Esplanade closure begins February 1st

What are your best tips for staying warm and dry?

Posted by on October 22nd, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Rider in the storm.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)r

OK folks, it has begun. After an unnaturally long spell of dry and sunny weather, some wet and cold weather is here. This morning’s commute was probably the toughest one since the end of last winter. While I’d love to think that we all pay it no mind and continue on our merry biking ways, it does have an impact.

The bikeways are much less crowded than they were just a few weeks ago. Last week was the lowest count of trips on the Hawthorne Bridge recorded since the new counter went in back in August and Saturday’s 1,536 trips was the lowest ever recorded. But, as a photo shared by the BTA this morning shows, lots of folks are still riding!

For those of you who press on through the darkness, wetness, and the cold, what are your secrets?

I know there’s a group of you out there on the fence. You’ve gotten into riding and you’re committed; but without a bit of encouragement and gear advice, you might just hop on the bus, on the train, or — gasp! — get in your car.

I figure if we can share enough of the latest and greatest advice on gear and clothing, and share some encouraging words, we just might help a bunch of people keep on riding. One thing I’ve learned from doing this blog the past seven years is that well-timed information and inspiration can do great things. We had a bunch of great tips shared last time we did this back in January, but I figure it’s time for an update.

So, let’s have it.

Is wool still a rain rider’s best friend?
Poncho or jacket?
Do you prefer to get wet and stay warm or stay dry and overheat?
What about the kids? (Do bike trains still run in the rain?)
Where can I get a rain cover for my bakfiets?
Who makes the best fenders?

Thanks for sharing your tips and advice. If this works, we’ll see a lot more people smiling in the rain like our friend Joel…

BTA New Year's Day Ride-23

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  • Mike October 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Embro on the legs of course. Nothing worse than soggy leg and knee warmers sapping the heat out of your kickers.

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    • Gary Charles October 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      What is embro?

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      • Randall S. October 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm

        It’s short for Embrocation. It’s stuff (usually a cream) that you rub on your legs to keep them warm.

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        • Spiffy October 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm

          gross! I wouldn’t want that rubbing around in my pants while I’m walking around work all day… and wouldn’t it attract dirt to my clothes?

          I guess it’s something more for competitive cycling than for getting to work… *shrug*

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          • A.K. October 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm

            Yeah it’s for long, wet, cold training and racing rides. Wouldn’t be worth the application for a 30-odd minute ride to the office.

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      • Over and Doubt October 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm

        When worlds collide–within the allegedly monolithic “bike community,” no less.

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  • Art Fuldodger October 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    A helmet cover.

    Warmth & dryness & ultra-dorkiness, all wrapped up in one hideous but functional package.

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    • Mike Fish October 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      I just put duct tape/electrical tape over the vents when the rains start and take it off in July.

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  • Ed October 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Did my 7-mi commute this AM in my new Showers Pass Hybrid Zipoff pants, which cost me a little over $80. As advertised, not water “proof”. My legs did feel wet. But I was never cold and they were almost dry by the time I got to the locker room. My 10-yr-old REI jacket is waterproof, and I’ve always worn 1-3 layers underneath that. I wear a beanie under my helmet, which has a visor to keep some of the rain off my glasses, when it gets a bit colder than this. I previously wore a pair of tights kind of like my new pants, rain “resistant” and providing insulation even when wet, ’til they started to seaparate at the crotch. I’ve got Keen bike shoes and cheap shoe covers. Total investment in rain gear might come to $20-$30 per yr. I’ve always found that the fear of discomfort I get when seeing and hearing the rain otuside on awakening is never matched by the actual experience when riding in it. Once I’ve ridden the first mile or so equipped as above, I’m always feeling pretty comfortable and glad I got on my bike instead of in my car.

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    • 9watts October 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      well said:
      “I’ve always found that the fear of discomfort I get when seeing and hearing the rain otuside on awakening is never matched by the actual experience when riding in it.”

      ear warmers from (made right here in Portland – purchased at bikecraft)
      I’d like to know more about that ten year old REI jacket that is still water proof. Mine leaks like a sieve. What product works to re-seal those? Any tips?

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      • Ed October 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm

        The jacket does leak a bit, maybe not “like a sieve,” given enough rain and wind. But then my torso will simply match what’s happened below the waist, where the pants weren’t waterproof to begin with. But I’m still insulated, not cold, and seldom wet enough to be uncomfortable. My commute is only 30-40 min. If I were that wet for much longer, I might be less sanguine about the experience.

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      • Jeremy Cohen October 23, 2012 at 9:27 pm

        9watts: it depends on the specific type of jacket, but for lots of “gore-tex” and similar fabrics I use “tech-wash” which I use in my machine and then dry the jacket (and pants or whatever other waterproof breathables I washed with it) on medium heat. The heat of the dryer alone can often “reset” the wp/b fabric by shrinking back any pores that have gotten bigger than the water vapor they are supposed to let out. Another idea is to use TX-Direct on the outside of the jacket–it puts the DWR (Durable Water Repellancy) back on which causes much of the water to bead up and roll off instead of penetrating the fabric. I’d give it the $10 treatment before I sprung for a new $100 jacket….

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  • John Lascurettes October 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I definitely prefer a wool base layer over synthetics (they work better and stink less). And if it’s only sprinkling, I’ll opt to get a bit damp but not overheated over getting soggy from the inside out from heat. I only put on the unbreathable shells when it’s pouring and then I slow way down to avoid overheating (which probably has the added benefit of giving vehicle drivers longer reaction times with their limited visibility too).

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    • Greg October 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm

      I like wool’s performance, however, the increasing number of holes over the years makes it not worth the price for me.

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  • Ian October 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Wearing a cycling cap under my helmet works well for me. The bill helps keep rain out of my eyes (though you still need glasses for heavy rain) and keeps rain off my scalp.

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  • michael downes October 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    After six years in Portland I have concluded that Gore-Tex sucks when it’s mild & wet. Rain water smells better than sweat so might as well just get wet. My biggest whine is the rainwater that runs of my sleeves & shoulders and accumulates in my ‘waterproof’ gloves.

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    • pengo October 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      Wear the sleeves of your jacket over the cuffs of your gloves.

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      • owen October 23, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        and wear rubber dishwashers’ gloves–functional and glamorous.

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  • resopmok October 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Wool ear covering cycle cap under helmet, Showers Pass touring jacket, wool liners with fingerless gloves, Rainlegs chaps, regular socks and mountain shoes (with an extra pair of socks in the bag), 700×28 Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, SKS chromoplastic fenders with 1/2 water bottles for mudguards (requires a little extra work). The mudguards, especially on the front wheel, are of supreme importance in keeping your feet and drivetrain cleaner and dryer. The rear mudguard is for the courtesy of your fellow riders. Chaps help your legs breathe better than full pants while fenders keep the backs of your legs dry. And lights – it doesn’t matter how wet you are on the way to the hospital. I run 41×15 on a Surly Cross-Check fixie.

    I have a pair of Showers Pass full rain pants and a pair of shoe covers for when it really downpours or is extra cold. For longer, non-commute rides, I usually swap the jacket out for a long-sleeve Underarmour shirt.

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    • rain bike October 23, 2012 at 6:59 am

      Agree on Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires – been VERY happy with mine.

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    • AG October 23, 2012 at 7:31 am

      thanks for mentioning the rear fender as courtsey to your fellow riders! The worst is being sprayed by someone’s rooster tail. Please fellow riders, show some respect!

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      • Hugh Johnson October 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm

        Don’t follow so close.

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        • kerry October 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm

          I should hang way back at every stoplight? This is city commuting, man! You can easily be in a rooster tail without being a jerk.

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      • Ty October 24, 2012 at 5:28 pm

        The rear fender is actually pretty important in keeping spray and road debris off of your back.

        Roosters aren’t usually a problem because it is difficult to follow someone closely (at least for very long) at a speed where it gets tall enough to spray you.

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    • Scott October 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Where do you get bicycle chaps ? They seem hard to find …..

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    • Emily October 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      I have some of those chaps but they fit me weird. They are called unisex but I think they fit a man’s body better.

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  • Dave October 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    It depends on your needs and specific situation, but I love wool. Wool cap (with brim, so water drips in front of my face instead of running down it), wool sweater, wool pants, wool socks, then throw a poncho over. Good water-resistant shoes. I basically stay dry except for my head and the bottom 6 inches of my legs, unless it’s really torrential. Then just take the poncho off and you’re on your way.

    It works for me, but then, I don’t have to arrive everywhere completely dry all the time, and I have time/space to dry the poncho when I’m not using it. And I’m rarely out in the rain for more than 30 minutes at a time.

