My first four years at the university, I bought a parking permit. This always felt like a somewhat pointless purchase. I used the permit maybe twice a month, usually when it was raining, since door to door, it actually takes me longer to drive to my office than to bike. Biking at a slow-to-moderate pace takes ten minutes, while driving and then walking from the somewhat distant parking lot takes closer to 15. Plus, unlike a pleasant pedal along the greenway, driving and walking feels tedious. And for twice-monthly usage, the $150/year permit seemed like a bad deal.
At the beginning of the 2010-11 school year, the permit price went up to $180. For a very occasional permit user, this was the last straw. I decided I needed to drop the permit, and thus lose the option of driving in bad weather. I considered alternatives. I could walk the whole way (~25 minutes), but walking in the rain wouldn’t be all that pleasant, and, more significantly, not being an early riser, I usually don’t have time to spare in the morning. So, after some consultation, Brian and I devised plans for biking in the rain. We now have essentially matching setups. Here’s mine:
My rain gear, which I wear over my normal work clothes, consists of:
- EMS Deluge Pants made from Gore-Tex Paclite. Real Gore-Tex is absolutely worth the expense, and Paclite is extremely lightweight and breathable while also impressively water-repellent. These have a full side zipper for easy on and off.
- A North Face Venture rain jacket made from their Hyvent DT waterproof/breathable fabric. This jacket works fairly well, but the fabric is far inferior to Gore-Tex and tends towards clamminess. I plan to upgrade to a Gore-Tex rain jacket at some point. I bike with the hood on when it’s raining.
- SealLine 40L Widemouth Duffel dry bag. This is the sort of dry bag that one might take on a canoeing trip, and it is 100% waterproof and seals very tightly. Anything inside it stays dry. The duffel is large enough to hold my bookbag, lunchbox, and anything else I might want to take with me to work. It doesn’t fit in my Wald folding baskets (which is where I normally put my bags), so I bungee it onto the rear rack of the bike.
This system isn’t perfect. It’s better in a cold rain, but today was about 80 and quite humid, and I was sweating pretty heavily under all this gear. And getting all the stuff on and the bag strapped down does add a couple of minutes to my commute. Admittedly, I don’t look my best at work on rainy days, though I think I manage to stay presentable. It’s important to me that I not have to change when I arrive at work; that would add too much time to what is supposed to be a short, easy commute. I simply take off my rain gear and brush my hair, and I’m good to go. In really heavy rain, I wear sneakers or Tevas on the bike and then switch to work shoes when I arrive in my office. Another issue is that this is all black — not so good for visibility in bad weather. If visibility is poor, I wear my neon yellow construction vest to round out the stylish look of this ensemble. And I always turn on my headlight and tail light when it’s raining.
Mathematically-minded readers will notice that the cost of this setup was in the vicinity of $275, considerably more than the $180 permit. So the first year, the permit would have been a better deal. But we’re now in the second permit-free year, and so I’m starting to save money, and I’m finding that biking in the rain makes me happier than driving and then walking in the rain. And as an added bonus, the dry bag served us well on a recent canoe trip on the Roanoke River (about which more later).