Saturday, June 12, 2010

Happy Colours, Rainy Touring

I don't have much leeway in choosing when to go on long rides, so lately I've been doing my "tour training rides" in the rain. The first time getting caught in the rain was an accident: the forecast said no rain, but it lied - and 13 miles from home the downpour began, "baptising" my Sam Hillborne and teaching me a thing or two about how to make a rainy tour comfortable. Since then I have not really been resisting rain, but enjoying the empty roads and the fresh air it brings.

My old "lobsterman yellow" waterproof windbreaker. If you are horrified by the neon, I will explain that I see touring in the rain as different from transportation cycling. The latter is a relatively short, urban ride for me on an upright bicycle, and I wear my regular clothing. If it is raining, I wear my trenchcoat and that keeps me dry. I turn on my lights and that keeps me visible. For long-distance rides, I feel that this is not enough - because I cycle through rural areas where my bike and I blend into the landscape much more than in the city. When it is raining, I am practically invisible to cars traveling at high speeds, and in the daytime lights are not always sufficient. So I feel safer wearing brightly coloured clothing in this context.

Having observed the visibility of other cyclists, I would say that bright yellow and red look especially striking against the green-gray backdrop of woodsy and countryside areas. Other popular colours - like purple, turquoise, pink and green - not as much, even if they are neon.

My lobsterman windbreaker is falling apart from old age, so I am looking for a new rain jacket that is specifically designed for long-distance cycling: long in the back and form-fitting around the torso to prevent billowing. And I'd like it to be red. Haven't had any luck so far, and most of the ones I've tried in bike stores seemed ill-fitting. But I will keep looking and welcome any suggestions.

32 comments:

  1. Mountain Equipment Co-op carries a red cycling jacket. I don't know anything about it, though. It's new on their website, so there aren't any reviews, yet, either. You can send it back, no questions asked, though. They are very good about that.

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  2. Go for the Rapha Women's Stowaway in red. I just bought one and really love it. It's beautiful and functional. Pricey but worth it.

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  3. Look at Showerspass, Women's Elite 2.0 jacket in red

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  4. P.S. Also, I forgot Women's Club Jacket in red

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  5. Thanks for the suggestions. A question from the p.o.v. of someone who does not usually buy "cycling clothing": Just how tight are these jackets supposed to be? Surely not as tight as a jersey, or am I wrong? Most cycling jackets I've tried on in bike shops are super-tight in the hips - but if I get a larger size they are too loose in the arms and shoulders.

    I've tried the Showerspass Double Century and that fits me nicely in size "Small", but does not come in red. The Women's Elite 2.0 looks nice too, but I am afraid to assume that the sizing is the same, so will try to find a store that carries it.

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  6. I agree with you that red and yellow are the two most visible colours, but in the UK so many people wear yellow as a part of their safety gear that I fear motorists may be becoming blind to them. So I wear red.
    As you're in the USA I can't really advise you what to buy as there are different products available, but I have a jacket from the Scottish company Endura. It's roomy, breathable, very waterproof (with a stow away hood) with venting zippers under the arms. It's not especially light, but roomy enough for clothing underneath all year round and best of all not expensive.
    I'm not sure that highly priced waterproofs are worth the expense unless you live in a rain forest. I'm in the NW of England which is very wet indeed, but it surprises me how little I need it's waterproof properties. The best features for me are that it's windproof, visible and has pockets.

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  7. Re: the Stowaway-- either Rapha uses a bevy of extremely narrow-thighed models, or they have a staff Photoshopper with an odd compulsion to carve out large amounts of inner thigh/crotch space...

    The yellow and red are such classic rainy day colors! Love the hat.

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  8. aww these photos are so cute. haha, I love them.
    You seem to be having so much fun. In Houston right now I cringe at the sight of all those clothes. One comes back after a long ride and they look like it has been raining outside but, alas, it is the humidity.
    Good luck w/ the red windbreaker.
    -ryan

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  9. Margo - There are ways to achieve that "oh look how skinny my thighs/upper arms are!" look with some clever angling and lighting; we've done it before. The black tights help, plus I am sure those models have some serious natural sinewiness going on.