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    • Sbrock October 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      Dave, any hot… I mean dry tips on ponchos?

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      • Dave October 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm

        I’ve used the nylon ponchos from The Monkey King on Hawthorne (there’s also one over here in NW Portland), and those have worked pretty well. They’re cheap (I think $10) sturdy and basically waterproof, and they have a hood. The one issue is that a lot of water runs off of it, so you should make sure to wear something on your feet that can get wet.

        My current poncho is fabric, so it absorbs more water and not as much runs off, but of course it does saturate after a while, maybe 25 min in a heavy rain.

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        • Jessie October 23, 2012 at 8:41 am

          How thick and heavy is your fabric poncho. I’m planning to make one out of oil cloth. I’ve tried some lite weight ones, but I’m a small person and not the “most” that the one size is usually recommended to fit… Anyhow, I’m worried it will be bulky to pack around especially when wet.

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          • Dave October 23, 2012 at 10:19 am

            It’s definitely bulkier than most synthetic rain gear, but I can fold it up and stuff it in my shoulder bag, so I always have it with me. I’m fortunate in that I never really have cause to carry it around while it’s soaked, though it is a little bulkier and somewhat heavier when soaked.

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          • Trina October 23, 2012 at 8:59 pm

            Dave’s poncho is made out of a Burberry Raincoat fabric remnant ($12/yard, score!) I picked up at The Mill End Store a few years ago. It’s rain resistant to soaking all the way through for a pretty good amount of time out in the rain, but still soaks up some water so there isn’t as much running off in huge streams down your legs. It’s about as heavy as sturdy cotton canvas, a little heavier once it gets good and wet. It seems to dry pretty well by the end of his workday/overnight so it’s ready for the next rainy ride. The nice thing is i remember his lightweight $10 special poncho being a little prone to flipped up if there was wind while this one stays put.

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            • Dan V October 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

              I would recommend the DWR spray at REI to make the fabric more water-resistant; it has pulled much of my rainwear back from the dead.

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      • Alex Reed October 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

        I use a Carradice “rain cape” – pretty much the same thing as a poncho, but with straps hanging down inside that you hang onto while also holding your handlebars. Allows for less flapping when it’s windy. It cost a lot more than $10 – may have been $60? It’s quite durable, though.

        I have the ugly fluorescent yellow synthetic version; there’s also a nicer-looking (but nigh invisible at night) dark grey waxed cotton version. Both were available at Citybikes on Ankeny when I bought mine.

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  • Paul Manson October 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    As I’ve gotten a bit older I’ve moved from the full embrace of rain model to a more geared up one. The embrace model is to just put shorts on, a warm top and get soaked. Then change where you arrive. Now I try to use rain pants and jackets, and some slower riding, to arrive dry and dressed to go. Both are only partially successful!

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  • Max D October 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    My Showers Pass Portland jacket has only leaked in the most severe downpour, and the water may have just been dripping in down my neck, arms, etc. It is a bit too warm for the55 degree and warmer days, but very reliable.

    I also have rain pants and neoprene booties, but these are about 7 years old and they do not offer much protection anymore. For what it is worth, I have been on the fence about either
    1) replacing them or
    2) getting some cycling shoes, wool socks and tights and just changing at work.
    The issue for me is wanting to minimize the amount of junk I am hauling to work every day in addition to lunch and a few tools/tube. The rain pants/booties may simply be lighter, smaller, easier to put on, and cheaper than the getting new pedals, shoes, tights (embarassing!) and socks.

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  • rider October 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    My tip would be that you don’t need cycling specific rain gear. Buy what’s breathable and on sale.

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    • pengo October 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      This can work okay, but a jacket that’s cut for cycling (longer tail and sleeves, plus side/pit zippers since a jacket that’s breathable enough for walking around doesn’t necessarily work for more vigorous activity) works a lot better for the position. I don’t use rain pants, but the cycling ones seems to be more reinforced in the seat area, plus a little longer in the leg.

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  • Danny October 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I’m thankful for the switch from warm and rainy to cold and rainy. I was dying inside all of my gear there for a while.

    I’ve been using a Showers Pass Elite 2.0 jacket for about 3 years now. I love that the eVent fabric MUST be washed, and in warm water with liquid detergent even. With this jacket all I’ve ever needed was a thin base layer even in 30+ degree weather. I have the Showers Pass Club Convertible pants and while they keep me dry they are a little bulky. I’m still trying to get used to them. On the feet I keep Gore Bike Wear full foot (with open bottoms for SPD) protection. I’ve never really worn more on my head than my Bern helmet which for some reason seems to keep my head 99% dry. I use Endura waterproof gloves, but again they are for cooler wet weather.

    I hate being wet when I get to work so I opt for the most waterproof gear I can find, but I’m always trying to balance the temperature thing and am looking for lighter gear to wear when it’s not so cold, but still raining.

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    • Art Fuldodger October 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      here! here! for the eVent! I have an eVent jacket from REI that i was skeptical about (no pit zips, etc), but it has performed admirably through one-and a-half winters; waterproof & — amazingly — more breathable than any other jacket (Burley, Showers Pass) I’ve previously worn.

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  • Dave October 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I should also say, I only wear any rain gear at all if I’m going to be soaked when I get where I’m going. If I’m just going to get a bit damp, I just get a bit damp, to me it’s not worth the hassle unless I’m getting a big benefit out of it. Thankfully, it’s actually not as often as you might think that it really dumps rain. I carry my poncho with me always, but probably only wear it a few days per month.

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  • beth October 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    i wear a bern snow helmet with ear covers to keep them warm. the helmet has no vents so your hair stays dry too. the small visor help keep rain out of my eyes.

    marmot rain pants and a good waterproof but breathable snowboard jacket keeps me warm and dry.

    for me snow gear works better than rain gear. its just as waterproof, but warmer and more breathable. rain gear is always the plastic lined stuff which traps in heat and isnt very waterproof over time.

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  • Marty October 22, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I did this morning commute with a light rain jacket, shorts, wool gloves, headband under helmet. Change of shoes and clothes loaded up in my kid trailer.

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  • Erinne October 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Rain gear from REI (seriously a life-saver–I stuck my jacket in the washer last week and the ENTIRE lining came out! But REI had my back…)
    Shoe dryer at work, shared with other folks who bike. Change of socks in my waterproof Ortlieb, and extra slip-on shoes at my desk.

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  • Pete E October 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    If you’re gonna be riding year-round, it’s worth investing in some good gear. Cheap raingear keeps rain out, but keeps sweat in, so you’re still wet, but it’s grosser. I have a Showers Pass e-vent jacket, and it’s amazing how breathable it is. Besides that, it’s all smartwool for me: long-sleeve t, longjohns, socks, and gloves with hot glue on the finger pads for grip. Regular wool is too itchy for me, but smartwool feels fine. Wool is great because you get wet but you don’t feel wet, and it doesn’t get smelly as fast as synthetic. Oh, and shorts over the longjohns to try and retain one tiny shred of dignity. And don’t wear cotton. And for the love of science, don’t wear jeans; the only thing in the world worse than taking off wet jeans is pulling on wet jeans.

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  • dennis October 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Fenders. get them. Love them. Chain guards, Highly recommend. I’d actually recommend a “nasty-weather” bicycle, that can be exposed to unpleasant circumstances without risk. Plaster that bike with big fenders, durable tires, and bring a carradice duckswear cloak.

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    • Brian October 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      Totally agree. I just bought a Redline 952 singlespeed road bike used at Sellwood Cycles complete with chainguard, full fenders, and a rear rack. The ride this morning was actually great. I used to ride a SS for mtb’ing, and am looking forward to the ease of maintenance (and less $ spent on drivetrain parts) this Winter.

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  • Dave October 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Experience has taught me there is no such thing as waterproof, unless you want to dress like the Gorton’s fisherman. Even then it’s doubtful. That leaves two realistic winter commuting options in this town:

    a> Wool, synthetics, and a windproof layer to keep you warm even after the water has seeped through. Change at work.

    b> Mass transit.

    Yeah, there is gear that can keep you dry up to a point, but sooner or later you’ll discover the limits, and it only takes sitting through one 9am meeting with your crotch soaked for the novelty to wear off.

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  • Rol October 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Proper gear is essential (for me generally nylon on the outside and wool or cotton on the inside). But the best piece of rain gear money cant buy is a resilient, adventurous, and somewhat detached attitude, that doesn’t make mountains of suffering out of molehills of being a bit wet. This comes with time. “Dry” and “warm” are relative terms. Acknowledge whatever body part gets wet and give it a mental shout-out. “Sorry, foot, we’ll be indoors soon.” Immediately it will feel warmer. You mark my words.
    Some mantras:
    “This too shall pass.”
    “My ancestors went through much worse.”
    “The rain’s lovely. Few others are seeing this scene in this way right now. I rule.”

