Gear Talk: Head to Toe Rain Coverage

05 Oct

The rainy season has come early to the San Francisco Bay Area this year, so I’m glad I brought home some great bike rain gear from Amsterdam. But I already owned a crucial piece of rain gear, made right here in the USA–my wool cycling cap.

If I’d never learned how awesome a wool cycling cap is in the rain, I’d probably would have bought a helmet cover, like my friend Julie did. Julie is a mountain biker forced onto the road for her work commute. Last year, she posted this photo on Facebook with the caption: “As if road riding wasn’t dorky enough as it is…”

You’re right Julie. Like most gear aimed at commuters, helmet covers are dorky. And they really don’t do the job anyway. They trap heat inside so your head gets clammy and your hair is still exposed to the rain. I stepped in with a little advice: “Darlin, you are in desperate need of a street style makeover! Return that plastic bag and buy a wool cycling cap today. I promise it will keep your head dry and your ‘do intact.”

What I didn’t do was show her how my wool cap works. So here’s to you, Julie, and all the other bike commuters looking for a better way to keep their heads dry in the rain.

Step 1: Tuck your hair into a classic small brimmed wool cycling cap, like my three panel cap from Walz. Why wool? Wool keeps you warm, but breathes so there’s no moisture build-up. There’s nothing like wool for keeping you comfy, regardless of the temperature.


Step 2: Add helmet. Cycling caps are close fitting, so helmets with adjustable retention systems have no problem fitting over the cap. This arrangement will get you through the typical Bay Area wimpy rainstorm.


Step 3: If it’s really pouring, you can always pull up the hood from your rain coat or jacket. But honestly, this level of coverage is rarely needed, at least not in the South Bay.


Since we’ve got our heads covered (pun intended), let’s move down to toes. There are all kinds of booties for sale and I have some I use on my road bike with clipless pedals. But for commuting on a bike with fenders and flat pedals like Zella Mae, who needs them? Leather boots do the trick, with tights on cold days or without on days like today when it only pretended to be chilly.

Leather and wool, two classic materials that kick butt when it comes to wet weather riding.

What’s your strategy for staying dry in the rainy season? Is there a critical piece of gear that works for you?



Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Gear Talk


10 responses to “Gear Talk: Head to Toe Rain Coverage

  1. Lorri Lee Lown

    October 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    I’ve tried the hood over helmet method and it definitely obstructs vision and limits range of motion. I vote for the helmet cover (and it looks totally fetching on you, Janet)!

  2. ladyfleur

    October 5, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Lorri, that’s Julie, not me, in the helmet cover. I definitely prefer not using a hood, but I stand by my statement that a wool cap under the helmet is more effective than a helmet cover. My wool cap offers more coverage and I don’t end up with a sweaty head.

  3. Lorri Lee Lown

    October 6, 2011 at 12:06 am

    yeah, I don’t wear a helmet cover. I have a wool beanie I really love and that’s usually it for me.

    so, were you excited to try out your new Dutch coat here in the US this week?

  4. Julie Kanagy

    October 6, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Yeah, I am following Ladyfleur’s bike fashion advice from now on. 🙂 Thanks for letting me know there is another way – that road riding doesn’t have to be dorky. Hooray! By the way – I did take that hideous lemon colored helmet cover back.

  5. ladyfleur

    October 6, 2011 at 10:14 am

    @Julie The cover was a lemon (pun definitely intended). Glad you got your money back.

    @Lorri I was a little excited to try out my gear. The coat is close to perfect, except the wind last night was kicking the skirt up a little. The panniers are completely waterproof but a little large for Zella so I’m getting some heel strike. They’re obviously made for bikes with longer wheelbases, like Dutch bikes.

  6. djconnel

    October 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Or there’s the approach I’ve been following which is to take no measures against the rain, get wet, and be cold and miserable. It builds character.

  7. ladyfleur

    October 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Dan, do you have to put those wet clothes back on to get home too? That really sucks. Do you have any fenders on your bike? I have SKS Race Blades for my road bike and they make a big difference. Not as good as full fenders, though.

  8. ampyali

    October 22, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I commute to work on my bike, but I visit patients in their homes and don’t have an office. I need to look professional no matter what the weather AND I happen to live in Portland, OR. I totally agree with the boot thing–my boots get daily wear in the fall, winter and spring. A little bad weather trick I’ve come up with for the office-less like me: I wear a comfortable, stretchy dress (I like Hornytoad or Patagonia dresses), add wool tights or leggings, fold the skirt of the dress neatly up into my rain jacket and add rain pants. When I arrive at my destination I look for an out-of-the-way corner (I don’t need total privacy). I allow the skirt of my dress to drop down into position and then remove the rain pants by pulling them down at the knees. The whole process of going from rain-soaked cyclist to dress-clad professional takes less than a minute.

    • ladyfleur

      October 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm

      Cool trick on folding up the knit dress. My raincoat is long enough that I don’t have to do that, but I do prefer to wear the shorter dresses just in case. I haven’t had the need for rain pants yet, but I’m in the SF Bay Area, not Portland.

      The last thing I need to figure out is gloves. I’m not completely satisfied with the ones I have now. By the end of the short trip they were damp inside. I fixed it with the newspaper packed inside trick, but I’m still looking for a better solution.

  9. ampyali

    October 23, 2012 at 7:58 am

    I bought a pair of waterproof-breathable mittens–they keep my hands both warm and dry for the entire day.I have a problem with very cold hands and my commute usually totals about 25 miles, so keeping dry is really important. My bike has grip shifters, so I don’t need much dexterity while riding.


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