Question of the Day: What is the Best Bicycle Rain Gear for Commuters?

Rain gear vs. rain cape: My first fashion advice post in the history of this blog.

Recently, a friend of mine started commuting to work by bike. (That’s one more Nashvillian down, another 691,242 to go.) As it had been raining in Nashville for the past 40 days and 40 nights, he texted me to ask if I had a suggestion regarding rain gear. After trying to answer with a text message (something like, “just enjoy getting wet”), I realized that bicycle rain apparel is a highly personal and technical topic. Not quite up there with whether or not wear a helmet (I do), but still an existential matter that can’t be addressed in anything less than a few hundred words.

So here we go.

First, follow my grapefruit rule

No matter what style or brand of rain gear you get, you should be able to compress it into a nylon bag the size and shape of a grapefruit. That way, you’ll put it in one of your pair of yellow Ortlieb bike bags (or “panniers” ) and always have it handy. Now that I think of it, everything you have when cycling to work (except a laptop) should be able to compress into something the size and shape of a grapefruit (even better, a tangerine).

Rain cape or rain gear?

I. What is a rain cape? 

In Britain, the word “cape” means “expensive poncho.” As in, “Those Yanks will pay twice as much for a poncho if you call it a cape.”

Option #1 Rain Cape | Brooks | $120-$160 

| Brooks Cambridge Rain Cape |

I have a Brooks rain cape. Before doing ten minutes of google-research for this post, I  thought my Brooks cape was ridiculously expensive.

However,  my wife gave it to me as a birthday gift and threatened to divorce me if I ever again used a Hefty 55-gallon leaf bag (sometimes called, a Tennessee rain cape).

Brooks is the British brand of a company that makes leather “saddles” (which translates into American as, “expensive seats”).

Some people think Brooks saddles are over-rated and too expensive. As I’ve used a Brooks saddle for the last 5,000 miles or so, I have discovered that after about mile 4,000 of getting broken in, the value of a Brooks saddle starts revealing itself.

On the other hand, a Brooks “cape” seems to me to be a licensing deal with an Italian company — not something that is manufactured by Brooks. Nevertheless, it can keep a person dry in most situations. While I haven’t been in most bicycle situations many times, I have been in nearly every bicycle commuting situation at least once. For example, since my commuter bike (Jamison) is made of steel, I try to avoid the situation of lightning. (It only took one near miss.) Because my Brooks cape has kept me dry but not sweaty, I think it would be a good option, unless I was from Rhode Island (see next cape option).

Option #2 Rain Cape as a Lifestyle Brand | Cleverhood | $250

Note to my friend who asked for advice about rain gear. Don’t look at the rain cape on the right. I’ve advised people not to pay this much for bikes. But when you click over to Cloverhood, you’re going to discover they are a Providence, RI, product. As you are also a Rhode Island product, perhaps you know someone who knows someone. Ask for the RI native discount. There can’t be that many of you from such a small state. Perhaps they are having after summer sale?

II. Rain Gear

Rain gear is for serious lobstermen and all-weather bike commuters. It comes in various colors (black and yellow) but should always be yellow. According to this article in a long-ago Bangor Daily News about what real lobstermen wear, Tom Martin of Mackerel Cove on Bailey Island starts his day on the docks in $5,289 of lobsterman gear.

As this Flickr album will prove, I am no stranger to Bailey Island and the humor of its natives. (A native being someone who has at least two great-grandparents who were born there.) I can only imagine that Tom Marting of Mackerel Cove is still laughing that a “not from here” writer believed him when he said his rain gear cost $5,289.

However, I do suggest that New Englanders try out traditional lobster-person rain gear in the way I imagine real Mainers get theirs — as cheaply as possible.

Option 1 | Find some lobsterman gear in a garage sale and make up a story about it being the only thing to survive the Andrea Gail back during the “perfect storm” of 1991 — perhaps you found it after it floated to shore near Gloucester, Mass.

Option 2 | Turns out (according to Google) that there is Louis Vuitton rain gear that cost thousands of dollars; perhaps for those Mainers (or more likely, New Porters) who own a  Hinckley Picnic boat.

Option 3 | Or, (and this is my actual advice) Search for “Commercial Rain Wear” on Granger.com (like an industrial REI). They have hundreds of yellow rain stuff priced from little to a lot.

Bicycle Commuting Calculator

How to save $2,000 in commuting and parking expense each year.

For the past five or so years, the phrase “transportation and fun (but not exercise*)” has been my standard answer to the question, “Why do you commute to work on your bike”?
 
After checking out this Kiplinger “bike commuting calculator,”** I’ve decided to add, “to save $2,000 a year” to the list.
 
*I’ve found that calling something “exercise” sucks all the joy out of it.
 
**While their methodology for calculating upkeep and bike depreciation seems accurate, they don’t include the cost of the baseball (or playing) cards you’ll need to motorize the back wheel spokes of your bike. Confused? See: “spokecard” (https://goo.gl/MdLc1y) Gallery of 500+ spoke cards: (https://www.flickr.com/groups/spokecards/)

Rolling ’round Nashville

Skip this post if you were expecting something other than a Nashville bike infrastructure update.

Over the weekend, I took some photos of a couple of Nashville bike- and walk-friendly projects that have been planned for years but are now “for-real.” If you’re not interested in Nashville bicycle infrastructure, don’t feel lonely. One of this blog’s 12 readers is bound to find Nashville’s bike and walking infrastructure a riveting topic.