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  • (moderately) Dry Guy October 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Wool shirt/jacket.
    Rain cape (covers upper body and hands)
    Gloves – multiple layers to modulate warmness and if they get wet I can
    separate them so the dry faster
    Spats (covers shoes and go up over my knees.
    Thin wool hat w/ brim

    I’ve been commuting year-round by bicycle in Portland for 15 years, I wear jeans, cotton socks (on all by the coldest days), canvas shoes pretty much year round but manage to stay dry (enough) and warm. The rain cape+spats combo is super effective.

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    • Wooley Willie October 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Cotton socks? Really?
      I feel all cold & clammy just thinkin’ on it…

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      • (moderately) Dry Guy October 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm

        Yeah, cotton socks work fine if they stay dry. My spats cover my shoes (which are canvas), if my shoes stay dry my socks stay dry. I don’t ride fast so I don’t have to worry about sweating in them. On very cold days I do wear wool socks.

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    • pengo October 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      In addition to fenders, I’d stress the importance of a mud/buddyflap. There’s nothing worse than some Cat 6 superstar burning all their matches to get just barely in front of you, and in the process spraying you in the face with the road grime from their uncovered wheel.

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      • A.K. October 23, 2012 at 10:46 am

        I think there is one worse: the person with the “fender” that just sticks straight out. They are very concerned about their own arse staying dry, but couldn’t care less if those behind them get a facefull of road spray.

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  • Joe October 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    layer well with idems that pull heat away from you, wool 🙂 boots 🙂
    good socks.. LIGHTS! sometimes it takes a couple seasons to get the correct gear. * key allow your stuff to dry out before having to wear it again. remember you don’t stop as fast in rain! ( anyone use new paper for front of chest to keep warm? )

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  • Kevin Schmidt October 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    The old saying: “There is really NO bad weather to bike in; you’re only as good as your gear” really does ring true.. But, you’ll be pretty well-set for 90% of PDX rainy weather if you have:
    1) a waterproof jacket/shell with hood (over the helmet- yeah stylish!)
    2) rain pants, and
    3)gloves/mittens, and a pair of crappy shoes that you don’t mind getting soaked..
    Fenders are awesome- a must-have for anyone who is gonna ride in the rain!
    Keep spare underwear and socks/work-shoes at the office.. Oh, and never forget the scarf when it gets below 40degrees!

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  • Paul H October 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I’ll add my support to the Showers Pass eVent jacket. It works great for all but the hardest downpours or 55F+ days. I’ll wear one or two layers underneath (except for those Feb. days in the 20s; then three underlayers are necessary).

    I carry a change of clothes to work since my 12-mile commute leaves me sweaty every single day. I don’t worry too much about keeping my legs dry, though I do try to keep them covered (with knickers and/or tights).

    I hate riding with soaked feet, so I have a pair of Garneau shoe covers. They don’t keep my feet completely dry, but they keep the worst of flying water out of my socks.

    Fenders and lights are mandatory for me.

    Finally, I take along a willingness to slow down. The four horsemen of the winter apocalypse (cold, wet, wind, dark) will get anyone who insists on July speeds in a December storm.

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  • Wooley Willie October 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    A pair of back-up (wool) socks in me kit bag.

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  • dude October 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    For a dry, sweat-free body: My bike poncho (with thumb loops and waist strap) is probably 30 years old and working fine. I recently recoated it, silicon-sprayed, and seam sealed it so I should get another 30 out of it. It keeps me dry and I don’t sweat because its good ventilation. The hoodie with visor on it fits well under my helmet to keep my head dry.
    For dry, warm feet: thermal, waterproof oversocks (made by Sealskin, sold by Bike Gallery). My shoes get wet, but my day socks stay dry and my feet stay warm.
    For warm hands: army surplus wool gloves. If it’s really cold, a nylon shell over them. If it’s raining, my hands are under the poncho.
    Legs: medium weight nylon lycra leggings under my bike shorts. If really cold, I have lycra knee warmers as another layer.
    Body wear: cotton short sleeve plus cotton long sleeve, as thermometer dips further, I’ll add either a pile vest and/or a medium weight polypro long sleeve turtleneck. If it’s arctic, then add a raggedy wool sweater to the above and/or a nonbreathable nylon shell jacket.
    For warm Head, ears and neck: thin balaclava under the helmet.
    Thus equipped, I ride 3,000 miles commuting year-round.

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    • ShareTheRoad October 27, 2012 at 1:12 am

      Yes, a shout-out for the balaclava when it gets frigid and snowy.

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  • dude October 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Oh yeah, and fenders are a must. I saw a guy today without fenders and a very wet butt heading into work.

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  • ladyfleur October 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    If your shoes or gloves get wet inside, wad up newspaper and shove it inside them. The paper will absorb all the water and you’ll have dry shoes and gloves in no time. I keep a stack of paper at work just in case.

    Oh, and wool socks and leggings/pants are awesome. As is my Agu long raincoat, Clarijs panniers, and ordinary knee high leather boots.

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  • dan October 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Kinco waterproof / reflective work gloves! I think I paid $12 for mine, and they’re awesome for any temperature from 25-45 degrees Fahrenheit. They help with visibility when making hand signals on dark rainy nights too. You lose some dexterity, but once they’re broken in, they’re very functional.

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  • Paul Souders October 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Wool, a change of dry clothes, and a really bright headlight.

    I love that this is such a passionate topic.

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    • Danny October 25, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      Surely you have a blog or something where you have more to day than that! 😉

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      • Danny October 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

        Wow…d and s are very close on the keyboard.

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  • David Sweet October 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    To the various and excellent suggestions above I would only add, allow extra time. It takes me a few minutes to get my gear on at home and strip it off wet on the other end. Also, as others have said, I need to ride slower in weather.

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  • David October 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I think everyone’s covered all the gear I would have suggested. The only thing I can think to add is buy a shoe dryer for your house! It’s saved me countless times when I’ve been caught out by a sudden shower or even just stepped in a puddle i didn’t see while walking or running. Also great for my cyclocross race shoes,hiking boots, sneakers etc. Takes a while to dry things but I really prefer it to throwing shoes in the dryer or using newspaper.

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    • Danny October 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      Does it get stinky?

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  • dmc October 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I like to wear sandals in the wet weather. If it is cold and wet I will sometimes wear waterproof socks under my sandals. The sandals dry a lot faster than shoes. I sometimes pack a pair of shoes and dry socks in my pannier for longer rides to a destination.

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    • Paul H October 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

      I too frequently wear sandals in warmer wet weather. They do dry so much more quickly than shoes.

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  • Adam October 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Riding a bike in the rain is still far more fun than driving in the rain. In truth, my winter rides are some of my absolute favorites. There is something about the sound of riding through the rain that is wonderfully peaceful.

    Wear normal clothing with breathable rain gear that zips off easily. I don’t like stripping down and changing into a space suit just to ride my bike.

    Remember that you are commuting and not racing. If you succeed you will get to work dry and happy. I am really good at this until somebody passes me. Sigh…

    -Bike Gear-
    Fenders with good mud guards to keep the feet dry. A waterproof bag to keep all of your stuff dry. Dry stuff is far more important to me than a dry body. GET GOOD LIGHTS!!!

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  • Daniel Liu October 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    It’s been raining a lot in Madison, and I’ve been feeling nostalgic about PNW winters…

    Fenders: SKS Longboard. Longer than the usual SKS fenders, and they include a set of floppy mudflaps. They’re hard to find here in the Midwest, I had to order them off of Amazon.

    Clothes: Here in Madison, I’ve decided to accept getting wet — it’s not like Portland’s constant light showers, and my showers pass “touring” jacket (a real dud, the materials aren’t very good) can’t hold up to midwestern thunderstorms. For me this means wearing synthetics that dry quickly in a warm office or house; wool is nice, sometimes, but it stays slightly damp for a very long time. I have a very nice softshell that has a water resistant coating on it, windproof and more useful for midwestern winters than a raincoat or poncho.

    Chain lube: Anything thicker than triflow. ATB #1-2 was my favorite in portland, but I can’t get it here; prolink extreme seems to be holding up pretty well.

    Other: A cheap bandana or handkerchief that you can keep dry, to wipe your eyes or glasses off during a downpour. I always swore by the orange Koolstop brake pads, despite the fact that they wear out relatively quickly.

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    • MossHops October 23, 2012 at 9:59 am

      I have the same problem with my Shower’s Pass Touring. On my third season with it, and it’s not even close to being waterproof at this point.

