Instructions for cycling in the rain, cold, and snow

Image from Going Strong by Amsterdamize/Marc van Woudenberg on Flickr

Image from Going Strong by Amsterdamize/Marc van Woudenberg on Flickr

This time of year, it is common to publish a list of crap one should own to ride a bike in the rain, cold, or snow. If you own a bike that is pre- built for all sorts of weather, this list of “must have” items is pointless.

Here is the Flying Pigeon LA list of instructions for riding your bike in the winter:

  1. Put on clothes;
  2. Ride your (dutch style) bike.

Los Angeles is in the midst of the rainy season, which has sent many a cyclist scurrying for cover. I find riding in the rain to be no more than a distraction so long as you have on clothes that are suitable for walking in the rain. If the rain is very annoying (coming down really hard or some other variant), practice riding with an umbrella. Unless you get caught in a wind storm, riding with an umbrella is quite easy and can keep you pretty well protected. You will, of course, have to slow down a bit – but you’re on a bike! If you wanted to go fast, fast, fast all the time you’d have bought a jet pack or a racing motorcycle. Try holding an umbrella while using one of those!

This post was inspired by Bikeside LA’s “Gearing up for cold weather” post by Mihai Peteu. I love you Mihai, but I strongly disagree with your suggestions.

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  1. Posted January 3, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Dutch style bike is fine, but really: any bike that fits fenders, and a rain cape/bike poncho. Total retrofit cost, less than fifty bucks. I’ve done forty miles in rain that way. Pretty comfy–feet get wet, that’s all.

    Rain jackets with pants are too hot. Wool is the king of fabrics–if it does get wet, you still stay warm, and it dries fast after.

    In snow country where there might be ice, it gets a little more expensive, as you need studded tires. But you use them only 3 or 4 months of the year, so they last many seasons.

    Just “put on clothes” doesn’t work too well if you need to show up at a meeting, as I do, and not ruin other people’s furniture. And I wouldn’t ride forty windy miles holding an umbrella. This is LA.

  2. Posted January 3, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    You are the king of 40 milers, and your gear is second to none, so you’ll find no argument from me at that kind of distance. However, for the daily schlep, a few miles one way a few miles back, if you can walk in the rain in it you’ll be fine, no?

    Assuming of course you’re on a bike with coat guards, an enclosed chain, fenders, upright riding position, wide diameter tires, etc. At most, you get one wet hand that has to hold the bars while the other holds the umbrella.

  3. Posted January 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink


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  1. […] event in Pasadena. Bikeside offers advice on gearing up for a cold wet winter, while Flying Pigeon offers much simpler advice for riding in rain and snow. The Times looks at efforts to lift the ban on mountain bikes on L.A. […]

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