    Or wait... do you think buying Rapha will make me lose 15 pounds?.. I suppose that would explain the price. Duh!

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  10. Rapha: cutting-edge fabrics interwoven with our patented flesh-eating bacteria, guaranteed to help you achieve that "slim" look you've always dreamed of!

    Hmm, I don't know. I think I prefer to continue shaking my fists angrily at catalogue art directors like the crotchety, humorless feminist that I am.

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  11. I have a strong, but far from neon, pink rain jacket, and I was surprised to see cars give me more room while I was wearing it than they do when I'm not. I'm not sure if it's because they don't want to hit a girl or just because they can see me pretty well.

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  12. What is your strategy for keeping your feet dry? I get miserable when my feet get wet. My cycling jacket runs large everywhere except at the bottom and I presume that is part of the plan on how to keep it from riding up.

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  13. Steve--weird, my shoes never get soaked through on a bike. I get more wet walking, and in less of a rain, too.

    I like biking in the rain, so long as I am not going to work. If I had some rain gear, even that wouldn't be a problem. My bikes love the rain, that's the only washing they get. :)

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  14. I have an orange rain-jacket that comes down to my mid thighs and the sleeves tuck over my hands. Although it's long I sit on it when in the saddle and can undo the zip slightly from the bottom. The bit of length keeps the top of my legs dry, and it is plastered with reflective strips. I couldn't think of anything that looks less practical for cycling, but, somehow it works, even when I'm touring. I should add I'm all about comfort over speed. The only problem is it makes me look like a train-spotter or someone of interest to the police!

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  15. I second the Mountain Equipment suggestion; I have a red jacket they make (the "Whoosh" they call it, I believe). Excellent value and functional, waterproof, lots of reflectivity and durable. My first one lasted me 5 years of year round cycling.

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  16. There is a commercial fishing store in Washington State named Redden Marine Supply. Last year, I ordered some insulated rubber gloves from them for winter cycling. They also have clothing; some items in bright colors. Here is the store's site:

    http://www.reddenmarine.com/site/new-index.cfm

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  17. Steve - The leather sneakers I am wearing in these pictures are fairly waterproof, as are the saddle shoes I wear at other times. I don't wear cloth shoes or sneakers on long rides because those do get soaked.

    Margo - flesh eating bacteria : ))) That's a good one.

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  18. My Chrome shoes are good against rain. There are pictures and a review here somewhere. I've been in snow and in downpour in those and kept dry. Pretty good cycling shoes.

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  19. Thanks, as always for this beautiful blog. Might I suggest a good old fashioned 'Sou- wester' to go with the yellow jacket!I believe Rivendell do a snazzy yellow number. regards,Ian,Melbourne,Australia

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  20. This is a timely posting for me, because I am also looking for some new rain gear. My old rain jacket is falling apart and everything fits me differently now.

    It's true that you need brighter, sometimes garish, colors in the countryside. That's why hunters wear them. Like you, I prefer red to lobsterman's yellow.

    That said, I had a really nice rain/wind jacket in a bright shade of neon pink--the last time neon colours were en vogue! It also had light insulation, so it was a nice all-around spring/fall (and mild winter) jacket. But the thing I'll never forget about it was that motorists actually used to slow down and look at me when I wore it. I guess that it was, well, visible!

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  21. Now that you have many, many miles under Graham's belt, I'm curious about your experience with 650B? Do you feel like you've sacrificed much in terms of speed/roll? I plan to purchase a road/light touring bike at the end of this year or sometime next year, but am still torn between 700C and 650B. I love sprinting and love a fast ride, but I also like to go on slower, nature rides along the water. If it helps, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to the wonderful Bay Trail (300 miles of mixed trail around the perimeter of the SF Bay), and the trail is not more than 4 miles from my house.

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  22. Maria, I am not sure where the idea that larger wheels mean higher speed comes from. I've heard it a number of times, too. Maybe I just don't know enough about bicycle physics, or bicycle marketing.

    There may be an advantage with bigger wheels in terms of stability/handling over uneven terrain, pot-holes and off-road conditions, but not raw speed. In fact, I hear small wheeled bicycles are pretty fast and could win races if they weren't excluded by rules. But I don't want to get too much into the physics of why small wheels are easier to spin than large wheels, or worry about which wheel will stop sooner if left to coast. And rolling resistance is another one of those dangerous topics. I think if it wasn't for aerodynamics, rules, traditions, and special interests, all racers would be sporting fat tyres.