      Which leads to a question. Anyone have recommendations for a jacket:
      1. That is biking specific (tail and long sleeves)
      2. Has pits
      3. Is really waterproof for at least three seasons?

      That last point is important. For season one, I would have said that the Shower’s Pass Touring is fantastic. Now… not so much.

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      • pengo October 23, 2012 at 12:50 pm

        If you haven’t yet, you should try washing the jacket with a sportwash which will reapply a DWR coating (Grangers for example). Then tumble dry on low for just long enough to dry it (not very long at all). This spreads the DWR evenly. From what I understand waterproof fabrics, whether microporous or hydrophilic, are always waterproof, but if they get especially dirty or if the DWR coating eventually wears off they will start to “wet out” and stop breathing. As for alternate jacket suggestions, the Endura Stealth has been my best friend for about three years now.

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  • Tompkins October 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    On any given soggy 3 mile commute, you can find me clothed in:
    -Thick wool socks
    -Leather shoes
    -Waterproof Rain jacket (Showers Pass Touring)/fleece
    -Wool cap
    -Ongoing Pant Experiment (OPE):
    -just got Otter Wax (natural, made in Portland) and waxed up some denim pants; seems to work well in moderate rain – we’ll see about the heavy stuff
    -gaiters if it gets real soggy
    -Waterproof synthetic glove w/ good articulation:
    -presently using Mtn. Hardware’s mountaineering glove and while expensive they are excellent at keeping my hands warm and dry
    -Sunny (smug?) disposition

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    • troy October 22, 2012 at 9:17 pm

      Waxed jeans sounds like a great idea, how long have you had them? Do they smell when they get wet or get hot, are they sticky/tacky? And how do you clean them?

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      • Tompkins October 22, 2012 at 10:16 pm

        I just treated them this weekend and took them out for a test spin in the rain this morning. They worked very well but the wax was definitely still pretty tacky/greasy today and smelled, not overwhelming, but pretty strong. As I write this, the wax seems to have “cured” and isn’t “off-gassing” if that’s an appropriate term. The wax costs $13 for a (3oz.?) bar which is good enough for a pair of jeans with a little left over. You can find it at Machus on 6th and Burnside SE or online. I hear that U.S. outdoor sells a waterproofing wax for fabric as well but it may be petro (paraffin)-based.

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  • dwainedibbly October 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Merino wool. Watch for good prices.

    Showers Pass eVent jacket. Fantastic! I have some Marmot rain pants that are ok, but not super.

    For wet weather commuting make sure that you have waterproof shoes. Find something made for hiking (not high tops!) and forget the clipless pedals. In crappy weather I want to be ready for anything. Clipping in isn’t compatible with that, in my opinion. Along the same lines, keep your hands warm & dry. Keep extremities warm and your core cool.

    Fenders. Get the longest you can, then add a mudflap to the front one (if not both). Mudflaps should be as close to the ground as possible. Skip the stylish “flat” wooden fenders that don’t wrap around the sides of the tire. The water comes right off the them & hits you anyway. You want to channel the water towards the ground. Make sure your fenders are wide enough, too. Too narrow might look ok, but they need to be at least 8-10mm wider than your tires.

    LIGHTS!! For serious bad weather commuting, I now consider a generator hub (with appropriate lights) a must-have. Make sure the lights have a standlight function.

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    • dwainedibbly October 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      I forgot to mention what I do for my head: wool hat, then the jacket’s hood. Helmet goes on top of that, with a helmet cover. In really cold weather the hat gets swapped for a balaclava.

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  • was carless October 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Waterproof jacket – lightweight & windproof with pit zips
    Wool socks
    Waterproof rainpants
    Lightweight gloves (otherwise you get too sweaty)
    Expect that your extremities will get cold, particularly if you have to bike up any hills.

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  • Brighton October 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Ok call me a slave to fashion, but if I need to arrive one style, it’s the Nau Succinct Trench. Stylish and waterproof. But most days when style doesn’t matter I have a bright yellow Pearl Izumi jacket and some rain pants I found at Goodwill.

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  • Brian October 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I often have meetings before/after school (and an early start school!), combined with having to pick up my son from preschool before a certain time, which makes commuting from NE Portland out to Hillsboro really difficult. So, I decided to let go of the guilt and do a partial commute as much as possible (and a full commute whenever possible). I figure some is better than none, and I am much more motivated to commute more often when it’s dark, cold, and wet now. I load my bike onto my car and drive up to the archery range by the Zoo. From there I jump on the bike and make my way out to 185th. Aside from still getting in 20 miles on the bike, I get to avoid HWY 26 altogether.

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  • The Dude October 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    A good base layer is key, Merino wool is my favorite but it’s pricy. You’ll need a good waterproof jacket and pants, I like the Showers Pass Elite 2.0 and club convertable pants combo personally. Some booties or shoe covers can keep your feet either dry or warm depending on your choice. A good hat like the Rapha winter hat with ear flaps helps under your helmet. I have yet to find a good pair of cold weather gloves.

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  • spare_wheel October 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    i really look forward to fall rainy commutes. rain is refreshing if you’ve got dry clothes in the pack.

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  • davemess October 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Buy a set of ski boot/shoe dryer/warmers. They’re usually less than $30, but totally worth it, as they can dry your wet cycling shoes overnight. I would not be able to wear the same pair of shoes everyday without my dryers.

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  • mark kenseth October 22, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Stay-dry clothes dry very quick (shirt, shorts, or long-johns for when really cold). Water-proof outerwear (pants, jacket, and plastic bags–for shoes). Also, a small towel, or a camping towel. Quick change in the bathroom and I’m ready.

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  • CPAC October 22, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Outlier pants and jacket. After fenders, they’re the best things out there for the rain.

    I refuse to do any special dressing for my commute, so I wear the Outlier pants, which (along with a normal shirt tie and jacket), look quite professional and plenty suitable for my law office. Add in a good rain jacket, and I’m set for a no-change commute even in the worst of weather. The outlier pants seem expensive until you realize how incredibly well they work and how hard-wearing they are.

    I do keep an extra pair of wool socks at the office in case the pair I’m wearing get soaked.

    More important than any piece of gear, however, is a good attitude. On the worst days, it’s best to have a sense of humor and laugh a little when the wind pushes you backwards, or the rain is so heavy you have to slow to a crawl.

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  • troy October 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    -Gloves: Really cold & wet days, i wear 2 pairs of wool glove liners (andy & bax) under oversized “rubber dipped” gloves from Sanderson Safety Supply store (se 3rd & Taylor); prob 15 dollars total, & it keeps my hands completely warm & dry.

    -Face: A simple fleece neck gaiter is great for keeping cold wind & rain from annoying your face, even in a heavy rain. I usually only pull it up when going downhill or the wind on the bridge.

    -Eyes: Under 40 degrees, wearing ski goggles keeps my eyes from watering (and when it happens, they continue to water all day).

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  • GlowBoy October 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    – Wool! I wear wool socks year-round because IMO they outperform cotton and synthetics in all conditions. Yes, even hot weather.

    – Bring a change of clothes! If (like today) I know I’m going to get soaked in the morning, I bring not only dry clothes for work, but another dry set of cycling clothes for the ride home.

    – Speaking of backpacks, gotta have a raincover for that. Especially if, like me, you need to keep your work clothes and a laptop dry in there.

    – Good waterPROOF, breathable rain gear, if you’re riding more than a handful of miles. I got caught in an absolute downpour on my 12 mile ride home over the West Hills. No I wasn’t completely dry, but I sure was glad to NOT have the feeling of cold water trickling in through my shell, nor the clammy feeling you get when the nylon outside the membrane has gotten waterlogged and is pushing cold vapor through to your inner layer.

    My beloved old Nike Gore-Tex commuting jacket wore out beyond repair earlier this year, and I wasn’t looking forward to shopping for a new jacket. So last night I dug out my nearly 10 year old Pearl Izumi eVent jacket which I’d stopped using because I thought it didn’t “work” anymore, and I actually followed the care advice to restore the DWR finish, which entails washing with a special detergent and again with the waterproofing agent. $20 seemed like an insane amount so spend on a “fabric care” product, but it has saved me a fortune in new jackets (because I also had others I thought I might need to replace) and now I chalk it up as one of my Best. Investments. Ever!

    – Good waterproof boots. I have two pair: my Shimanos are fully waterproof but not insulated, and are good (for me) down to around freezing. I also have a pair of Lake boots that are insulated (and also fairly waterproof), which I use mostly for mountain biking but also for those commutes when it does get below 30 or so.

    – Gloves probably produce about as varied of opinions as anything, but personally when it’s dumping out I’m a big fan of the $20 Kinco work gloves I bought at Home Depot a couple years ago. The ones I have are lined with Thinsulate and have reflective orange on the backs, making for great turn signals. And the waterproofing held up almost the entire ride, just starting to get damp inside the last mile or two home.

