Don’t worry, I still got there on the Xtracycle, but like most days, I found it made more sense to take my time getting underway.
My morning (many mornings, in truth) went something like this: I got up. It was raining. Had my Grapenuts and coffee with the kids. Raining. Helped them get ready. Raining. Said goodbye to the kids. Still raining. Shower? Yep, still raining.
Yet 10 minutes later I was on my way to work dressed in my normal (non-bike) clothes, rain gear safely stowed in the Xtracycle Freeloader. Rain-gear optional is a a pretty usual way for me to roll (and maybe the reason I can still justify owning my hideously ugly purple/pink/black, 18 (!) year-old REI Turismo jacket/pants
I’m not saying all this to sound like a total time-challenged-douche-bag-schedule-slouching-weather-rock-star or something—though if you got soaked yesterday you might think I sound like one of those. Nah, I just want to share my two simple tools (well, three if you count the merino wool and four if you count fenders, but everyone knows that one, right?) for staying dry this winter.Here goes:
- A flexible schedule
- Weather radar
The whole reason for this overblown topic is because I was reminded of the latter (family, friends and co-workers can’t shut up about my creative use of the former) this evening when ran across a great post from a couple days ago by local UW Prof/NPR media personality/author/general weather stud, Cliff Mass.
Cliff began the post discussing Seattle’s so-far-pathetic efforts in the name of bike mobility and safety, then switched to promoting Thursday’s Traffic Justice Summit (an event I had planned to blog, attend, and make some noise at, but my week/month has kind of got away from me. BTW, if you went of have any insight, please holler in the comments).
The view from 120 Miles
Cliff finally cut into the meat of the day: tips for keeping dry on the bike (Cliff Notes version [ha! get it? “cliff!!! notes”]: use the weather radar). I’ll leave bulk of the radar advice to the professional weather professor, but I will go out on a limb and recommend King5’s doppler radar (KING! FIVE! LIVE! DOPPLER!) as a liberal-arts-major-friendly weather tool.
I find the way their animations display (I like the 120 mile view) give me a fighting chance of actually judging where the rain is going next. When using a static view or less dumbed-down animated version, I’ve more than once misjudged the actual rain direction and instead of arriving dry and happy, found myself pedaling into a major squall clad in less than appropriate attire.
Well, the problem with radar is that it doesn’t change the weather. It helps you find gaps, but doesn’t do squat if you have to be somewhere now, and now on the radar shows a green spot the size of Holland hovering over the city
You Deserve Flex Time!
This is where the flexible schedule tool comes in. We’ve talked about this before in the context of hourly forecasts. While radar animations further refine the dodging raindrops concept, if you really want to ride all through the winter, you need to negotiate with your power structure to get you on a “flex” schedule.
Flexible. That’s the key concept to get across to the man. Use it a lot when you are discussing the idea. This isn’t about working less. It’s about working smarter. You may also want to mention the Commute Trip Reduction Law and maybe “Work Life Balance” 10 or 12 times. It probably wouldn’t hurt to mention how much you are saving them health care and absenteeism, too.
Go ahead, cajole them, drop hints around the water cooler, lie. Whatever it takes (“…I was talking to my friend Earl, and I says to him ‘Well, I was finally getting used to not carrying my shotgun to work, now that I’m riding the bike every day, but it looks like this weather means I’m gonna start driving the truck again soon. Yee-ha!'”). You may have to lay it on thick, but this is important stuff—it’s your wet (dry!) butt we’re taking about here.
A little rain never hurt me
In fact, the only time I really ever get really wet is riding home. Mainly it’s because I can’t stand hanging out in the office at night waiting for a gap in the Doppler Green when all the drivers have left the building and my family is snug at home. Getting wet then is OK because I’m doing it on my terms. I also find the knowledge that I missed a mega storm on the way in tends to shield me from some of the weather fury on these return trips.
And another little secret: I kind of like riding home in the rain—it’s the wet from the sweaty rain gear or road spray and then having to work I hate. Especially when I can take a warm shower and wear my PJs after the return commute (even I can’t get away with that at work). I like to think of the trip home as epic and civilized all in one. Like getting a massage, sauna, and soft Turkish robe on the summit of Mt. Rainier.
So, how about you? Any great wet-weather riding tips? Forecasting, visibility, and gear suggestions welcome, too (and not just because I need a new rain coat or poncho, and maybe some of those goofy Rainlegs, assuming they make’em in a giant size).