Staying Dry in Unpredictable Weather
It seems like winter keep creeping back into a few parts of the continent this year, but don’t let Mother Nature’s indecision deter you from getting outside on two wheels. Wet weather isn’t any reason to stay indoors; it just requires a little extra effort in getting dressed to keep yourself warm and dry.
The first thing to remember is that even on a warm day, rain will chill you. Begin with warm base layers directly against your skin. Wool works best for this purpose –- specifically merino wool. Merino comes from merino sheep – usually from New Zealand or Australia. It has very fine threads and therefore wicks moisture easily. When knit, the merino fabric has small air pockets that trap body heat to keep you warm. The air pockets remain whether the wool is dry or wet. If you have a wool allergy there are several synthetic fabrics that mimic the same process, though it is not nearly as perfect. While merino wool naturally inhibits the growth of bacteria (which causes sweat stink) several synthetic fabrics now are knit with silver threads which also reduce lingering smell.
Wearing a regular wicking jersey or vest over the base layer to pull moisture away from the wool and to the outside of your clothing. This is where it gets tricky. While you may be tempted to buy a cheap plastic rain jacket to shed water, the best choice is a breathable jacket that has a DWR treatment (durable water repellent). Gore-Tex jackets are the perfect example. Find one with a drop tail so that rain runs off behind you and doesn’t instantly soak your shorts. A jacket that is solid plastic will not breathe and all of the sweat and moisture from your core will end up staying on the inside. You will be wet inside and out.
Cycling shorts are more difficult. If you are touring you may wish to purchase pants that match your DWR treated jacket, but for everyday training, your best bet is to realize that your legs are going to get wet. Add a removable fender above your rear wheel as it will reduce some of the splash. Your friends will appreciate the effort.
In addition to covering your core, be sure your feet also have good wicking socks. Resist the temptation to cover your feet in plastic baggies before you put your shoes on. As your feet heat up, condensation will form on the inside of the bag resulting in clammy toes. Invest in a pair of waterproof shoe covers. While you will still get some water up through the cleat, the majority of your shoe will stay dry.
Other considerations include eyewear and head coverings. If it is grey outside, amber or yellow, low-light lenses work best to provide contrast. Full wrap around styles will help to keep droplets out of your eyes. Add a wicking headband or cycling cap with a small bill to minimize drips.
You will never stay 100 per cent dry in the rain, but with a bit of planning it is easy to remain warm which is key to having fun.