    – Fenders. Duh. An absolute must.

    – Chain lube: I like ATB for the moderate rain we have much of the year, and it isn’t too thick and goopy, but for the weather we’ve had the last week and a half I really like Finish Line Cross-Country.

    – Good lights (blinkies front and rear) for conspicuity. I’m still on the PB SuperFlash because I can go weeks without changing the batteries.

    – Decent brakes. After wearing through a set of those little 20″ rims in ONE WINTER of commuting on my folding bike, I finally upgraded this spring to drum brakes. Great! They are completely unaffected by the weather, a claim not even discs can make. They are not quite as powerful and responsive as discs, but still capable of locking up the rear tire, so good enough.

    – Battery lights are fine, but I’m really enjoying the dynamo hub that was also part of my wheelset upgrade. Sure is nice just ALWAYS having light no matter what.

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  • The Dude October 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Here is my set up for wet weather with temps in the 30’s to upper 40’s.

    Ride time 1 to 3hrs.

    Fenders. Especially if you are riding when it is dumping.

    Waterproof backpack/pannier with your daily supplies. Ortlieb products are great.

    Cycling cap with bill (wear it under your helmet, one not made of cotton will work best)
    Cycling Glasses

    Defeet Blaze wool socks
    Your favorite cycling shoes
    Louis Garneau Neo Booties

    Performance Tri flex pants (wear your favorite riding shorts or bibs underneath)

    Performance Winter Jacket (wear base layers according to temp)

    Microfiber Glove liners and Manzella Gloves (these will keep your hands warm even when the gloves get wet)

    Hang this stuff up to dry when you arrive to work and repeat once you get home.

    You will get little wet from sweating and a little wet from the rain, however, this will keep you warm. The hardest part about riding in the in climate weather is motivating yourself to do it. Once you do, you will be glad you did.

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  • Franklin Jones October 22, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    B-line riders are covered head to toe w/ Showers Pass gear, Icebreaker layers and socks…..and a dryer back at the warehouse for rounds 2 and 3 🙂

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  • AlanG24 October 22, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    JACKET: Showers Pass Elite 2.0: love the eVent fabric – works very well
    RAIN PANTS: GoreTex – also very dry and I don’t overheat
    HELMET with Bill and rain cover – hate a wet head
    Ear cover under helmet
    BOOTIES: Pearl Izumi neoprene booties: not the driest but they keep my feet warm
    SOCKS: defeet wool blend
    Full length cycling tights under rain pants
    Long sleeve jersey.
    GLOVES: the BANE of my ride – have yet to find a truly water proof pair.

    SKS Longboard fenders: IMHO, the best full coverage fenders

    BIKE: Spot Acme with Alfine 11 speed, disc brakes, and Gates belt drive. Great wet weather bike!!

    For dark rides – especially in the rain – I opt for high nerd factor and lots of lights and reflectors: 550 lumen seizure strobe, super bright red blinkies (two, one on my helmet, one on the rack); reflective vest; reflector straps on both ankles. My kids tell me I look like a Christmas tree. Whatever it takes!!

    Keep riding y’all.

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    • pengo October 22, 2012 at 11:54 pm

      Regarding the gloves, Pearl Izumi PRO Barrier WXB gloves are the best I’ve found so far. Actually waterproof, adequately breathable and by far the least bulky rain glove I’ve seen. Expensive for sure, but cheaper than buying a different glove every season because the last ones you tried were crap.

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  • Matthew Perry October 22, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Wearing a cycling cap under my helmet works well for me. The bill helps keep rain out of my eyes (though you still need glasses for heavy rain) and keeps rain off my scalp.
    A full baseball cap (preferably synthetic) has a much bigger bill than a standard cycling cap and blocks all but the heaviest rain from hitting the eyes.

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  • Paul in the 'couve October 22, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Fenders – long fenders with mud flaps. I use the Velo-orange aluminum ones, they last longer for me and stay secure all winter without fuss. I make my own mud flaps out of stair tred material $12 for a lifetime supply at Home Depot.

    Shoe covers. I scoffed at them for years but I almost always use them now. I have neoprene ones for my cycling shoes and I make my own out of old coats or bags for my casual / walking shoes.

    Beyond that I’d rather by damp that hot and the solution to cold is generally RIDE FASTER & HARDER.

    So this week I haven’t particularly changed it up. I got completely soaked last friday in jeans and a rain jacket on the way home. But It was easy to stay warm enough for the 5 miles. Saturday I rode all over in a fleece and jeans and got a bit damp a few times, and sat out a shower with a cup of coffee.

    I often use to check the flow of storms and if I can flex my departure time forward or back.

    When it actually pours I generally go for either wool or mid-weight synthetic and just get wet. If I need to look decent I’ll pack a change of clothes – I use ordinary non-water resistant paniers, just roll it up in a trash bag. Only if it is a short ( less than 3 or 4 mile) commute will I bother with rain pants and rain coat over presentable clothes.

    Once the temperature gets down into the low to mid 30s I’ll wear full fingered synthetic glove liners inside either cycling gloves or rag-wool fingerless gloves. Also, I’ll at least carry a thin fleece headband / ear warmer.

    I don’t really get serious about cold until it’s down in the low 20s or below – which is almost never here.

    Here is the truth – you aren’t going to get frost bite riding bicycle if you just keep the pace up a bit. You will stay warm – it might take a mile or two to warm up.

    Last night I left a pub on Burnside and 29th bound for Vancouver at 10:30 PM wearing a mid-weight synthetic jersey, and light synthetic tights and cycling shoes with shoe covers. No gloves, no hat, jacket in my panier for rain. I was a bit cold starting out and still felt chilly until about 42nd and Glisan or so. After that it felt great. I only had one brief sprinkle /mist episode in either direction last night.

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    • Paul in the 'couve October 22, 2012 at 10:44 pm

      Follow up – you won’t get frost bite AT PORTLAND temps riding a bicycle.

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  • Dustin October 23, 2012 at 4:11 am

    kind of surprised the bike cape hasn’t made more of a comeback.

    in my experience, as long as you’ve got good fenders, most of your issue is keeping your torso and shins dry. i’ve never had any luck with the pants/parka combo, something’s always in the wrong place, doesn’t fit right, doesn’t breath enough, ect. you’re probably gonna get gross any way you go, so just beg your work to put in showers, and carry a big enough bag for a change of clothes. Tights and a light goretex shell seems to be the way to go for me. Something like Pearl Izumi am-fib tights work well, but the cheaper louis g. knockoffs work fine.

    oh, and pro-tip, get some Rocky brand goretex oversocks. those things rule. I decided to try them out riding through that gigantor puddle that always forms near 33rd and broadway. got my feet damn near submerged and still had dry (cotton) socks when I got where I was going.

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  • Dave Miller October 23, 2012 at 4:19 am

    I’ve tried a half dozen waterproof/breathable jackets over the years and there is one standout: a hard shell ski jacket by Outdoor Research. Pit zips for ventilation. Hood fits over helmet. And the breatheability has held up over three seasons so far without re-treating. Other jackets (Showers Pass, Marmot) have left me slimy with sweat. This one does not even in the warmest rain.

    I love the reflectors on the Kinko gloves, but they’re just too damn hot. The insides stay sweat soaked for days. I just bought some lightweight “waterproof” fleece gloves. I stuck them under the faucet and the material was indeed waterproof, but of course the seams were not. Wet in 30 seconds.

    Pengo, you have me curious about the Pearl Izumi PRO Barrier WXB gloves. Maybe I’ll try them.

    Regarding budget, I love to save money, but whenever I do any work on my car I realize how ridiculously cheap biking is. The replacement key for my Toyota cost more than the Stumpjumper I bought on craigslist that gets me to work and my kids to school every day. So I have no problem experimenting with new types of rain gear. I just bought some rubber/neoprene boots to replace my worn out shoe covers. Maybe I’ll try a poncho this winter. I’m curious about that approach. 

    Although gear is fun to experiment with, attitude is the ultimate weapon against the weather. The joy of being outside and rolling along the road trumps the discomfort any temperature or wetness may bring. Battling a headwind in torrential rain on a bike is still way more fun than any other method of getting from A to B.

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  • Tim Leier October 23, 2012 at 6:11 am

    A recumbent with front fairing. At least my bottom half stays dry and warm no matter what. Style?!?!

