“If it ain’t raining it ain’t training.”
I heard this quote from Bear Grylls but apparently it is a well used phrase during SAS Selection Training. It has always stuck with me, and I frequently used to go running in the rain. It keeps you cool and you are so sweaty anyway that some more water isn’t going to make much difference!
I wake up at 7am on my day off. I can hear the rain absolutely pounding outside. The wind buffets the window and I can hear the trees creaking outside. I have breakfast and gather all my gear. Today is my 50km day (I’m building up at the moment) and it looks like it’s going to be a wet one! I go out to the garage and look up at the sky. Dark clouds seem to be moving away but there is a persistent grey cloud lying low over the landscape. A dull blanket hiding the mountain tops from view. A slight drizzle looks set for the day but at least the torrential downpour has subsided. I get on the bike and start riding.
The rain starts in earnest about 30 mins into my ride. It seems to be gaining strength and I have to stop to put my jacket on. I layer up and continue riding. The advantage of riding in the rain is that you are generally the only person out riding. I blast down the trails along the river. The trail is super grippy from the rain and I can really lean into the turns. The wind is behind me and I am cruising along at around 24 km/h.
I have to take a quick detour where the track is closed due to a land slip. I get a little lost in the suburbs (not ‘proper lost’ like I mention in my last blog haha) but finally make my way out and back on track to Arrowtown. As I circle around Lake Hayes the usually epic view is obscured with thick clouds. The lake is alive with gusts of wind whipping up the surface and the rain rushing across in great sheets of water.
I stick with my plan and push on the weather deteriorating with each passing minute and my mind thinks back to the start of our TransCanada Trip and the torrential rain we dealt with for the first few days! Knowing I have survived worse than this makes me smile! I start to imagine the pie I’m going to get for lunch in Arrowtown and that spurs me on. I’m still riding with a tail wind and holding a great pace!
It’s only have a quick stop in Arrowtown just enough time to wolf down a pie (so worth the ride, delicious!) I don’t want to hang around as the temperature is dropping quickly (already below 10°C) and my wet clothes start to get cold. Tourist send a curious look my way as I depart in my shorts out into the rain. I head up the nearest hill to warm myself back up.
The food in my stomach spreads warmth throughout my limbs and I feel nice and toasty under my layers and helmet. The wind is now a headwind and it pushes the rain straight into my face. The road is saturated with water and rivulets run off the either side off the white lines. I ride through working to hold my over 20 km/h pace. The spray from my wheels soaks through my cycle shorts and it pours down my legs filling my shoes. Cars speed by pushing even more water my way. I just keep my head down and make a sprint for home.
After about an hours ride I’m back to Queenstown and a warm shower is waiting. I’m feeling strong and hold the pace as best I can all the way back. This ride I have gotten my food intake spot on and I feel great as I pull up to my house. I take out a towel and wipe down my bike and give the chain some attention.
I walk out of the garage and I’m greeted with rays of sunlight pushing through the clouds. Typical!Looks like it’s going to be a nice afternoon!
A few key points to remember when riding in the rain;
- Have a good layering system.
- Use wool to keep you warm even when your wet.
- Keep your vital bits warm.
- Lastly if your riding for a long time in the rain you are going to get wet!
The key here is to have a multi-layered clothing system. Start with a wool base layer and then add a windproof layer. Then add a waterproof layer on top of that. By having different options you have more variation to adjust to the current weather conditions. Also the air trapped between each layer acts as insulation too!
Next up is the using of wool as a base layer.Not only does it still keep you warm when your wet but also absorbs bad smells too! This is something I can’t recommend enough! It’s worth paying a little extra for real wool.
Now what you consider to be your vital parts is partly down to personal preference. I for one don’t mind having cold feet or legs. However if my ears and hands get cold I’m not going to be much fun to around. To combat this I use Merino wool glove liners over my hands and a Buff under my helmet to keep my ears warm. The hood of my jacket can also go under my helmet to make a nicely sealed unit over my head.
Nothing is waterproof!;
Now I have done a lot of riding in the rain, all over the world and have used many different brands and types of waterproofing. If you are out in a sustained downpour for hours at a time you are going to get wet! Just accept it and keep moving to keep warm. So long as you can keep yourself comfortable being wet isn’t going to be the end of the world. Accept it’s going to happen on any extended journey and try to enjoy it!
For more information on dressing for a bikepacking adventure check out my blog on the subject here.