Rain, rain, go away!

October 30, 2020 § 10 Comments

As Fields used to say, “Any knucklehead can finish a ride in the rain. But it takes a hard fucker to start in it.”

Fields never let the rain get in the way of his riding, or anything else that I recall.

I have always been pretty good about following the mantra of my Norwegian riding buddy Tora: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices.”

The one thing that scares me about my upcoming ride to Texafornia is the rain. From LA to Canada and back again, up hill and down dale, I encountered rain once, in the Thompsons’ backyard in Olympia, a baby drizzle that lasted about ten minutes. So scarified am I of the rain that I even bought a tarp to protect my gossamer lacewing tent from the pounding of water drops, six or seven a minute, even.

Touring rain is way scarier than exercise rain. Exercise rain is never too far from home, coffee, bed, cat. Touring rain? As Bryan Kevan told me about his ride through Patagonia, “It rained when I got there.”

“Wow. How long?”

“Two weeks.”

Or the gal who reported on her south-to-north Tour of England, where she had fourteen days of 40-degree rain. “I went to bed wet. I slept wet. I woke up wet. It was wet.”

This kind of shit is gnarly …

When I ride to Houston I am going to get wet. So I’ve decided to take the rain seriously and ditch the best, most serviceable, warm, waterproof cycling jacket I have ever owned. It cost a lot and was a Baby Seal special recommendation. This thing works. Put it over a wool jersey and you will be toasty even if there’s no rain at all. I had numerous freezing mornings where the addition of this made all the difference.

Worth every penny.

But, bye.

In my quest to reduce weight, reduce space, and improve functionality, I made the hard decision to get rid of the best piece of rain gear I’ve ever owned. I shed a little tear, even. The problem with the rain jacket is that I still will have to take a lighter jacket to go underneath it, which I’ll need in a freezing rain because the shell, although warm, won’t be warm enough. That extra jacket means extra weight and space. The other problem is that warm, waterproof cycle wear is generally uncomfortable when stumbling around camp or burning your lips off with scalding coffee or dropping same on your crotch.

I got to wondering what I could find that would double as a coat and a rain jacket but that wasn’t bulky like an anorak or a parka? The answer? Of course! A wool coat!

I internetted a bit and found the perfect item. It seems that sheep have been used for centuries to keep people warm and dry, and a company in Seattle has been making wool coats since before the turn of the 19th Century. What could be better than a wool jacket? It would take a monsoon to wet it through and through, and wool keeps you warm even when wet, and it smells like sheep so you’re never lonely.

Super lightweight wool. Kidding.
Super non-bulky wool. Kidding.
Boss back/shoulder pocket for carrying your cat.


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§ 10 Responses to Rain, rain, go away!

  • Vanneman Mitch says:

    I have a Filson jacket similar to this or and wear in temps from 50 degrees to single digits with layers. Plenty of pockets which I also find useful when commuting/running errands.

  • Finger11 says:

    Endura Pro SL Primaloft jacket and vest. 5x smaller, lighter, more flexible and just as warm as a Filson coat.

    Take a look at how Tour Divide (and other ultra-riders) setup and pack … the heavy lifting of figuring our what works and what doesn’t has already been done 100x over.

    • fsethd says:

      I met a really nice guy who had just finished the Divide Trail as I was going up Washington Pass. His bike and gear weighed over 70 pounds. I think at my heaviest I was about 60. Ultralight stuff is great except that it isn’t durable. It’s like that old bike materials saying, “Light, Cheap, Strong. Pick two.” Also, what works for some guy in his 30’s racing his bike through hell and back is different for a worn-out old shoe in his late 50’s who also needs to stay warm around the campsite, in the convenience store, etc. But thanks for the tip, I will look at it for sure.

  • Joe N. Clement says:

    Freezing rain in Houston! What,?

  • Paul Thober says:

    I think I finally understand all his crazy-talk (crazy-writing?) is about. Bike touring with a forty pound backpack and a 5000 word treatise on why it’s such a great idea? Pants and underwear instead of bike shorts on a 140 mile ride? Limited pack room so ditch the best rain jacket ever for a 3 1/2 pound (dry) wool overcoat? Bike touring from LA to Houston and back? You know the expression “armpit of the nation? Well, the nation has two armpits and you propose to shuttle between the two.

    As [he who shall not be named] would say, “You have turned the bend.”

    Either that or you’re trolling us.

    • fsethd says:

      Well, now that you mention it … I’m actually trying to see how far I can get from Badass Bike Stuff and how close I can get to Street Clothes and still have a satisfying, somewhat efficient, not crazily expensive tour. It would be cool to be able to tour as a normal-ish person, emphasis on the “ish.”

  • Drew Carlson says:

    I have some SF rando friends who will simply layer on more wool and ride in the rain that way – for 400kms. They say you’re gonna get wet, so focus on staying warm. Everyone who tours or randos has their “go to” setup, and, for me, it’s lighter wool LS jersey, with a very ventable Showers Pass Elite 2.1 jacket keeps me warm and dry in an 8-hour nonstop 200K ride. There’s a reason people in NW ride with SP jackets a lot. Cheap rain pants cut off just below the knee, with knee-high wool socks and (wool leg warmers if it’s below 40F) will keep your thighs and ankles warm, which will keep your feet warm. You have to get through the mountains in NM. Pack warm.

  • Or you could do what my wife (the world’s greatest tandem stoker) does. No riding if it’s below 55° or above 75°, or if it’s even thinking about rain. Of course, it would take you three years to get to Texas, but think of all the blogs you could write!

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