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  • J.M. Jones October 23, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Has anyone tried wearing fishing waders (breathable, not the neoprene ones) when biking? There are some inexpensive ones out there. Could wear larger shoes or remove the neoprene feet. Breathable, chest high and real waterproof. Might be worth looking at……

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  • CharonPDX October 23, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Tip 1: Don’t even bother TRYING to stay dry if you have a long/hard enough commute that you sweat. It’s no use keeping the rain out if you’re going to sweat on the inside.

    I go for thermal permeable wear. Whole body. Even the shoes. Don’t remember the brands of any, but they’re all fairly inexpensive (<$50 each piece) gear bought at a variety of local shops, lots of it over five years old. No $200 jackets, no $150 pants, no $300 shoes.

    For the shoes, if it's going to be "mostly dry", I wear Keen Austin Pedal (for clipless pedals – my one splurge,) if it's going to be wet I wear old "Nike Free" shoes (I have reversible clipless pedals, clipless on one side, platform on the other,) with thermal socks.

    When I get around to buying a new shirt, I'll get an Oregon Cyclewear wool jersey:

    I tried the "stay dry at all costs" outfits a decade ago, and found that by and large I just overheated and sweat like mad in them. Of course, I have the benefit of a shower at work… (I carry the week's worth of 'work' clothes in on Monday, home on Friday. I tend to use pants twice, outer-shirts twice, and only change socks/underwear/undershirt each day.)

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  • Mike October 23, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Not all embrocations are greasy. For commuters, a cream style is best as it fully works into the skin and leaves no more residue that a typical moisturizer.

    gross! I wouldn’t want that rubbing around in my pants while I’m walking around work all day… and wouldn’t it attract dirt to my clothes?
    I guess it’s something more for competitive cycling than for getting to work… *shrug*
    Recommended 2

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  • velo October 23, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Fenders: I’m fond of SKS Longboards myself. Rubber flaps at the bottom are a good thing to help keep your feet dry. Fenders > rainpants.

    Head: Cycling cap to keep the rain out of my eyes. Thin polypro cap for when it’s colder.

    Hands: Softshell gloves are the way to go for me. Make sure your jacket sleeves are over the cuff.

    Jacket: I have an Arc’Teryx Visio that I got on super sale and love. Highly recommended. (

    Body: Wool. I love wool base layers. It’s expensive and it isn’t as durable as synthetics, but it’s comfy, warm and not nearly as stinky. I buy wool t-shirts whenever I can find a good deal on them.

    Other: A small pack towel is great to toss in to dry off your face, neck and hands. Then use it to dry off riding pants, etc.

    For me the real key to making really wet weather commuting be comfy is to change completely when I get to work. My riding clothes go in front of a fan and they are dry for the ride home. I keep extra clothes in my desk along with couple spare riding layers for when it turns nasty during the day and I’m unprepared from my ride in.

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  • Jonathan October 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I firmly believe in the Chinese rain poncho, which is longer in front and clips onto the front brake cable to cover your legs while riding. It keeps the legs dry, which keeps the socks dry.

    For pants I find BDU pants (the Army fatigues with the button fly) to be good for cycling because they are cut with room in the butt and thighs, and they have drawstrings at the ankle to keep the hems out of the chain. I like the navy blue ones that Propper makes.

    On my torso, under the poncho, I like a polypro undershirt, wool jersey, and wool sweater on top. That keeps me plenty warm and dry.

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  • dandy October 23, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I buy the $1.50 clear safety glasses from Harbor Freight, I find glasses are essential for me. Other than that, what everyone else said- I have REI jacket and pants, and shoe covers. Leather gloves from Andy and Bax, or snowboard gloves when it starts hailing/sleeting/snowing. Seems to work fine. Of course, I AM a native Oregonian…

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  • Tom October 23, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I have a big problem with cold air making my eyes water and comfort are gone when you can’t see … my summer riding shades do not help ..I experimented all last winter on different solutions … finally found The Answer …snowboarding goggles …. next problem, they don’t fit well with a bike helmet … so next part of solution, bought a Giro snowboarding helmet. it has vent covers that remove or insert , depending on also has ear flaps with internal pockets for speakers , so my helmet is wired for sound and ears are warm.

    I ride with an REI waterproof parka and the quick adjustment wheel on the helmet allows me to tuck the hood up under the helmet if needed (when not enough time to put in vent blockers)

    Even breathable pants sweat, so just wear bike shorts under them …usually carry 2 pairs of gloves ..light or warm . Can switch, depending on current conditions.

    fenders ? check
    plastic bag over seat ? yup
    clear plastic over computer ? si

    Dorky ? sure, but I’m dry (mostly) and warm.

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    • A.K. October 23, 2012 at 10:56 am

      They are expensive, but Oakley sells many types of sunglasses that sit very close to the face (Jawbones and the like). Great for keeping the hot wind out during the summer and good for keeping out rain spray in the winter.

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  • Barbara October 23, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Riding the hills of SW Portland keep me warm…
    I don’t like caps under my helmet that ruin my hair, so I’m wearing a headband/earmuff to keep my ears warm. I have enough hair to keep the rest of my head warm. In winter I often wear a shawl that I can wrap over my chin/ mouth. I do wear a hood if it’s pouring rain. Gloves are very important. I have gloves for all occasions, summer transition, cold weather. The rain gear depends on how heavy it is raining. In drizzle I just do a softshell and bike pants, if it is heavier rain, I wear (and love) my Showers Pass eVent jacket. Only if we have 1″ plus days I also wear rain pants, otherwise they are too hot (see above SW Hills). I change at work anyway, so slightly damp doesn’t matter. I wear mountain bike shoes, that are ok for most occasions. Smartwool socks are great.
    And yes, of course fenders, lots of lights and my beloved Ortlieb-bags to keep work clothes and labtop dry.
    I actually don’t mind the rain and cold that much. I really dread November, though, when enormous amounts of leaves clog the bike lane on Terwilliger Blvd.

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  • Dave October 23, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Wait, you mean sometimes bikes come without fenders? Weird 🙂

    I think fenders, chain guard/case, internal gears, dynamo lighting, and drum brakes are the ideal combo for the 3/4 of the year in Portland that are wet and rainy. Drum brakes are great, as they essentially function the same in all weather, no big surprises the first time you head out in the rain.

    Internal gears and chain case make for a really low-maintenance drivetrain, as it doesn’t get the road dirt kicked up all over it, and you can use a heavier chain lube that’ll last longer.

    All-in-all, it’s nice to have a bike you can just rely on to use in any circumstances without having to futz with it first.

    Oh yeah, I’ve also ridden with an umbrella for shorter trips to the store or whatever, which works pretty well if it’s not too windy.

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  • 9watts October 23, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Those of you who use a poncho, how do you deal with the propensity for these to become sails? I tried one as a kid–once–but found it unmanageable. I’m obviously missing something.

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    • Dave October 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

      I’ve never really had a major problem with this until it gets windy enough that I’d be having problems even without the poncho (i.e. I can barely move forward). Could depend somewhat on the type of bike – long wheelbase and large wheels may be steadier in heavy wind than a short-framed road bike. Not sure, just speculating really.

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  • Editz October 23, 2012 at 9:29 am

    If your shoes or gloves get wet inside, wad up newspaper and shove it inside them. The paper will absorb all the water and you’ll have dry shoes and gloves in no time. I keep a stack of paper at work just in case.
    Oh, and wool socks and leggings/pants are awesome. As is my Agu long raincoat, Clarijs panniers, and ordinary knee high leather boots.
    Recommended 2

    What is this papered news you speak of? Can you order it from Amazon?

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  • Editz October 23, 2012 at 9:32 am

    While everybody’s mentioning Showers Pass, I’d like to throw a little love towards J&G. I’ve done three winters with their stuff and I think it works pretty well.

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  • Tom October 23, 2012 at 9:33 am

    salmon brake pads on the winter/rain bike
    (Cool Stop Eagle Claw salmon cantis)
    waterproof covers on the rack & saddle bags
    rain tires

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    • Art Fuldodger October 23, 2012 at 10:08 am

      any reason you see not to run with the Salmon pads all year ’round..?

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      • A.K. October 23, 2012 at 10:59 am

        I run the salmons all year around because outside of the July/August (and sometimes even then) you never know when it’ll rain, and I’m too lazy to swap pads out for different conditions. They seem to work dry just fine.

