Riding in the Rain

This practical guide covers everything you need to know about winter biking in Portland.

Riding in the Rain
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  • Walking Distance Guide
    = 1 mile (1.6 km)
    = 0.5 mile (0.8 km)
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    Riding bikes in the rain is all about being comfortable with exposure to the elements.

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    Wet weather tips

    1. Make sure to trim the fender supports so you don’t have long, pointy metal wires sticking up that will poke you inf you swing your leg over your bike. Those edges are sharp!
    2. Always remember that water flows down. If you wear rain pants or knickers and tuck them into your boots or socks, the water will just run into your shoes. Make sure your layers will drain outside.
    3. Tall, rubber muck boots offer great protection for riding around in the rain but they can often be cold. Get some wool boot liners to keep your toes warm. Wool socks are good too.
    4. Watch out for the edges of manhole covers and train tracks in the rain. The wet steel can be as slick as ice and has caused many crashes in the city. Always slow down and cross at a 90-degree angle if possible. For manhole covers, steer toward the center of the circle. If your wheel hits the edge, it is more likely to slip.
    5. Watch out for cars since oftentimes they can’t see as well through windshield wipers and rain. Assume no one can see you or will stop. We all have to share the roads and no one wants to get hit.
    6. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee.
    7. Lights and bright colors are good for those gray rainy days in Portland.
    8. Make sure your bike and its brakes are in good working order. Get a tune-up before the rain starts and don’t be afraid to replace brake pads when they need it. A clean bike is a happy bike. Your local bike shop can offer service and/or tools to make it possible.

    What to wear

    You will always get wet, but it’s a choice between your own sweat and funk or cold, clean rain. Full fenders, a warm wool base layer, a pair of socks and a good rain jacket are the best defenses against the wet stuff when living and riding in the Pacific NW. The best rain gear is often the one with fewer frills and features. Most rain gear is not inexpensive, and sometimes the best is the same thing your grandpa would wear while fishing. Heavy yellow rain jackets or heavy-duty rain gear made by a company such as Showers Pass here in Portland. A great resource for durable wool gear is Andy and Bax or Next Adventure. Citybikes in Portland has a great selection of utilitarian and commuter-tested wet-weather gear, while River City Bikes has those high-end jackets for those looking for a more sporty look. Always trust a company that makes rain gear by whether or not they are located in a part of the world where it rains a lot. (Never buy a rain jacket from a company located in the desert.)

    About the creators

    Ira Ryan is a cyclist and frame builder who prefers long rides, kittens, a little gravel, classic racing, good coffee, photography, red wine and bicycle touring. Find him at iraryancycles.com. Matt Hall lives in North Portland where he can be found riding his bicycle, drawing trees and waving at neighborhood cats. Find him at matthallartpdx.com.


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