"Is it raining? No?!? I'm taking the bus." Anonymous local Hardman, 2012
Riding on days like the previous two (that’d be October 13 and 14 2012) where there is copious rainfall, wind, and chill puts me in a particular state on a pretty regular basis. Hardman. The fouler the weather, the more readily this state is inhabited. As I ascend the causeway each exhalation sprays rainwater from my upper lip after it has dripped down from my had brim and sprayed off my front wheel: I am Hampsten on the Gavia in 1988, I am Tchmil in the Roubaix velodrome in 1994, I am Voigt soloing to victory in Beaver Creek in August. The colder, the wetter, the snowier, the better.
But rain isn’t afraid of me like it is of Jens Voigt, and so I must dress appropriately on days like the aforementioned. First and foremost: keeping your core dry and warm. Over the last fifteen plus years of my cycle commuting career, I’ve gone through many different rain jackets with varying levels of water-proofness and breathability. I currently wear two different jackets with some regularity.
The first is the Gore Bike Wear Oxygen Jacket.
It’s cut close, long in the back, and short in the front. It looks ridiculous at the club or the mall. But on the bike in the rain, it’s close to perfect. When it comes to balancing breathability and wind/water protection for higher output activities like cycling, nothing I’ve come across compares. It’s almost completely waterproof even after a couple of hours and a year of use. Plus, it packs up almost as small as my second jacket: the Sugoi Hydrolite.
There is a good reason I have two similar rain jackets, or it makes sense to me anyway. The Oxygen jacket is the one I reach for if I am heading out and it is already pouring. It’s strength is in its reliable water-proofness. The Sugoi is the one I tuck in a jersey pocket if the skies look threatening. It packs a little smaller that the Gore, and is more breathable as well due to simple and very thin construction. However, it doesn’t keep the wet out quite as well as the Oxygen, especially for longer rides. It happens to be significantly cheaper as well.
So there you have it, my jacket recommendations for commuting or simply riding during our rainy winters. For emergencies, the Sugoi Hydrolite is fantastic. For extended, expected downpours, the Gore Oxygen (or any other Gore Active Shell jacket in the lineup) can’t be beat. If you want to channel your inner Voigt, pick up some quality gear and start riding when most people won’t. By my estimation, the formula for epic is (formula hidden due to poor science). As you can see, an 8 hour ride in 20 degree sunny weather produces an lower epic rating than a 1 hour ride in which the rider was exposed to 14 mm of freezing rain. Try not to get too into the science, lest summer become the off season due to lack of epic opportunity.