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      • Paul in the 'couve October 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

        I do

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  • rpc October 23, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I’ve been commuting for 3+ yrs from NoPo to Hillsboro over the West Hills year round (an hr each way) – in other words, both ways there’s a strenuous uphill portion & a long, hypothermic downhill. Few things I’ve learned in no particular order:

    – If it’s above freezing, wear shorts. Everything else is just more wet sloppiness in the end. Below freezing, put some wool long johns under the shorts.
    – If you’re not shivering leaving the house, you’re waaay overdressed.
    – If temps start flirting with single digits, toss on an extra layer & have spares for the downhill.
    – Rain on your pm ride, bike in the garage overnight & chilly morning can mean frozen shifter lines (duh!)
    – No rain jacket for the strenuous uphill half of the ride – I’d be soaked from the inside anyway (just a windshell that’ll get saturated but slowly). If I feel like spoiling myself, I’ll toss a rain jacket over my wet clothing at the top for the downhill half (also nice to have along if you’re fixing a flat in a pouring, 37F rain)
    – You’re going to be uncomfortable. Don’t think about it – just remember that you’ll be warmer if you pedal faster.

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    • samiam October 23, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Cheers! I’ve been going from Southeast to Hillsboro for 4+ now and doing it pretty similarly. You’re a bike commuter in Portland…you’re going to get wet!

      My standard gear includes shorts, a hoody, and my rain jacket if it’s really dumping out there. When it gets particularly cold, I add a pair of long johns under the shorts and a thermal shirt. Anything more and I’m overheating within a mile of my ride. My bag includes shoes, socks, pants, and a shirt for work. Everything nice and dry for me when I arrive.

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  • Champs October 23, 2012 at 9:59 am

    MIND THE GAP: unlike your rain gear, a bucket is completely waterproof–but it still needs a lid. Wear cuffs over gloves, pants over boots.

    Up top, an eVent jacket is expensive, but it *will* keep you dry without being a sweatbox. Keep in mind that it’s still a jacket, however.

    On the bottom, I’ve got zip-up Showers Pass shoe covers (for regular shoes) and a one-size-too-big pair of rain pants to layer over pants (preferably something lighter than denim).

    The neoprene gloves from Glacier work well, but only if paired with a thick, wicking liner glove. Otherwise, they insulate too much, the fleece interior soaks with sweat, and it takes forever to dry.

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  • Tom October 23, 2012 at 10:01 am

    salmon brake pads on the winter/rain bike
    (Cool Stop Eagle Claw salmon cantis)
    waterproof covers on the rack & saddle bags
    rain tires
    handkerchief for bandito style nose warming

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  • Barbara October 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

    As you asked about kids: my 5-year old is still going strong on her 4.5 mile commute (as featured on BikePortland last week). We thought she would be back in the bike trailer by now, but she is still riding. Yesterday, she was wearing REI-rain jacket and pants, rain boots and skiing gloves. On cold dry days she wears her regular winter jacket (Hanna Andersson/consigment store). The other day I found a softshell in a consigment store which should be good for light drizzles. Although, she tends to freeze easily, she hasn’t complained so far. I guess she is working hard enough!

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    • Joseph E October 23, 2012 at 11:56 pm

      That’s great! My 4 year old son was impressed by the pictures. Maybe he will be riding his own bike to kindergarten next spring.

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  • YS October 23, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Stylish and convenient biking in the winter is way easier for the ladies! I like to keep things simple and I hate lugging around special cycling gear if I can help it. Most of my trips are 3-7 miles and I do have fenders on my bike. And lights. Lots of lights.

    I just wear my regular clothes: knee high leather boots and leggings/tights (which dry quickly), a waterproof jacket with a hood that fits under my helmet, plus an absolutely essential smartwool gaiter. I carry around one of those $10 chinese ponchos that clip on the handlebars, but probably only use it two or three times a year.

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  • Nate October 23, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Not much to add – I go the “get wet and carry dry clothes” route, even wearing sandals in my clipless pedals for really wet rides, or rotten old shoes for the moderately wet ones. On my 35-minute commute where I like to get exercised, nothing has been able to keep me dry (inside and out.)

    But most important is the positive attitude. As Rol said above, being able to repeat and believe “THIS TOO SHALL PASS” makes all the difference. And my personal favorite is a combination of “I’m a badass!” and whistling.

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  • Bob October 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Out On the Coast, before last winter I got one of the Rain Capes
    that Grant P /RBW went to the Swedish/Portuguese
    Grundens Company To be Made..
    out of the same fabric as the Off Shore foul-weather gear
    used by the Crabbers and Fishers , heading out across the Columbia Bar.

    Seam welded, PVC/nylon .. Coating is on the Outside.

    Cape draping over my hands, they stay Dry,
    Outstretched arms form an awning over my feet..
    mostly dry, but for Gale headwinds.

    just need the bike with its mudguards,
    to have the lights Low enough, to not be covered by the cape,
    so no handlebar , or Under the saddle..mounts..

    back of a rear rack and fork crown mount is better..

    Grip shifted IGH is a sight unseen shifting convenience..
    since cape blocks view of the gear indicator numbered windows.

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  • Maks October 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    is anyone here a plus-size? do you know where i could find rain pants that fits a woman PETITE and a 22w (XXL/3XL)?? Naturally, REI doesnt hold anything larger than 20.

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    • Christianne October 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      I got my pair of rain pants from L.L. Bean. True to size, and pretty comfortable – might not come in the length you need – but it’s a start? I’m 5’8″ and the pants are a perfect length.

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    • Christianne October 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      I’ve worn them for two winters now and they seem to be doing pretty well. Finding any rain gear for plus size people is brutal.

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    • KJ October 23, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      I barely fit Showers Pass xxl club pant 2 and I am currently a 18/20. Marmont XL is similar. and I haven’t found anything in other brands that fit, most top out at a small 14. So far as I know none of them do petite/tall. Your best bet is probably to go with someone like Lands End, though their rain and snow pants are not made with cycling in mind, they have good sizing. REI has one pair that I know of and it looks like it’s being discontinued, and I haven’t heard good things about their rain pants, though I love and prefer their rain jackets.

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    • Robin October 24, 2012 at 10:37 am

      The petite makes it harder. I waffle between 22w and 28w 5’10” and just gave up on rain pants. I have a great custom Showers Pass (this is another story unto itself) jacket but for bottoms I wear various weights of leggings (never fully cotton, usually lots or lycra or spandex to dry quickly). My Terry Coolweather Tights for the coldest days. I pair that with a wool or synthetic skirt for warmth, modesty and Style. If I know I’m going to get totally soaked I just bring spear clothes of have them at the ready at work. For plus size stuff check out, lands end, terry and aero tech designs.

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  • kww October 23, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Here’s my setup, proven over 3 years of Portland winters:
    Carradice rain cape (poncho)
    Tretorn Strala ankle height rubber boots (get them on sale at end of season)
    Rain cover on my Bell Helmet

    That is IT! Why do booties, special gloves, special pants and jacket? I ride slower, but save time on throwing on all that gear and I don’t sweat.

    Oh, yeah; I might wear Smartwool merino gloves when it is really cold, but they Never get wet because of the rain cape.

    The rain cape also protects my pants, so I don’t have to wear rain pants!

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  • matthew vilhauer October 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    the simplest thing i do when the weather gets nasty is hop on the max with my bike. i live in vancouver & light rail makes the trip into & back from downtown portland so much nicer. am i the only one here that seems to think it makes sense?

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    • Dave October 23, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      Depends on the trip and the bike (my bike won’t hang on the MAX hangers, it’s too long), but that certainly can be a perfectly viable option.

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    • Paul in the 'couve October 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      IDK – I would be more likely to choose max on a cold wet morning (if I ever had a real job and had to get to PDX in the AM). I did do the 205 max from Gateway to Sunnyside one day last year. For me, if I’ve managed to make the effort to get out by bike by the time I get to the MAX ~6miles for me, I’m into riding and unless it is really extra miserable, I’ll just keep riding.

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  • rwl1776 October 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    “get in your car”

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  • GlowBoy October 23, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    FWIW, I take MAX over the hills EVERY morning that I ride (year round), which means I’m only on the bike for 3-5 miles in the morning. The numbers don’t add up for me see my kid out the door, ride for 70-80 minutes, shower at work and still get to my desk at a decent time. Not only is the Bike+MAX combo faster than either mode alone, but it allows me to shower at home instead of at work unless I get absolutely drenched.

    In the evening, the MAX tends to be more crowded, I’m not as pinched for time and I still want to get a workout, so I skip the MAX and just ride all the way home.

    I didn’t mention leg coverings in my earlier post. Unlike at least one opinion shared above I don’t find that bare legs are better FOR ME. Even if it gets soaked, I find some sort of covering to be more comfortable than nothing if it’s below 40-45 degrees and actually raining. Over my bike shorts I usually wear running tights, and if it’s really nasty out I might layer long underwear under the tights. For extreme conditions I might put some Gore-Tex pants over tights OR long underwear (not both), but it’s hardly ever come to that.

    I have thought about trying some wool (army?) pants and seeing how that works out. I imagine they might wear out in the ass after a year or two, but I bet they’d perform well in the rain until that point.

