Thursday, March 3, 2011

rainwear follow-up and wrap-up

First of all, thanks to all who responded. The responses, as you can see, are sort of all over the place. Some of you don't bother with rain pants at all. Some of you expect waterproof to mean sweaty and awful, while others expect waterproof to be expensive and are willing to accept a certain amount of personal sweat.

Most (but not all) of you fall into two camps:

a. You spend as much as it takes to stay reasonably dry and don't grouse about the cost. Quality costs more. Most in this camp are using Gore-Tex and other uber-zoot fabrics that make a rain jacket retail for well over $175.

b. You don't ride in the rain long enough or often enough to justify buying the high-zoot gear. You spend far less and have lowered expectations. You live with getting wet because you're not getting wet every freaking day for six months.

As with so many things in life, it's about location, location, location.

Yesterday, My friendly B-Line delivery driver stopped by with our weekly shipment from Cyclone Bicycle Supply. Clad in B-line's company-issue Showers Pass Elite jacket, and the most stunning rain pants I had ever seen. I learned the pants are also from Showers Pass and are a prototype in the testing phase. They're made of the same E-Vent fabric their very expensive Elite jacket is made of. And what thrilled me no end is that the tester pants are a bright, screaming neon green-yellow. Even with road dirt and a few splotches of chain grease, they still shone like a beacon. I imagined wearing these on a dark, rainy day. And I found myself wanting them. At least half of it was the color.

But with previous issues around Showers Pass rain pants, I was hesitant. I asked my delivery guy how they were holding up. "They're excellent!" he replied. "They're two months old, I've been wearing them every day and they still keep me dry."

I expect that when testing is done and the pants are available for sale, they will be dreadfully expensive (which would explain why I haven't sprung for an Elite jacket. Even with my shop discount the jacket costs over a hundred bucks; and I'm not comfortable wearing stuff we can't/won't sell in the shop. (We try to keep cycling affordable, so none of our rainwear exceeds $100 retail. And even $100 is beyond many of our customers.)

Worse, I fear that SP won't make them available in screaming neon lime. That would be a serious bummer. Black rain pants are a silly idea in traffic; why reduce your visibility?

Still, those pants had me excited about rainwear for the first time since Burley Design Co-op did the Dying Cockroach dance in 2007. Stay tuned, this could get interesting.

Meanwhile, here is my new favorite piece of cycling rainwear: The MUSA Splats from Rivendell Bicycle Works.

musa shoe cover

They fit over street shoes, and fit over mens' shoes sized 8 through 11, maybe up to a 12 (my father, z'l, wore a size 13 shoe and I think these would be a stretch to fit over his shoes). The nice part is that, once you break in the stiff waxed cotton (takes two, maybe three rides at most), they fit nicely and do a good job of keeping your feet dry, which is the point.
Open bottoms allow you to use these on almost any kind of pedal -- including platform (flat) pedals, which is also the point (especially at RBW HQ, where devotion to flat pedals is a near-religion).

A couple of quibbles: the giant MUSA patch on the right shoe cover ought to be replaced by a large reflective patch (like the one already found on the left cover), and much smaller patch or tab placed elsewhere. Also, the narrow strap that goes under the middle of the shoe and velcros to the other side is too short by at least an inch -- and I wear a mens' 8. What do bigger-footed folks do? I may fix the second quibble myself. But anyway, they're simple and work well. And at $28 a pair they are as close to a screaming deal as RBW gets, so if you're the least bit intrigued do check them out.

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