How to Stay Dry on a Bicycle

Happy New Year, everybody! How many weeks will go by until you stop writing 2018 after every date?

One of the very few downsides to Bike Life is, when it's raining, you are going to get wet. For your consideration, the following are a few simple ways I ride at least somewhat happily in the rain.

Embrace the Suck (ETS)©. As a former U.S. Marine, I am, of course, amphibious. For me, being wet is sometimes preferable to the tediousness (and, some say, folly) of trying to stay dry, so I dive right in. On suit-and-tie days this method can get a bit dodgy, but as most of my businesswear is made from (ahem) modern fabrics, I dry out relatively quickly and wrinkle-free. If you have young passengers to transport, ETS is of course out of the question.

Wear waterproof shells over your clothing. Gore-tex and other types of waterproof outwear may keep the rain from hitting your clothes, but if you are of northern European persuasion and therefore sweat profusely, you will likely arrive at your destination soaked from the inside-out. If I am going to be drenched, I would rather be drenched by rain water than stewed in my own juices.

Ride with an umbrella. On rainy days that are not also windy days, I sometimes ride with an open umbrella. Feet and legs still get wet, but face, arms, and torso are relatively protected. If the rain stops during the ride, I stash the umbrella quickly and easily. The sweat factor is minimal. An important consideration: "Certain skills" are required. People for whom this option is inappropriate know who they are . . .

Use a windscreen or canopy. The transparent wonder pictured below is a component of several models made by the official supplier to the French postal service. For background, my first encounter with this type of rain protection was during one of many trips to France, when I spotted a French postman on bicycle, making his rounds in heavy rain. He had stopped to smoke a Gitane, warm and dry under an odd-looking, handlebar-mounted canopy. I was intrigued and approached him for a chat. This was my introduction to French company Veltop.

Veltop's philosophy as regards rain protection is to keep it from hitting you and your young passengers in the first place. In brief, I have tested most of the Veltop models and they all do what they purport to do, and do it exceptionally well. The Veltop model (the "Urban") pictured below includes two struts that support a lightweight overhead canopy (both not shown here), but I find that the windscreen, at full extension, is more than adequate rain protection. As long as I keep moving, I stay dry, but the canopy portion is a must in the city. Visibility is excellent. 

There are two potential downsides to windscreens or canopies, though both are easily "overcomeable": 1) Canopies are attention-getters, and 2) unless you take certain steps, your bike will be on its side when you return to it. 

As regards the first downside, I view conspicuousness of Veltop products as a plus, except when I am in a rush, as they have absolutely proven to be conversation-starters. As for the second, I either ensure that my bike is locked snugly enough to keep the bike upright while parked, or use a bungee cord along with the lock to secure it to something solid. Either solution is simple, is quick, and it works.

My wish for you is that you find more occasions to use your bike in 2019. I hope the above makes your Bike Life at least a little bit better. 

How do YOU handle riding in the rain? Please leave a comment. See you on the road!