The government weather forecasters called for clouds with brief sunny breaks, but their radar showed a band of showers rolling through London with clear skies behind.
You know you’re in for a doozy of a ride, however, when you can see a rainbow ahead of you almost before the first raindrops fall. But if you live in England and don’t want to ride your bicycle in the rain, you should probably take up cricket. And my riding buddy Simon was waiting for me in East Finchley, though, so I pressed forward into a day that Londoners might call “filthy.”
What a good way to test some of the wet/cold weather gear I’ve amassed in anticipation of English winter days like today. So here’s a brief rundown of how some of them performed.
Best Performer: A packable, rainproof, breathable rain jacket I bought as a second from De Soto Sport (they don’t appear to sell it anymore). It absolutely did what it was supposed to: Light enough to keep in a jersey pocket with room to spare (packed in a Caradice or similar bag, it can compress down to a small corner) in the first five minutes before the rain started and in the brief break between showers, but keeps you dry from the outside. Its function is similar to this product from Assos, but at a fraction of the price. Had it been 10 degrees F colder, I might have wanted a Gore-Tex jacket, but on a 45 degree day, with layers beneath, it worked perfectly.
Second-best performer: Kucharik wool tights. Sure, I could feel every one of the first few cold drops as they fell, but once the rain got established, the wool did what it claims to do: Insulates when wet.
Biggest disappointment: SealSkinz Waterproof Breathable Bike Glove. These gloves have one big problem: The breathable lining squirms around, loose, inside the shell of the glove. This means you find your fingertips pressed up against the seams of the glove, leading to premature numbness. It also means that if you remove your gloves during a cappucino stop, as I did a mile from home, you have a difficult time matching your fingers with the appropriate “finger” of the lining, and then thrusting both into the appropriate finger of the shell. I’ve done it with dry hands, and it’s not easy, but with wet hands, I didn’t even try, figuring that I could put up with cold, wet hands for the slow roll home.
Good performers: Endura road overshoes. These would have functioned better if the abovementioned wool tights hadn’t been tucked into the top but rather zipped down around the outside. As it was, the water pretty much dripped down into my shoes and my socks got wet anyway. I will say, however, that these repel water better than any overshoe I’ve seen.
DeFeet Wool-E-Ator Socks. After a rainy August ride with Simon that found my feet soggy and cold in a pair of Coolmax socks, I began searching for and purchasing wool socks. These got wet through the tops of the overshoes, even squished a little, but never let my feet get cold.
Had I known I would spend two hours in the rain in today’s ride, rather than the half-hour I expected I would have done things a little differently. I would have put on a pair of Icebreaker wool boxers that I’ve purchased in my Merino quest, since my lycra shorts got wet and cold underneath the warmth of the wet wool. I would also have donned my Swobo merino wool knee warmers, since I could have used another layer over my oh-so-sensitive knees, and I would have put some warming cream on my legs for extra security. As it was, I had adequate protection for a two-hour, thirty-minute ride.