Raingear for Self Contained Recumbent Touring
Patagonia Dragonfly Jacket and Houdini Pants
Let’s start with an understanding that you can’t keep dry while riding a bicycle in the rain. Rain Gear keeps your warm and relatively comfortable not dry. The problem is that anything that will keep the rain out will also keep the moisture from your body in.
Yes, expensive GoreTex and other similar material helps if the weather is cool and your aren’t riding too hard or too long. But if you ride in the summer, you can expect to be wet so the question is “How to be most comfortable?”. Often a bigger question when touring is “What do I do after I get off the bike and it is still raining?”.
Note: I like Patagonia Gear but don’t like the price. See Patagonia Outlet Post for information on how to get great deals on Patagonia Gear.
I have never had good luck with Jackets and Raingear from Nashbar or Performance, they just don’t sell gear that is comfortable, light enough and good enough for self contained touring.
I know this Post may start to sound like a Patagonia ad, but I find their jackets very good, not the best, but the best available at a good price if you use my tip.
Let’s start with what to do while riding.
1. If it is warm and you think it is just a shower, the best answer may be do nothing. If you feel comfortable and are wearing a poly jersey and Lycra or nylon shorts, this may just be a refreshing break in your day. But once you start to feel cool, it is time for action.
2. If it is warm (above 75) but raining hard enough to make me feel cool, I go to my light weight rain gear. For me, that is a Patagonia Dragonfly Jacket or Pullover (Houdini has replaced the Dragonfly) and Houdini pants. These are super light weight garments that keep you dry and warm except in a deluge. These are also my wind gear. They pack very small and are very light. I just stick them in a plastic sandwich bag and keep them handy while cycling.
Patagonia R .5 and Hind Munich Pants
3. For cool mornings (under 70) or cooler days when it is misty or light rain, I wear breathable clothing that is not hygroscopic. My favorite gear is a Patagonia R .5 Pullover and Hind Munich Pants (see Hot Buys). The Hind Munich Pants are not bicycling tights they have a looser fit more like ski pants. Both are very breathable and much more comfortable to wear while cycling than any waterproof gear. The surprising thing about these garments is that you don’t get wet in the rain unless it is raining hard and you still have a cool breeze on your body to keep you comfortable. These are also my cool morning or cool weather off bike wear while touring. These garment feel good to wear and look good enough (at least by my standards) to wear almost anywhere you go on a bike tour. This is my most comfortable rain gear and what I try to wear if it isn’t hot or pouring.
Patagonia Specter Jacket and Rain Shadow Pants
4. If it is pouring, get off of the road. This is a safety issue. This is the time to show patience and good judgment. However, if I have to ride, I wear a Patagonia Specter Jacket or Pullover. This is Patagonia’s lightest fully waterproof and supposedly breathable jacket. It does the job in a downpour. I try to stay with the Hind Munich Pants but if I am getting cold, I switch to Patagonia Rain Shadow Pants often over the Hind Pants.
The Specter Jacket and Rain Shadow Pants are also my off the bike rain gear. This is what I wear walking to Dinner in the rain or around camp.
5. We have not talked about the feet yet. I bike in sandals and my feet get cold if wet. I usually carry a pair of cycling socks and a pair of Smartwool socks, these take care of me on and off the bike in rain and cold. When we cycled through Newfoundland and Labrador, I added a pair of Seal Skinz socks to my gear.
6. How about head and hands? I usually just wear cycling gloves and the cap I always wear under my helmet. The cap keeps rain water from dripping down on to my face from my helmet and makes riding in the rain a lot more comfortable. I do have warmer gloves that I use in the winter but my hands don’t usually get cold while cycling.
Off the bike in rain, you are colder and need more protection, so the Specter Jacket or Pullover and the Rain Shadow Pants are just the thing.
To summarize, here’s what I carry for rain gear while touring:
1. Dragonfly jacket or pullover
2. Houdini Pants
3. R .5 Pullover
4. Hind Munich Pants
5. Specter Jacket or Pullover
6. Rain Shadow Pants
I know this sounds like a lot but it works for me and most of the items are multiuse, on and off the bike. All of these items also pack very small and are very light so they aren’t a burden to carry.
My philosophy is that getting soaked is bad enough while cycling; don’t also get cold.