Rain-pocalypse vs. Rain Gear
This weekend Portland had its biggest storm of the year (the year’s not done yet though). It was substantial enough that events were being cancelled left and right in anticipation of the rain and wind. Weather maps of the area showed a comical Green Blog of Wet sitting over the PNW. What better time to go ride a bike, right?! I decided to embrace the craptacular weather and ride in it for scientific purposes to test some bike gear and for the general entertainment of readers. I had grander ambitions for the ride and had hoped to come back with Rapha-appropriate suffer photos, but to be blunt: it was too @#$!-ing wet. So I will substitute artastically composed BW photos for Instagram snaps and flowery language.
First, a quick list of what I wore/”tested”:
-Castelli Ergo Tre Bib Knickers
-LS no-name base layer
-Ibex Giro LS jersey
-Endura PakaJak jacket
-Swift Industries Get Lost cap
-Pearl Izumi WxB gloves (literally purchased that morning)
-Doc Martens Conrad boot
(As usual, I encourage you to buy local. IF, however, you can’t or you want to support the site, consider the Amazon affiliate links.)
Now some flowery language about the ride:
It was @#$^-ing terrible.
When I first left in the late AM it was steadily raining. Nothing of biblical proportions, but the sort of steady slightly heavier than usual PNW blech. I stopped at Western Bike Works to pick up some new gloves. They had the spendy Pearl Izumi WxB gloves which has been getting rave reviews on the Interwebs on sale, so I took the opportunity to buy a pair. In the time it took me buy the gloves and leave the store, the rain had changed from bearable to “WTF am I doing out in this when I could be home drinking artisanal coffees”. I stared forlornly out the window, hoping that the rain would let up. No luck. But atleast I had some new rad gloves, right?! My plan was to ride up to Forest Park and hopefully get some respite from the rain under the cover of the trees. I was feeling pretty good going up Thurman with new gloves and boots and rain chaps (don’t laugh). After a few miles on Leif Erickson road, I was soaked from head to toe and turned around wondering why I thought this was a good idea in first place.
What failed? Essentially EVERYTHING in varying degrees.
The Pak-a-Jak is a packable jacket (get it?!) that packs down small enough to always have with you (though not so tiny that you can keep it in a jersey pocket). It falls more in the emergency jacket category than bombproof rain gear, so the fact that it wet through is not a surprise. It is thin enough though that when the weather clears up it usually dries out while riding. Although it failed at keeping my dry it did help in blocking the wind and kept me somewhat warm.
Ibex Giro Jersey
By the time I got home, the jersey was soaked. Yet, true to the many magical qualities of wool, I was still warm while riding. I knew that I had to settle for warm/wet rather than dry, so with that in mind I fared OK.
The Rainlegs essentially hit their saturation point about half an hour into my ride, but I kept them on anyways. I realized that although they were no longer keeping me dry, they were keeping me warm. They were acting like wind vests for my legs taking the bite out of the weather. This was a bit of an interesting realization and I may keep using them as wind blockers on chilly wet day rides.
Swift Industries “Get Lost” cap
The cap got wet as expected but one thing I really appreciate about the cap is the bill. It has a nice functional bill that is larger than the vestigal visors some cycling caps have. It provided pretty good rain protection for my glasses. It didn’t keep the rain out quite like Da’ Brim visor, but was still pretty functional. Also, the stiffener in it seems to be robust. One of my pet peeves is caps with crappy bill stiffeners (I’m looking at you Giro!). After a few weeks of use and a few washes, the bill in my Giro cap snapped in half. The Swift Industries cap, made by Pace, promises to last longer.
Doc Marten’s Conrad Boot
I ride in flat pedals and my cycling shoe of choice when the weather goes south has been my Blundstones. I wanted to mix things up this year and find another suitable substitute and picked up a pair of Doc Marten’s Conrads. They are slip-on boots like the Blundstones but area a little bit shorter giving them more freedom at the ankle. The upper is also a little more molded and promises not to exhibit the same saggy hump a Blundstone will over time. That said, the Doc’s aren’t constructed in the same weather proof way Blundstones are. There was some slight leakage (less than I expected given the amount of rain) which I suspect came from the seams. So yes, my socks were kinda damp but the boots held their own surprisingly well. I’m contemplating to give the seams a little Seam Seal and see what that does.
Pearl Izumi WxB Gloves
I had heard so much about these gloves that I think it probably set my expectations a little unreasonably high. The word “waterproof” isn’t taken lightly here in PDX so when I heard rumors of a glove that might actually BE waterproof I was intrigued. I was told that the trick was to make sure that you tucked them under your jacket cuffs so water doesn’t leak in. I did that. 3 miles into my ride I was feeling pretty good and was amazed at how dry and warm my hands were given the craptacular weather. 5 miles in, I felt a little coolness in the palm. 6 miles in the coolness was water. Shortly after that, my fingers were filling up with water and I decided to turn around. They failed and not very long after I bought them. I’m not quite sure what went wrong since I made sure they were tucked beneath my jacket cuff. Granted, the rain was pretty bad and anything short of a plastic bag would have soaked through, but still, a little disappointing. As I write, they are hanging in the bathroom drip drying. I’m HOPING that maybe in combo with a little more waterproof jacket than the Pak a Jak they will work better? Who knows? For now, take the “Waterproof” on the WxB gloves with a grain of salt.
So that is the summary of my testing of some gear I have against the first truly crappy storm of the season. Wool rocks. Docs aren’t just for skinheads. Nothing is waterproof.