Let it rain

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

In New Zealand we are fortunate that we can cycle year round.  For most parts of the country, our winter temperatures are reasonable and our weather challenges consist of rain and wind.  Deeper south there are snow days to contend with, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Elsewhere in the world winter means months of snow and ice, and not seeing grass until spring.

winter cycling in copenhagen by Mikael Colville-Andersen
Afternoon Traffic – Winter in Copenhagen by Mikael Coalville-Andersen

Getting out on the bike when it is cold or rainy is more of a psychological challenge than anything else – providing you have the right gear.  Wind is another matter, as extreme winds can make it unsafe (and downright unpleasant) to ride.  The choices you make for yourself as an adult are probably different to those you will make for rides involving your kids, as you want their experience to be (relatively) safe and enjoyable.  Knowing your kids abilities and temperaments will determine how far from their comfort zone you are willing to take them.

Key considerations for riding in the rain:

  1. Have a good rain jacket
  2. Ride to the conditions
  3. Be visible.

Jackets

Rather than let the rain keep you stuck inside, invest in some good rain jackets. Lightweight layers, which can be added and easily stowed, are the way to go.  When buying a rain jacket, find one that is more than just shower-proof, and with some reflective strips or visibility features.  For winter cycling to school and the shops I like to put my old ski jacket to use, as it keeps me both warm and dry.

Kids Jackets

I have a real bugbear with kids rain jackets, especially for boys, it is very hard to find a brightly coloured (i.e. visible) one.  For a while, camouflage grey was all the fad, what were they thinking? …..oh yeah…. “lets camouflage our kids from traffic”……really???  And as for visibility features like reflective strips: hard to find.  But there is hope and here are some tips for your jacket hunt:

Outdoor clothing specialists (Dwights, Kathmandu, Macpac, Pack’n’Pedal etc) are a good place to look, but likely to be a bit more pricey.  Choosing a gender neutral colour may at least help with handing it down if you have more than one child.  Check out second hand options such as Trade Me.  Some kids will be required to have a flash jacket for camp, and then hardly use it until it gets put on TradeMe.

Online Stores.  Overseas sites may have more options, but my personal favourite for a well made and well priced jacket is roadworks.  (I use them and recommend them, but beyond that have no affiliation with them.)

IMG_8131-1
Roadworks Jackets in use

Conditions

Wet weather will affect your riding surface and how the bike handles.  When your road or path is slippery you need to be careful when braking and steering your bike – avoid sharp turning movements or hard braking.   Some surfaces are tricky when wet (think: wet autumn leaves).  A few puddles are fun for kids and a great opportunity to teach them to ride to the conditions.

Visibility

Fogged up windows and the rain itself make it harder for drivers to see.  That may be compounded by increased traffic on the road and the general feeling of hurry some drivers seem to experience when it is raining (are they afraid their cars will get wet?).  Do you best to be visible: reflective vests, lights, and a brightly coloured jacket are all good choices.  Add some visibility strips to the side of your bike too, so you are visible from all angles, not just front and back.

Most days are not rainy or windy, and some winter days are downright gorgeous.  Although it is tempting to hibernate get out and ride!  It’s great for you and for the planet, and it’s fun!Cannon_2010 07 18_0241

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