Surprisingly dry bike commuting in a $10 jacket

Today I tried a cheap nylon jacket for rain protection. Like, “ten dollars” cheap. The jacket I wore is from Eastbay, and is discounted from $40 to $10.

It kept me completely dry for a 10 minute bike commute through the pouring rain. Ten minutes is enough time for cotton clothing to get drenched. It’s also enough time for me to get from home to grocery or from the office back home. It’s enough time for a $150 Marmot Oracle rain jacket to begin to leak through the pockets.

That’s precisely why I’m trying the backup jacket– I’m sending in the Marmot jacket for what I believe is a design flaw and which I expect they’ll take care of through the warranty process.

I was so surprised by the performance of the Eastbay jacket, I went online to check to see if it made any claims to be waterproofing. The jacket does not even classify itself as a rain jacket, but simply “water repellent”.

From what I’ve learned about what “water repellent” means, a chemical was probably applied to the nylon, which causes the water to bead-up and roll off, rather than soaking through. Over time, this feature will work less and less well. They are spray-on solutions than can be applied to later to rejuvinate the effect, but from what I’ve read they often don’t work as good as the original repellency.

This also means that had I taken a longer ride, I’m sure the jacket would have eventually soaked through, which a waterproof jacket should not do. Further, waterproof jackets have taped seams, and sometimes have special waterproof zippers, while this jacket does not.

What I’m saying is that the Eastbay jacket is not a magic alternative to the quality of a waterproof/breathable jacket. However, it may just be “good enough” for some around town trips, despite perhaps being less durable. At $10, or even $40, it’s certainly worth a shot for staying comfortable in the rain.

Bike Gear and Clothing Recommendations for Commuting in the Rain

My solutions for comfortable clothing and dry gear.

Rainy day gorge tour
I was afraid of the rain. The car used to protect me from it when I got around. After several years of being car-free, I’ve been able to replace this fear with an understanding of how to stay comfortable when bike commuting in the rain.

What I’ve learned along the way that is the staying comfortable in the rain takes an all or nothing approach: Repel it or enjoy it.

Here are my strategies for both cases.

Continue reading Bike Gear and Clothing Recommendations for Commuting in the Rain

Everyday Gloves for Cool Weather Cycling

Wind Glove and Liner Glove I recently wrote about Bicycling Mittens for Five Degrees. That’s a solution for an extreme, so today I want to Back the Truck Up, and describe the gloves that I find work best for everyday bicycle commuting in cooler whether.
The qualities I find are important are:

  1. Wind Protection. This is the primary purpose.
  2. Light Insulation, to take the edge off.
  3. Comfort. Not too tight.
  4. Functional, so they don’t get in the way of braking.
  5. Compact. Easy to carry when not in use.

Continue reading Everyday Gloves for Cool Weather Cycling

Recumbent bike helped with Sciatica recovery

A newer, longer version of this post has been published at Building and Maintaining a Healthy Back.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with a herniated disc in my back. This caused my sciatic nerve to be pinched, which caused great pain in my legs when I was sitting or standing. I spent a lot of the next two weeks lying flat on my back. After standing for just a few minutes, the pain would become intense again, and I’d need to lie back down.

I’m the sort of person who resists taking medicine, and I found myself taking up to eight ibuprofen a day just to cut the pain and get through it.

Yes, having Sciatica sucked.

Continue reading Recumbent bike helped with Sciatica recovery

Constructing a Bicycle Wind Shield

photo of head gear for winter bicycling

The cold wind pressed harder against me as the bike accelerated down Bridge Avenue. Despite the freezing wind chill, I remained comfortable behind my wind shield.

The key things I’ve learned about keeping my head warm on a bicycle are 1. The comfort of my face contributes a lot to my overall perceived comfort. 2. In cooler temperatures, blocking wind is the key to a comfortable face and 3. A lot of the wind I’m blocking is generated from pedaling itself.
Continue reading Constructing a Bicycle Wind Shield

Bicycling Mittens for Five Degrees

photo of gloves and mittensI eased out the alley and navigated through Fairview neighborhood and onto the greenway. Accelerating as fast as I could down the light grade, the computer reported speeds accelerating to 20 miles per hour, with a air temperature of 32 degrees.

My new overmitts were being put to the test. According to a parka website, I had just generated an effective temperature of about 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

This hadn’t fully clicked for me before: moving through space on a bike in cold weather generates significant wind chill.

Continue reading Bicycling Mittens for Five Degrees

The Story of the Golden Bicycle

Photo of a very different golden bike With the sun rising in the distance, I found myself staring at a golden bicycle, abandoned by a dumpster. I’m not talking about a standard golden paint job. This was an all-over, no holds barred spray paint job. The seat was golden. The tires were golden. The water bottle cage was golden.

I stood there contemplating it, awestruck and contemplating it’s story. Was this an Earlham “Community” bike, a re-habbed free ride, intentionally ugly to avoid theft? Perhaps it was stolen, painted gold to mask it’s true identity. Or It could have been an art project. One last golden hurrah before the junk pile.
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Why I traded in my car for a bike

bakfiets, car seat, stoller and Model T

This is the story of why I traded in my car for a bicycle.

It’s not that many people have asked about this. Rather I have sensed that people wonder about this unusual lifestyle choice and do not ask.

My story isn’t going to be about lifestyle comparison or counting karma points. I want to convey the emotional parts of this transition.
I had some selfish reasons for wanting to get rid of my car. I don’t particularly like driving them or riding in them. I don’t know how to fix them if they break, and I’m not interested to learn. I didn’t like car down payments, car insurance payments, car gas payments, car breakdown payments and car break-in payments.
Continue reading Why I traded in my car for a bike

Calculate Your True MPH

Morning commute

 “Let’s Race!”

I challenged Ehren to a three mile crosstown race. I would ride my bicycle (as fast as I could!), and Ehren would drive his Volvo, taking a normal route and traveling average speeds in his car.

The destination was slightly uphill from us.

 “Go!”

Soon the routes we chose to follow diverged, and I didn’t see Ehren until the destination.

He pulled in about 30 seconds after me, complaining about traffic.

Continue reading Calculate Your True MPH

Bike Tour: Cover Indiana ’06

I banked my bicycle towards the sign labeled “International Circus
Hall of Fame”. On the outskirts of Peru, Indiana Hopi and I pedaled
down the rural road looking for something that would live up to the
name on the sign.

I thought we were close when we passed what appeared to be flying
trapeze rigging sitting in a field in front of two large barns. Still,
nothing looked active or open.

I paused in front of a plain trailer with a small window labeled
“TICKETS” on one end. As a dog barked nearby, I was working up the
courage to knock on the door of what increasingly appeared might be the
wrong building.

Read the complete tour journal.