We’ve published guides to biking in the rain in the past, and the advice in those posts still holds true (especially this one with lots of advice from readers). Finding proper rain gear that works for you is vital, but it’s about so much more than defense from the elements. For people who want to get around by bike all year, the goal isn’t just to tolerate the rain. The goal is to seek joy in it.
I’m guessing some of you reading this just got finished ringing your socks out in the sink and are thinking, “OK, Tom’s finally lost it.” I know rainy bike rides can be tough, especially when you are caught out without your gear or if you’re just feeling tired and not up for any additional challenges today. I’ve been there.
But I’ve also biked ten miles round-trip taking my kid to preschool in a major downpour and genuinely loved it. Knowing you can keep biking through even the worst Seattle rain does more to keep seasonal depression or malaise away better than anything else I have ever experienced because you no longer feel trapped inside. The rainfall here is a big part of what makes Seattle the amazing place it is. Don’t hide from it. Embrace it.
There is no single guide you can follow or product you can buy that will suddenly make you look forward to a rainy bike ride, though gear is a big part of the solution. You can get ideas about what to buy from our previous posts, but my biggest piece of advice is to keep experimenting and trying new things. Your gloves may have been marketed as being for cycling or claimed to be waterproof, but if your hands keep getting wet and cold then they aren’t good enough. You do not need to suffer. Try something different or move to a two-pair system so you always have a backup pair. If your socks keep getting wet, try biking in hiking boots or getting waterproof shoe covers. Don’t let the legit fear of soggy socks keep you stuck inside. Keep experimenting until you’ve got a set-up that works for you. Rain gear can be pricey, but you stand to save a ton of money if you can unlock the ability to bike year-round. These investments will pay off big time.
Likewise, if your rain jacket or rain pants are no longer keeping you as dry as it used to, don’t just suffer. You can prolong the life of rain gear using products like Nikwax and following the care instructions closely (it is very different from most other clothing). But eventually, you might just need a new jacket or pants. The investment is worth it.
Also, here’s a pro tip: If you buy fenders from your local bike shop, they may offer to install them for you for free or at a significant discount. Seattle bike shop mechanics are very good at finding ways to get fenders onto just about any bike whether it was made to have fenders or not. While you’re there, invest in some good lights.
The number of people biking always drops when it rains, but it is always cool to see how many people in our city have found their own ways to embrace it rather than hide from it. I’m always a little jealous of the people who barely wear any rain gear and instead just decide to happily embrace getting wet. That’s not me, but I admire the fortitude. Some people wear ski gear, some wear high-tech modern gear, some wear construction worksite gear, some swear by wool everything. There’s no wrong answer if it works for you and allows you to enjoy rather than resent a bike ride in the rain.
In my opinion, finding joy in rainy biking is the ultimate Seattle cycling achievement. There are wonders all around this place that lie dormant when it is sunny and dry, then come alive in the rain and the gray. Mossy walls glow and the woods seem to speak. Sure, make some tea and cozy up to the window with a good book. That can be a lovely time. But it’s also fun to be that weirdo biking through the rain that all those other cozy people watch through their windows thinking, “Glad I’m not doing that right now.” They just don’t know what they’re missing.