Oops, It Rained. What Now?

Riding in the rain is not as bad as you might think – and it doesn’t rain so often in Oregon as it seems about to rain or has just finished raining.

Here are some basics you need to make your experience comfortable and even fun. But watch your wallet, if you’re not careful it will cost you. I suggest that you phase into bike gear purchases, so I also offer lower cost ideas and options.

Fenders ($30/$65 un/installed) No questions asked, you need them anywhere it rains. Fenders make it so that anytime it isn’t actively raining, you don’t need to wear rain gear. Plus, they keep your bike cleaner.

I wear layers because you don’t know when the sun will come out or when it will pour. I wear wool and silk (which stay warm when wet) and, only if it’s actively raining hard, a rain jacket and pants, it keeps you dry and most people like it.

Jacket ($10 – $130) Wool or fleece jackets breathe and keep out the rain, and can be gotten for cheap at Goodwill; if you don’t sweat much and aren’t going far, try an old-fashioned slicker; REI and bike shops have great rain gear selections. One very good local company is Showers Pass.

Pants ($0 – $80) I prefer to change pants, I wear shorts or wool trousers to keep warm. But, rain pants are inevitable if you ride to meetings and hot dates.

Glasses ($10 – $125) Glasses really help keep the rain off your eyeballs. I also like a helmet with a plastic brim – it keeps my face dry, keeps drops off my glasses, and keeps the sun out of my eyes when it decides to finally come out.

Shoes I have yet to find the right boots, but I prefer leather with a Gortex lining. If you have any boots that go above the ankle, they will help keep your socks dry. Shoe covers (“booties”) work to keep your shoes clean and dry.

Gloves Use cheap wool gloves, use fancy gortex gloves, use groovy leather gloves. It’s a question of taste and budget. One cheap way to waterproof ordinary wool or fleece gloves is dishwashing gloves.

Rack and panniers ($25-$200) In the summer I ride without a rack, but in the rain I prefer a bike rack and water proof bike bags. Another local option, and favorite are the City Bikes Buckets; reused, recycled!
It also gets dark earlier now, don’t forget your lights!

Where to Buy?
I buy from local bike shops, or from a handful of favorite west coast on-line stores. They are all knowledgeable, employ cyclists, and carry the best gear.


Comments (15)

  1. Cecil Permalink  | Sep 20, 2006 01:13pm

    Craft raingear – it breathes, it keeps you dry, it keeps you warm, and you don’t drown in your own accumulated sweat. Yeah, it costs an arm and a leg, but it is worth it.

  2. Dave Permalink  | Jan 10, 2007 09:15am

    One word: Goodwill…If you keep an eye open when you go there, you can find just about anything you need for winter riding. Be creative!

  3. Jerry Permalink  | Apr 04, 2007 06:14pm

    The url for Burley is misspelled, but no matter since there’s no evidence on their site that they sell anything but trailers.

  4. Jessica Roberts Permalink  | Jun 29, 2008 09:09am

    Burley stopped selling rain jackets. Word on the street is that local company Showers Pass is the next best thing, but they are so expensive! I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy one.

  5. Keith Permalink  | Aug 29, 2008 12:06pm

    Nikwax makes many products designed to waterproof garments that have lost their water repellency or were never intended to be waterproof. I used their Cotton Proof on a Carhartt canvas coat and water beads up and rolls off like a real raincoat. The treatment also did not change the look or feel of the fabric or lining. That waterproofing treatment has lasted for well over a year and shows no sign of deteriorating.
    Anyway, Nikwax makes several treatments (wash-in and spray-on) for almost any kind of fabric or leather. Also, Nikwax products are water based and environmentally sound. So take that old wind breaker or fleece and turn it into a rain shell for a few bux!!

  6. Keith Permalink  | Aug 29, 2008 12:22pm

    As far as booties…I commute 25mi/day and like using clip-in pedals. However, I hate the fact that my feet get soaked in the rain. Years ago my mom made me a rain suit including some booties that slipped over your toe and velcro’d around the heel. They provided full coverage except for the sole. She got the pattern at the Rain Shed in Corvallis, OR and I contacted them the other day. They still have that pattern so I am going to make some more now that I am riding again. This should keep me from having to buy a pair of dedicated rain shoes with SPD cleats. I can also shove the booties in my seatbag in case I get caught in a downpour.

  7. hildebe Permalink  | Sep 08, 2008 01:33pm

    I recommend either a single speed bike or internal hub 3-speed type bike for the rain. 5, 10, 15, 21 etc. speed bikes have gears that work by means of external sprockets which can get gummed up with a lot of grit in the rain. If you go on craigslist or other used merchandise resources you can find a usable single speed or 3-speed.