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  • Heidi O October 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Everyone: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    As a former fair-weather commuter, turned year-round commuter, this will be my first winter riding in all the elements! Great tips and so awesome that they are specific to commuting in Portland.

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  • John Mulvey October 23, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    My best tip for the rainy season is the animated NEXRAD weather map here:

    I’m fortunate that my job is somewhat flexible and my boss knows I’m riding, so it’s not a huge thing to wait ten or fifteen minutes for a break in the rain if it means I’ll get there semi-dry.

    Also a change of clothes at work –nothing better than a fresh pair of dry socks waiting at the other end.

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    • AG October 27, 2012 at 9:09 am

      yes!! i got the weather underground smartphone app and its great for planning your departure time if you have any flexibility.

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  • Tom October 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I see REI & Showers Pass mentioned a lot in this thread…have a SP Touring jacket gifted from my son that was slightly small …washed it in TSP and dried for 3 days ….folded it up for the summer and when I got it back out ..SURPRISE , the lining stuck to itself and crumbled out … SP customer service said “too bad, so sorry” ..wont deal with them again.

    I do have 6 rain parka shells …most are Gore Tex and one is REI Elements …so in the spirit of Consumer Reports , I hung T shirts on 6 hangers, wrapped one each jacket over/around the T and took them in the shower for abt 10 minutes …the REI was best at keeping moisture out, even beat the HellyTech . Would not even attempt to ride in a parka that doesn’t have “pit zips” (I like lots of pockets and adjustability)

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  • Gumby October 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Short rides, you can wear just about anything. Long rides get a bit trickier. My secrets:
    -18o’s ear muffs – hats are usually too hot, head bands get pushed down into my eyes.
    -Ski goggles with clear lenses for 35 degrees and below – they keep my eyes from watering and keep my face warm when we get those foggy mornings where the fog condenses on your face.
    -Pearl Izumi winter cycling shoes – they’re truly great. My feet never get cold or wet as long as I can keep the water from flowing in from the top. Expensive, but I don’t regret buying them.

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  • bill burns October 23, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Just added some endura gridlock rain pants to the arsenal this year. I also use gore-tex northwave bike shoes, endura gloves, and my mountain hardware epic jacket. Also for those january/february mornings I use a RH+ balaclava (my ninja mask) The last thing I use is some yellow tinted $7 sunglasses to help keep the rain out of my eyes.

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  • picklebird October 24, 2012 at 12:13 am

    I use NO ‘bike gear’ for staying warm and dry all winter long. I layer in used silks and thin wools, have waterproof hiking rainpants (EMS), a Mountain Hardware waterproof shell (unsure if keeping it – Marmot Precip was much better choice), waterproofed leather boots and self-made alpaca / silk fingerless gloves. When needed, I use some windproof gloves and neoprene (paddling) gloves for those heavy rains. Think of winter bicycling here as a ‘water sport.’

    I’ll admit to contemplating a (n obviously fashion-oriented) helmet cover and even booties, though no action taken yet.

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  • gutterbunny October 24, 2012 at 1:34 am

    I like wearing everyday clothes when I ride (all the spandex looks kinda silly on an old raleigh 3 speed, and I gotta say that though they aren’t bike clothes. The “Firehose line” by Duluth Trading Company line of clothes work amazingly well.

    I use them at work in construction (welder/ironworker) and they by far are the longrst lasting clothes I’ve ever had for work. Waterproof, to the point of annoyance for my coworkers who wear “rain gear”. They’re still wet, I’m nearly 100% dry under my top layer even in down pours at the end of an 8 hour shift.

    gusseted crotches and shoulders, extended tails on tops and coats, lots of pockets which are really probably too deep, Water proof, and a whole lot cheaper than decent “rain gear”.

    I know I sound like a salesman, but I’m not. Just a guy who bought a pair of pants last year and loves them — and now own 4 pairs and a jacket). I look at em like one of those tools that you have just discovered – that makes a job you’ve been doing for a long time without it, soooo much easier with it.

    Check them out at:

    Check em out.

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  • Julie October 24, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I avoid rain gear like the plague, but do pretty well on my 6-mile commute with:
    – Knee-high leather boots
    – Leggings/wool tights
    – Skirt, preferably wool
    – Mid-thigh-length wool coat.
    – Wool scarf, wool arm-warmers (with cheapo drugstore gloves underneath), and wool headband-thingy under my nutcase helmet.

    Last year I wore a pair of thick wool horseback-riding jodphurs on a few super-rainy days, which worked fabulously! I wear my actual rainjacket (I think it’s LL Bean?) maybe 10 times all fall/winter/spring. I keep extra pairs of leggings, socks, and shoes at work.

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    • brooke October 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      I’m with Julie! –
      Just my regular clothing – which includes plain old control top tights, knee high socks, Wool over coat – in deep winter with a hoodie underneath, scarf, Doc Martens (they dont get soggy and still grip in the rain), and gloves. I do about 6 miles each way – and I’m usually A-OK upon arriving to class or work in the AM or at home in the PM.
      My body is waaay more sweaty and stinky if I’ve worn rain gear – which is why I don’t bother these days!

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      • Tacoma October 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm

        The one thing I add to the regular clothing option are Rainlegs. Tried them after reading this review and, well, I liked them:

        Not for riding all day in a deluge (though they do help a bit to stay warm), Rainlegs add a little “somethin’, somethin'” for my 20-30 minute commute to help stay dry with little bother and I’m never sweaty from being in rain pants. After fenders, though, wool is still probably the best thing going.

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  • Kent October 24, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Generally, I just wear a wool cycling cap under the helmet, but if it’s really coming down and the rain is going to soak and run through the wool —
    I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned the handy shower cap as helmet cover… useful in a hard rain (but fugly). There’s always a hotel-supplied cap in my commuter pannier, just in case.

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  • rg October 24, 2012 at 10:52 am

    So much great advice that we need year-round rain to put it all into practice. Here’s a few I didn’t see mentioned. Light rain: instead of shoe covers I use a cut plastic bag over sock on front half of foot. Keeps toes warm and dry. I always seem to have extra dog poop bags with me. I’ve used them as sock liners or glove over-mitts. (I have no pride.) I do not machine wash any of my tech clothing, I rinse it with water. Gets mostly clean wo/ washing away the magic properties. Drying gloves, shoes: Place them by the base of your fridge where the heat comes out. They’ll dry overnight. Lastly, I wipe my tires with a wet cloth & visually inspect them after EVERY ride. You’ll dig out the wires and glass before they turn into flats. It has dramatically cut down my flatting. Have a great season everybody!

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  • Tom October 24, 2012 at 11:11 am

    and of course with rain pants that are generally baggy, you need to keep at least the right leg out of the chain ….I tried velcro straps, but found a neoprene knee brace/wrap that I turn sideways and move down to the lower leg ….no more tangled rain pants, and wont soak water in.

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  • Mike October 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I absolutely love this topic and the responses. Make this a sticky!
    I’d separate these remarks into 2 categories:

    <50 degrees (or so)
    Drizzle vs. downpour.

    The combination of the above will dictate how wet or dry you are comfortable being. I personally find that most winter, down to 40 degrees without downpour I'm best in a base layer, wool jersey ( and a thermal rainproof vest (Voler). Pearl Izumi insulated gloves or wool gloves if little rain, winter cap under helmet (, Sidi winter goretex boots ($$ but worth it) and thermal knickers (Voler). Fenders and lights, yes.

    If it is a downpour, I'm looking for a better breathable top layer (thanks for the thoughts on eVent from SP). But I find I don't mind wet on my lower half if my hands, toes and core are relatively warm and dry. Unzipping vest/jacket entirely up the hills and rezip down are enough alteration for my hilly commute.

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  • mtbpdx October 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Here’s a link to a Scottish based co that is readily available in the U.S. They Seem to have everyone covered, from road, MTB, and Urban. From what I’ve seen locally the prices are extremely affordable.

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  • Andy M October 31, 2012 at 12:08 am

    I use the wrist gaskets from a dry suit upside down over my waterproof Shimano hi tops to very good effect. RainX on the glasses works great to avoid fogging and keep water from sticking on the lenses. Wind front knickers work for all but the coldest days. In cold rain a hooded base layer is great. I always carry something extra for unprepared ride mates and it’s saved some folks from misery or worse.

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  • Tom November 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I was out on the bike yesterday and it was pretty WET. So I had a great idea while in a store …asked for a couple of those plastic 2 quart (?) bags, took my shoes OFF , put bags over socks and shoes back on.
    Feet stayed dry and warm the whole trip, did not overheat and the bags are so thin that there were no problems with the shoes .. will do again. 🙂

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