preRA: Rain Gear

An unexpected opportunity presented itself this Saturday morning.  Steady rain and 43°F!  A great chance to try out some rain gear!  I did a simple 12 mile run out for office supplies and groceries, but did so fully decked out in rain gear.   A few things discovered:

Rain Jacket – I continue to really like the Performance Ultra rain jacket.  I’d say it is practically waterproof.   In the hour I was gone, the inside of the fabric just barely started to moisten, and even that could have been sweat.  This jacket fits great, is ultra lightweight, and provides excellent venting options too.  Beneath this jacket I wore a long sleeve NikeFIT shirt plus a cycling jersey (for the pockets).  Plenty warm for riding at this temperature.

Rain Pants – This was my first ride in a pair of new Foxwear Rain Pants. These are ultra comfy, moderately warm (I have the ‘lightweight’ fabric), and fit perfectly.  The designer, Lou Binic, makes them sized for cyclists, with perfect cut around the knee and ample length for riding.  The bottoms go over your shoe covers and can be velcro’d snugly around them.  Other nice features include easy-access pockets (on the legs) and reflective strips.

So how did they ride?  I’d say they performed very well for touring pace riding, i.e. when not exerting oneself.  I rode fairly hard the first 10 minutes and started sweating inside, and so eased up the pace.  The sweat “breathed” out of them quickly, and was not an issue after that.

The Polartec PowerSheild fabric provides “a water repellant surface that sheds rain”, and so isn’t waterproof.   After 45 minutes in the steady rain, the fabric seemed to reach its limit of “durable water repellancy” and started to saturate through.  The tops of my knees started to feel some cool moistness just as I finished my ride, but overall my legs were warm and dry.

I wore the pants inside the house for another hour – all the moisture inside and out evaporated away in that time.

Overall, I am very pleased with this product.  Waterproofness versus breathability is a difficult tug-of-war in rain fabrics.   I will be interested to see how they feel after a 6 hour ride in the rain.

Rain Helmet Cover –  The Zap cover made by  Sugoi does a nice job of shedding rain and keeping it from direct impact onto your noggin.  In the 43°F this morning, I also used a skull cap underneath.  Note that neither cover or skull cap are waterproof, but together they do a very adequate job in most rain conditions.

Rain Shoe Covers – Made by Louis Garneau, these are neoprene spats that velcro around your riding shoes.  There are openings in the bottom for your cleats.  I like these alot for many reasons: lightweight, easy to slip on, fabric is waterproof (although a little water can enter at the spat seams and underneath).  After an hour in the rain, my cowhide Keen riding shoes did not show a single drop of rain on them.  Good product.

Rain Gloves – As an experiment, I tried using a pair of Xcel titanium diving gloves I already own.  Unfortunately, they’re not at all waterproof.  Although they offer some wind shielding, the water seeps right through and then starts a slow evaporation.  The result: icy fingers.   Diving gloves are wholly inadequate – time to do some shopping.

Face protection – If it were any colder, a scarf might be nice to cover the neck area and around the cheeks, and it would be fairly lightweight to carry one.  The other thing I missed was some kind of eye protection so that rain drops weren’t directly hitting my eye balls.  However, my experience with yellow glasses in the past was a horrific build-up of water and condensation, and not wearing anything was the only thing that enabled any vision at all.  I’ll need to research this further, too.   Maybe try glasses with Rain-X or the spit trick.  Or a short visor on the helmet maybe.