    The tyres Velouria has are amazing. They are very cushy and everyone just loves them. They are very fast! I think choosing the right tyre is every bit as important as picking a wheel size. I wish these ones came in sizes other than 650B, but, alas, no.

    Good luck on your wheel choice. I didn't know road bikes could be had with clearance for fat 650B wheels. I think Rivendell's Sam is more of a touring bike than a straight-up road bike, but it's a lovely machine the way Velouria has hers set up.

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  23. I don't know if they still have them available, but Night Gear had a great high-vis yellow jacket with illuminite on it, plus had zip-off sleeves so you could wear it as a vest. Quite visible and looks like cop gear, so motorists keep their distance. Also, for many years on rides with others, I have noticed that red is not nearly as visible at distance as yellow (neon best) and also neon pink. Not attractive colors, except for self-preservation. Just an observation in using mirrors as well, those are the only colors visible in the distance in the rain.

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  24. There was some research in the UK that showed motorists gave cyclists who appeared to be women (actually a researcher in a long blonde wig) more room than men, so the pink may well be a good idea. Or just a long blonde wig

    As for keeping your feet dry the only 100% effective solution I've found is wellingtons, but you get some strange looks

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  25. Campmor Rain capes are nice, simple and light. The advantage to a cape is that it extends over the handlebars, helping to keep everything dry and the bottom is open for ventilation. I tend to sweat like crazy in a jacket.

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  26. EMS has a red rain jacket on sale right now. It may not be form fitting enough for riding. I own this jacket in blue and use it for hiking. Very light weigh so I can layer which is what I needed at the time. A smaller size might work for you. Just another option in your quest for the perfect riding jacket. I also have a question. I'm thinking of changing the tires on my Pashey to Delta creams afte reading your comments. However, I have a Sonnet and she is cream. Do you think that might be over doing it with the cream tires? I did remove the basket and she does have a little more get up and go. She is my slow bike but I love her for that I just need a little more zip.

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  27. There is a reason people where these colors, whether it be a short or long trip. Being more visible never hurts.
    Jim

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  28. Maria M - I don't feel that 650B wheels in of themselves sacrifice speed; after all it was a wheel size especially designed for "Randonneur" touring bikes. In addition to that, fat tires on 560B wheels increase the overall diameter. So the size of my wheel+ 40mm Grand Bois Hetre tire is much larger than the same wheel with a standard tire.

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  29. Those colors are striking together. I really like your idea of combining yellow and red. My everyday rain trench is beige, but in the heavy rain I always wish I was neon yellow. I've been searching for a vintage bright red coat for the longest time, but so far no luck.

    The new site format looks great!

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  30. Funny, it has been raining here A LOT and I was thinking all weekend I need some new raincoats. I have needed a cycling rain jacket for quiet sometime, but the optimist in me thinks I really do not need one. Time to stop dreaming... Anyhow, I am a huge Craft fan when it comes to women's cycling gear (was actually planning on posting about it later this week). I want a clear jacket, but if it is red or yellow you seek, go here.

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  31. yah, know I had a discussion with a friend about rain gear for touring. Now like most folks do, I went to the internet Oracle (Youtube); observing what clothing people wore on touring, and what their complaints had been.... Then we talked what the heck catches your eye going down the road... A number of touring cyclist complained trucks didn't see them, and on dark and bad weather conditions was only worse off. I looked what they had been wearing.... Columbia, North Face, REI, etc.... But all dark, and no reflective materials.... So what looks as good as a Columbia jacket, and what is high vs.... Well a ANSI class III jacket with large silver reflective stripes... I ordered a Jackson safety jacket in orange.. Hey people are conditioned they see this they think of workman on the side of the road, its waterproof for all day usage, high vis, has a linear, high collar, sleeves and trunk long,and form fitting to accommodate movement. Hood detaches.
    Also added gators along with REI cycling pants for better coverage for my cycling shoes.

    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41uV9SFJBzL._SY445_.jpg

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