Gear up to ride in bad weather

By Craig Hill, The Tacoma News TribuneNovember 8, 2012 

TACOMA -- A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I spent a morning pedaling around the Kitsap Peninsula.

As we took a quick break at a Hansville beach and looked out over Puget Sound and Whidbey Island to the snowy summit of Mount Baker, I couldn't help but feel a little pang of disappointment.

As spectacular as this day was, soon the weather will change and most cyclists, me included, will spend much less time cruising Western Washington's back roads.

However, with the right gear, the Northwest fall and winter weather doesn't even have to slow you down that much.

Here's what you'll need:

Good attitude

I admit I fall short here. When it's raining outside, I have a hard time rolling the bike out of the garage. Of course, the days I do, it's never as miserable as I feared. Learn to love riding in the rain (and when you figure out how to do this, give me a call).

Lights

In miserable weather or on gray days, it can be difficult for motorists to see cyclists. A light ($20 and up) can be added to the handlebars to help you see better and help you be seen. Don't forget rear lights ($15 and up).

Head cover

Those helmet vents that kept you nice and cool in the summer are terrible for keeping out the rain. Luckily, this problem is easily fixed with a helmet cover ($15-$50) or a skullcap ($15-$30) worn under the helmet.

Eye protection

Eye protection ($30 and up) is a good idea any time of the year. A little gravel kicked up by a passing car or a fellow cyclist can spoil a good ride. Clear and yellow-tinted glasses work well. Some cyclists put water-repellent windshield treatments on their lenses for a clearer view in the rain.

Jacket

A good waterproof, breathable jacket ($10-$400) is a must if you are going to ride in the cold and rain. Many bike jackets add extra covering in the back to keep your rear dry. They also are designed not to slow you down like a traditional rain coat.

Pants

There are a lot of ways to go with leg covers. Tights ($40 and up) or leg warmers ($60 and up) will help you stay warm and insulated tights ($60 and up) will do a better job. You can wear your synthetic long undies over your bike shorts, too. None works as well as a pair of waterproof rain pants ($25-$200).

Fenders

Some cyclists think fenders look silly, but one person who doesn't is the cyclist directly behind you. Fenders ($15-$80) also will keep you a little drier.

Footwear

Your feet can quickly get cold on a bike. Wear wool socks and shoe covers ($20-$100) or stick hand warmers in your shoes.

Gloves

You can buy a pair of full-finger riding gloves for $10 or more. But I've seen cyclists take on the elements (and insist they're still comfortable) wearing various concoctions including ski gloves, and latex gloves under gardening gloves.

Maintenance

A local bike shop mechanic got on me a little bit recently for getting lazy with my bike maintenance. He was right; it had been a while since I took care of my chain.

"It's going to cost you," he said. "It's shortening the life of your chain."

You can find degreaser for $8-$12 and lube for $5-$30. You can get a chain cleaning tool for $20-$30.

Safety first

Ride a little slower to feel safer in the rain or you might want to take a less direct route on roads with less traffic.

Avoid fog lines, other painted asphalt and grates, all of which get slick in the rain.

Think bright. Whether it's your cycling jersey or your rain jacket, the brighter the color, the better the odds motorists will see you.

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