  8. Fenger Permalink  | Sep 12, 2008 04:50pm

    I think riding in the rain is one of the best parts of bike commuting!

    I would have to say two key elements to not skimp on are a rain coat & rain pants…

    1) Rain Coat – Loose fitting, light, with vents… there is nothing worse than riding in 65 degree rain w/out a vented jacket. Also you’ll find yourself wearing your jacket for 6-9 months, its Oregon.

    2) Rain Pants – Preferably single layer Gore-tex, Something with side leg zippers. Why See #1.

    The price points for these items vary greatly, but just keep in mind its something that your going to wear a lot. I’ve had my rain gear 6 years now. Consider it an investment, better gear will make you more willing to ride and not drive… thus saving you money.

  9. Buglas Permalink  | Sep 25, 2008 07:38am

    I see nothing here about timing. This article starts with the observation that it is frequently about to rain or has just finished raining. A fellow cyclist at work gave me this link yesterday:
    It offers current radar images and with the looping option selected gives you an idea of what direction and how fast things are movng. With a quick glance at the radar map I can see if I want to ride right now or if a fifteen minute delay may offer better conditions. This works well for me in Corvallis. You may be able to find better ones for the Portland metro area.

  10. Brian Permalink  | Nov 05, 2008 03:57pm

    I have found that Accuweather provides a nice hourly forecast feature that provides a nice view of when to expect the rain during the day.

    I have also found that my cross country ski gear works quite well for riding my bike. I wear hiking boots with Gortex. The boots get wet but my feet stay dry. I have not tried riding with my gaiters but they would only cover the top half of my boots. My socks stay dry as long as I cover my ankles and I wear wool socks so they at least dry out quickly and don’t remain soggy if they do get wet.

  11. Louis Permalink  | Sep 02, 2009 08:46am

    Maintaining dry feet and keeping one’s core warm during winter months are my main priorities. I use booties for my clipless cycling shoes. I also wear a bright yellow, water-resistant vest to keep my core warm and dry. When the rain really picks up, I zip on the sleeves (which are always in my bag) and pass through the rain without getting soaked. As for pants, I have never had a good experience with rain pants and instead use cycling shorts, with long polypro underwear when it’s cold. Rain pants tend to vapor lock moisture from the inside, making it hotter and actually wetter than being exposed directly to the rain. Remember, the only thing that’s water proof is your skin. Also, purchase some fenders that can be attached with rubber clips; this allows you to remove them during nice weeks, permitting less drag and weight. Scott is right. When you prepare, riding in the rain is wonderful. The view from Hawthorne bridge when the sun rises through the fog can be momentous.

  12. Barbara Permalink  | Sep 05, 2009 01:46pm

    Thanks for this bit of info. As a fair-weather bike commuter who is hoping to increase my bike riding this year, simple tips like — get fenders and a brim for the helmet are very helpful.

  13. Peter Buck Permalink  | Sep 08, 2009 06:42am

    GoreTex socks beat booties for keeping my feet warm and dry when it’s wet. They go on over your normal socks and inside your shoes. They’re also lighter and less bulky for packing in a bike bag and they fit inside practically any shoes while booties are hard to find for mountain bike shoes or anything larger.

  14. Dave H Permalink  | Sep 16, 2009 09:57am

    Good raingear is not cheap, ’tis true (#4), but if you shop in May, you might find a good deal when bike shops are trying to get rid of their end of the season stock. That’s how I got my latest Showers Pass jacket and rain pants, at 20-40% off. Won’t do you any good now, I realize, but plan ahead

    I find booties to be especially essential *after* it has rained a lot. Even if it’s not actively raining, if there is a lot of standing water in the bike lane (all too common b/c of bad drainage), your feet can get completely soaked.

    While GoreTex socks are probably great (#13), I’m not sure how they could do *better* than booties. With booties that completely cover my shoes and go under my rain pants, my feet don’t get wet — at all.

    Re: Keith’s comment (#6), some bootie styles for sale do have the open sole, so if people aren’t up for sewing their own, these are available.

    I’d never trade my 21-speed for a 3-speed, even in the rain (#7). If your chain and gears start getting dirty or “gummed up”, wash them periodically and then apply plenty of lube. Works great.

    Finally, I want to second Fenger’s comments (#8). Good raingear is a valuable long-term investment. I wore my first rain jacket and rain pants for seven Oregon winters of daily commuting. Even at $100+, that’s good value/year. And if you compare the price of raingear to auto maintenance costs, it’s no contest at all.

  15. Joe Tilman Permalink  | Aug 29, 2013 08:24pm

    Surprised to not see rain capes on the list. Similar to ponchos, but made for bicyclists, keeps you (mostly) dry, and allows much better air flow. But…not for the fashion conscious…