Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ruminations About the Rain.

Tomorrow, if you choose to commute here in DFW, you are going to get wet. I recommend doing so!

If you have been commuting to work in the heat, then changing clothes at work is already part of your routine. Because of the mild temperatures, trying to avoid getting wet is a fool's game as any rain gear will just keep most of the clean water off you while you sweat like it is 100 degrees out.

I like the new synthetic "wicking" materials in warm weather rain. The rain just flows off you. Wet street clothes are much more abrasive in "high-friction" areas when they get wet. Do consider Lycra shorts in wet weather!

I also recommend wearing your oldest and most worn-out clothing in the rain. The passing motorists will send up into the air all manner of grime, and you will be covered in it. It will form a dingy grey grunge on all of your clothes, and it can be difficult to remove. (The enzyme based pre-wash treatments like Shout seem to be effective.)

Try as you might, your feet will get wet. This will be a problem in the cold storms of the coming winter, but this week I would just resign myself to wet feet and not mess with trying to keep them dry.

If you haven't ridden in the rain, here are some tips, and pardon me if I sound condescending, I am trying to cover all the bases here. No disrespect- There was a time I didn't know any of this either!

With caliper rim brakes, there will be a delay between application of the brakes and friction that gives deceleration. The wheel will often need one full turn to wipe away water before working. Expect and allow for this by planning your stops and slowing early.

Avoid puddles. All the potholes fill up with water and lurk around waiting to catch cyclists unawares, masquerading as benign puddles.

All manhole covers and railroad tracks are as slick as snot. Stay out of the motor oil "drip zone" in the center of travel lanes, especially at intersections. Be mindful of this when turning from one road onto another.

Fenders will make this week a lot nicer for bicycle commuters. Late in the week, even though it will be sunny days, the roads will still have water everywhere in your path. On those days, fenders expand your wardrobe options. Without them, you will have to stick to old ready to discard clothes, for they will all become stained. And even with fenders, your feet are likely to get wet all week.

I wear glasses, and often I will have better vision if I remove them in the rain, especially if I am getting a lot of spray from passing automobiles.

Automobile operators are having similar vision problems. Even if their wipers are in good shape, they will be peering through water doppled side windows when they are making crossing movements at intersections- the operationally most dangerous place for a law-abiding cyclist in good weather! Therefore, do run your lights in the rain, and expect to have more conflicts at intersections than normal. In fact leave more time for your commute. Rainy days are not days to be in a rush to get to the office.

The worst part is when you are just beginning your trip, and you are not yet completely drenched. Once you are as wet as you can be, it is rather exhilarating to ride in the rain. I do not think that riding in the rain is significantly more dangerous than riding in good weather. Both are safer than many of our other daily activities. (Like taking a shower, for instance.)

So get out there and do it! You cycled in during the hot summer weeks, show that you are not just a fair weather cyclist! It will also give you more confidence to keep cycling during the colder months ahead.

You will be glad you did!


fred_dot_u said...

The photo of the rider with the umbrella makes it appear as though the umbrella is being used to slow the impending fall.

I also wear glasses and cannot see well enough without them. I've recently begun to apply RainX to the lenses according to instructions and it makes a world of difference. I have glass lenses, and I understand that RainX should not be used on plastic. I've done so and found durability and duration of the treatment is very small. For plastic view-through surfaces, RejeX works great.

Keri said...

I love the Mary Poppins pothole photo.

If it's not pouring rain, mud flaps will keep your feet dry through puddles and wet road surfaces. I have a big front flap on my Surly. I love it.

Cycling sandals are a good option for riding in heavy rain. We get daily frog-stranglers here in Florida. They'll fill up your shoes in about 30 seconds. I bought open-toed clipless sandals to avoid that problem.

Yep, all the experts agree, riding in the rain is fun! :-)

ChipSeal said...

As an addendum, I failed to mention that re-lubing your chain after an outing in the rain might be necessary.

I use a wax-based lube, and they say it weather resistant. I say, more couldn't hurt!

fred-dot-u, I too prefer glass lenses. I am often needing to clean them in less than pristine conditions, thus non-glass lenses are not as durable for me.

Good tip by the way! Any other tips for stuff y'all take for granted, and us desert rats wouldn't know??

ChipSeal said...

Speaking of lubricating your chain, I remembered this famous quote;

"Cyclist's of the world unite! We have nothing to lube but our chains!"

Doohickie said...

Doohickie didn't write this; ChipSeal did (hint: he uses the blue font). He did a much better job than I could have, too. He has more experience in the rain.

If you haven't ridden in the rain, here are some tips, and pardon me if I sound condescending, I am trying to cover all the bases here

Thanks, ChipSeal. After all, this supposed to be a blog for beginning commuters.

Steve A said...

Double Oops. Chipseal, not Doohickie, writes: "Avoid puddles."

Oops. Too late to follow THAT advice. See here

Great advisory post! Y'all do what Doohickie, correction - ChipSeal advises now.

Chandra said...

I can vouch for the mud flap keeping the water off your feet and possibly more importantly, yuck and muck off the bottom-bracket.

As Keri correctly pointed out, it is pouring cats and dogs, you gonna get soaked nicely.

I use platform pedals and I can wear any shoe I want. So, in snow/freezing rain, I used to wear hiking boots and in the regular old-fashioned but cold rain, I wear my water-resistant Saloman.

If it is not cold, I just stick my my Keens. Give those Keens a good environmentally friendly wash, you know? :)

Peace :)

Dottie said...

Great advice on riding in the rain! A lot of it even experienced cyclists may not think of, like puddles hiding dangerous potholes.

I enjoy riding in the rain and agree that more people should do it!

RANTWICK said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you said; nice summary ChipSeal. Puddle note is an important one, and that photo really drove it home!

Keri said...

Here's another reminder about puddles :-)

Steve A said...

Darn, one item of advice not mentioned - don't wear your watch if it isn't waterproof. My crystal is now all fogged up! Cell phones are also best kept in waterproof bags.

Big Oak said...

I keep extra clothes, underwear, and socks at work (well hidden in an undisclosed file drawer) so I can have dry clothes in case my clothes in my rack trunk panniers get wet on the way. I also keep extra shoes at work.

What I don't like with these really dark, wet mornings is that it's difficult to see the road when oncoming cars approach.

Doohickie said...

So I rode today. The day dawned with the drum of heavy rain on the roof of the house. I showered and ate and steeled myself to the thought of riding through a downpour. When I got outside I found the rain had stopped; I had a perfectly uneventful ride on wet roads.

Riding home was a little dicier with mist, drizzle and light rain alternating, and heavier traffic. Everyone seemed to be willing to cut each other a break though, perhaps because they didn't want to get into an accident. I got a lot more room than I usually do.

I took pics with my cell phone but I'll probably wait until tomorrow to put them up.

Steve A said...

I guess Doohickie's ride means at least one of us is "not just a fair weather cyclist!"

ChipSeal said...

Cheers to you, Doohickie! You probably removed any doubt your co-workers had that you are not crazy.

I seem to get more respect from automobile operators in bad weather as well.

Glare from the wet road helps illustrate the need to run your lights in the rain. Motorists are struggling with that same issue as well. I deal with it by just closing my eyes. (As the pregnant goat said; "Just kidding!")

Velouria said...

My biggest problem with the rain is not the conditions themselves, but the general state of confusions that results. Drivers get nervous and begin to behave erratically - speeding up or slowing down without rhyme or reason. Everybody seems less attentive and more impatient. Cars honk at each other more than usual; lights flash. Sensory overload!