and athletic shirt/jersey. If it’s really cold, I’ll wear a cheap WalMart “parka”. It works great and was $25. If it’s just chilly, I’ll wear a fleece and Livestrong wind jacket.

    I’ve done the bags on feet stuff before. I’ve been warned that keeping them wrapped that way may lead to athlete’s foot or other fungus, but haven’t had any issues.

    I use ziptop bags and plastic grocery bags to wrap any valuables to keep them safe and dry in rainy weather. I want a better rack bag, but until I save up some money (just dropped $200 on having the flat bars replaced with drops, ergo brake levers and bar-cons), I’ll have to make what I have work.

    My bike has Planet Bike fenders and there’s a definite improvement in dryness since I got them.

    Thanks for keeping this site running! It’s a great resource.

  7. Johnny says:

    Don’t be afraid to spend a few $ on some decent rain gear. If you are going to be an all weather commuter, do it right the first time. The difference between being comfortable & miserable is sometimes just a little water.
    * Fenders are a must
    * Buy a high quality rain jacket (Showers Pass are very nice). Nicer ones cost more because they not only keep you dry, but also they don’t trap heat (which makes you sweat).
    * Same for pants. Look for ones made of polyester instead of nylon and an articulated knee. Also, different upper vs. lower material.
    * Use booties to keep your feet dry & clean
    * I like a cycling cap under my helmet to keep the rain off my face
    * I’ve stopped trying to find a glove that is comfortable in all different types of conditions. I just use a wool liner under cheap LG road gloves. My hands get wet, but stay comfy
    * Have fun… attitude is everything in the rain

  8. Eric says:

    +1 on getting some rain gear, not only is it great for rainy days, but even really cold days when you layer up.

    Reading Johnny’s post, I think I need new rain gear, the cheap stuff I have traps heat and is like an oven after a few minutes of riding. Which is ok for my 20min commute on really cold days, but if I ride across town I’m a wet mess underneath which is asking to be really cold once I stop.

    Eric
    http://www.thebikesaddle.com

  9. J. Ryan says:

    Living just south of Tampa you’d think that the winters would be warm and dry, but they aren’t. Actually, they’re usually dry, just not this year thanks to El Nino.

    I have cloths for cold weather riding, just not cold WET weather riding. I’m having a hard time keeping dry without buying a bunch of new waterproof cold weather gear. I like the plastic bag over your socks idea though. I think I’ll try that. I can suffer through the rest, but I hate having wet cold feet.

    All my stuff gets carried Ortlieb waterproof panniers, so I don’t have to worry about that. I always keep my cellphone in a ziploc bag in my front pocket in case of an emergency.

  10. Mark Muller says:

    For feet, I prefer gore-tex lined hiking boots. I got some on clearance at REI and have found they work great. While hiking, anything shallower than nearly the top of the boot, and my feet stay dry. While riding, I haven’t managed to get my feet wet yet, and they seem to breathe at least a little bit. I couple them with wool socks. In fact I wear wool socks year round. Very thin wool dress socks are great for warm weather.

    For legs, I like fast drying nylon pants. They won’t keep you dry, but they will dry off in a hurry once you get wherever you are going. Make sure you also wear fast drying underwear. For tops, I have had good luck with wool baselayers, but I need a better jacket – something waterproof, but light and breathable so I don’t overheat.

  11. Soulfull Commuter says:

    At least for the cool and cold weather I am all set. In the fall I was making a Christmas list. I had some new rain gear on the list but it was about in the middle and I knew I would probably not get that much stuff from my loving wife and kids. Then I rode home through what was left of Hurricane Ida. When I got home I moved the rain gear to the top of the list. On Christmas morning a screaming yellow Pearl Izumi Slice jacket and some IllumiNITE Rain Pants were all mine.

  12. dukiebiddle says:

    Overshoes. I got my rubber overshoes for $20 from an army surplus store. 100% effective. And for gloves: rubberized cloth gloves from the hardware store for $8, oversized so I can wear liners underneath. Also 100% effective. Combine these with rain pants, hooded raincoat, a generous visor, fenders and a front mudflap and you’ll get to work dry even in the worst monsoon.

  13. I carry extra plastic bags — grocery sized and kitchen sized — both for feet and for belongings. I ride an Xtracycle Radish and don’t have waterproof panniers to depend on. A grocery bag is also handy for covering your seat while you run in somewhere.