I-440 Greenway (Construction-Phase 1)

This set of photos (embedded from my Flickr account where each photo is annotated) are of the first phase of a stretch of greenway that runs adjacent to Nashville’s “inner-loop,” I-440. Even life-long Nashvillians would be challenged to know where the photos of the underpass are located, so I’ve embedded a Google Map below the photos. This section goes from Murphy Road to Centennial Park. The “magic” part of this greenway that few people with find hard to believe is the under-pass that goes under 440 rather than over it (like the current Acklen Park Ave. Bridge). When the greenway is completed, it will become a popular, safe and family-friendly bike/walk route to Centennial Park and the Vanderbilt area from neighborhoods west and north of this greenway (especially after the graffiti is removed).

I-440 Greenway Construction | 2017

Where the heck is this?

One the map, the bike icon is the location of the underpass.

Division Street Extender

I added a photo of Froogal McDoogals (a liquor store that anchors one end of the bridge) so that Nashvillians could quickly vector in on the location. For urban transportation wonks, the design of the bridge is called a Complete Street or “multimodal.” This simply means that the street was conceived as a passage not only for people driving cars but also with designated and protected lanes for people on bicycles and people walking. And when I say, “protected,” I don’t mean the white plastic separators going up around town (which I’m all for), but I’m referring to the metal kind you can see in the photos. The bridge and the approaches on each end are designed to connect “the Gultch” to Second Avenue, nearby the Music City Center.

Nashville | Division Street Bridge

For my Nashville Walking and Biking Friends

Bookmark this on your iPhone so you’ll be a tap away from complaining at all times.

I used to complain about stuff in my head. Then someone on the Nashville Walking & Biking Email Group sent this list out and I tried calling someone up and telling them about the issue. Amazingly, it worked. P.S. Here’s the link to that email group. I’m one of the people who manages it, so contact me if you feel the need to complain about the list. Call these people to complain about everything else.

Report a sidewalk or bike lane maintenance issue

If you encounter a sidewalk or bike lane in need of maintenance, please let Metro Public Works know by calling (615) 862-8750 or filing a report online at https://www.nashville.gov/Public-Works/Forms/Request-Customer-Service.aspx

Report a greenway or trail maintenance issue

Please share greenway maintenance requests with the parks department by calling Metro Parks at (615) 862-8400 or emailing MetroParks@nashville.gov

Report issues with temporarily closed sidewalks and bikeways

Please report any issues with sidewalk and bike lane closures due to construction or special events to the Metro Public Works Permit Office by calling (615) 862-8782 or emailing pwpermits@nashville.gov

Report signs or overgrown vegetation blocking public right of way

Please report any signs or vegetation blocking sidewalks or bike lanes to Metro Public Works know by calling (615) 862-8750 or filing a report online at https://www.nashville.gov/Public-Works/Forms/Request-Customer-Service.aspx

Report an aggressive driver

If you are harassed or endangered by an aggressive driver while walking or biking, please file a report with Metro Nashville Police Department’s Aggressive Driving Unit online at https://www.nashville.gov/Police-Department/Online-Services/Report-Aggressive-Driver.aspx

Report people who park illegally in bike lanes and sidewalks

You can report drivers who are illegally parked on sidewalks and in bike lanes to the Metro Police Department non emergency line at (615) 862-8600 or online at https://www.nashville.gov/Police-Department/Contact-Us.aspx

Request traffic enforcement

If you have concerns about speeding or other traffic violations, you can request an enforcement operation. For more information, visit http://www.nashville.gov/Services/Frequently-Asked-Question-Center/FAQ-Details/ID/198/How-Do-I-Request-Police-Radar-or-Traffic-Enforcement-Near-My-Home

Report Issues with Public Transit

If you have questions or concerns about transit connections, placement of bus stops, or issues around accessibility.
http://www.nashvillemta.org/Nashville-MTA-customer-comments.asp

Slowly, but Surely, Rollng Towards a Bike-Friendlier Nashville

My passions these days include doing what I can to make Nashville a city for people who walk and people who ride bicycles

Recently (4.11.2016), I took this photo of about 30 representatives of various Nashville bicycle tribes. Walk Bike Nashville organized a “round-up” of them held at Yazoo Brewery. Good job, Walk-Bike Nashville. Good beer, Yazoo. (Unsolicited shout-out: Try their Daddy-O Pilsner.) I was at the gathering representing Mayor Barry’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

The group represented many different bike-related organizations, ranging from non-profits, to various types of cycling enthusiasts (roads, off-road, commuters, slow-riders, night riders) to people who own pedal-propelled businesses — from shops to bike-tour businesses to food delivery services to the owner of Pedal Pub (although, I guess, technically-speaking, it’s not a “bicycle,” but it is powered by pedals ).

Each person who wanted to could spend five minutes talking about what their company, non-profit, advocacy group, public agency does. One after another, I heard some very inspiring stories about groups who have done various things, ranging from helping to build many of the off-road bike trails in Middle trails to learning more about one of my heroes, the quietly inspiring Dan Furbish of the Oasis Center Bike Workshop.

My passion for bicycling is focused on transportation, recreation and travel. It’s amazing to meet others who love bikes but who express their passion in so many different ways and that have so many different positive outcomes.

635967579643256482-IMG-2290One day, when Nashville completes what’s necessary to have the walking/biking infrastructure necessary to make people feel safe, I’ll be appreciative to the folks I’ve met in the past three years who have, in often quiet ways, done so much to create the foundation that’s necessary to build a great bicycling/walking town.

Which brings me to an announcement Nashville Mayor Megan Barry made earlier this week and that is covered in this Tennessean story.

As my passions these days include doing what I can to make Nashville a city for people who walk and people who ride bicycles — as well as people who drive cars — these kinds of projects regarding specific locations and time-frames for development are what is needed to convey to Nashvillians why I’m optimistic about the future. (Impatient, but optimistic.)