    Also, don’t forget to turn your lights on — even in the daytime!

  14. J. Ryan says:

    I second the turning on your lights even during daylight hours statement!

  15. Kevin Love says:

    Here is how I keep dry. My Pashley has:

    *Full fenders
    *Chaincase
    *Coatguard

    And I wear a rain jacket.

    I’ve thought about getting a Yehuda Moon style poncho, but so far it hasn’t gone much beyond thought.

  16. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    My winter/foul weather commuter/utility bike is a Trek L200. It also have full fenders w/mud flap, full chaincase and a coatguard. I also upgraded the lights to hub generator (never worry about saving batteries).

    Then in rain I use my english cycling rain cape and in the winter it gets studded tires…

    I am the most lazy fast cyclist out there.. Like Kevin Love with his Pashley, we just hop on and ride…. in any weather!

  17. Johnny says:

    It’s funny people mention feet over & over. For me I can have my head totally soaked and not mind, but wet feet and i’m miserable. I tried the plastic sack thing and probably did it wrong. What ended up happening is water got in over the top and down into my feet. The plastic bag did a real nice job holding water in. It was horrible. I started riding without anything for a long time, but that is really hard on shoes and you’re constantly trying to dry them out. The best thing I have found is the Sugoi booties like these: http://www.sugoi.com/usa/eng/Products/Bike/Men/Details/1526-95050U-Resistor-Bootie
    They weren’t terribly expensive and fit OK over my MTB shoes. I’m sure PI & other brands work just as well. I bought these at the recommendation of a LBS person and they work well enough.

    Oh, and good wool socks are the best gift a cyclist can get. Cotton is just not anywhere near as nice.

  18. John Smith says:

    Lake used to make a fuzzy winter cycling glove (sort of like black grover hands) they didn’t look like they would be weatherproof – but they really are (cold/wet/whatever). I don’t often get them out since I need bright colors on my turn signals, so usually I wear the Manzella Hatchback (the high-viz model has a flare yellow flap in nylon which covers the glove turning it into a water-resistant yellow mitten).

    I certainly agree with the comment about investing in shells – I run a Mountain Hardwear shell in the winter and couldn’t be happier with it’s performance in the weather. I switch to it early since the breathability of it makes it more comfortable in rainy November than my lighter-weight Columbia rain jacket (which is just for Summer packability really).

    Pants – I really like the Frogg Toggs, the material is quite stiff and tear resistant. Stiff is good for rain gear in my opinion – it increases the airspace which remains inside the suit during use and minimizes the contact area where the fabric is laying on the next layer down. There are two main benefits from this (1) it feels less “wet” than comparable soft draping material (2) in extreme cold it is warmer. I would compare the warmth of these pants to my Burton snowboard shell pants.

    I have always wanted to try the Lake winter cycling shoes they just look so bombproof. I normally go with a Gore-Tex Danner work boot (non-steel toe) they are heavy but I am a big guy and I like the locked-on feel they give with BMX platforms. My commute is at best half dirt and so the clunkers can come in handy.

  19. John Smith says:

    Oh – and the helmet. I have switched to a Black Diamond Half-Dome Climbing helmet for the winter since it is low-profile and I can pull up the hood of my parka over it. That just takes the head right out of the equation – even leaving the house with hair still wet on a 5 degree morning.

    I am curious on community opinion of the climbing helmet option (or non-option). I did the switch hesitantly, but it is just soooo much nicer being able to hood over it!

  20. paul says:

    I’ve used the black rubbish bag tip when I got caught out in the reain once. Now I just make sure I buy specific cycling gear designed to cope with the rain. I never leave the house without a set of waterproofs in my bag. In England we can expect rain any time.

  21. Columbus commuter says:

    When there is any chance of rain, I carry a rain jacket, rain pants, neoprene booties and a hat with a bill in my pannier. I have a rain cover for my pannier as well. My bike also has full fenders. This does not keep me absolutely dry- water inevitably seeps in somewhere- but dry enough.

  22. RICK says:

    Being wet and riding does not sound good. Here in Tucson, Az where I live rain is not a big issue. So mostly I just skip when it rains. To see some of the issues I do have take a look at my blog at http://www.ricksbikeblog.wordpress.com
    Thanks, Rick

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