Monday, January 21, 2008

Biking in the Rain

It's a cold, drizzly day here in Austin. It's also M.L.K. Jr. Day at UT. There are a few consequences of these facts: there are no classes, and the University is almost empty, but I'm a grad student with a publication deadline, so what does that matter? It also means I get to ride my bike through the rain!
At first you may think I'm being sarcastic, and you might be partially correct. But there is in fact a small part of me that like to bike in the rain. Two of the big problems with biking in the rain don't matter today: It's hard on a bike, but I've got my driveshaft bike (I promise to blog about it soon; I'm writing a review), which, with full wheel fenders and no chain, is relatively immune to the rain; also, it's a big bummer to have damp jeans while sitting in class; it makes me self conscious and uncomfortable. So, I haven't gotten rid of the wet jeans discomfort yet, but with nobody else around to care, I can sit at my desk for a minute with a mug of hot coffee, dry off, and procrastinate briefly while writing to the blog.
So those are the reasons not to hate biking through the rain on this particular day, but why on earth would I like it? Well, for one, there is the man against the elements aspect. I spend so much time inside under fluorescent lighting, staring at pixels, or sniffining diesel fumes or solder smoke, that Nature is Balm to me. This is closely related to, but pathetically short of, the same sort of joy that mountain climbers find in surviving a blizzard while perched precariously to the side of a mountain, 14,000 ft up. If this makes sense to you, then you understand me perfectly, but if you don't, then let it remain a mystery. Better yet, go climb Long's Peak in Colorado. Then you'll know what I mean.
The other motivation for riding in the rain appeals to the engineer in me. I've some time and effort perfecting my ride against just such a situation, although I usually frame it to myself and others as a hedge against getting caught in rain. That is, it starts raining once I've already committed to my ride. In any case, I've got this new bike that I may have mentioned before. It's got fenders and no chain to get messed up by rain and road grime. I've got a whole system of clothing layers including fleece vest and waterproof shell. I've lined my backpack with Tyvek to protect the water-critical elements like my laptop and notes. (Note to any other bike commuters out there: Fedex Sleeves are made of Tyvek and work really well for this kind of thing. Big bonus is that they're free!) So I have all these elements assembled into a system, and I like to see the whole thing work. Engineers know a certain joy of ownership, a sort of shallow reflection of parenthood, of our creations, and we like to put them to the test and see what the failure points are so we can refine them. I like watching how the fenders catch the water and keep it off me and the bike. I like watching how the tire treads disperse water (I used to work at Michelin, BTW). I like staying warm and dry underneath the rain shell, etc.
So this brings me to the wet jeans issue. There's just no way around it. They're a big bummer. So I've got to do something about that. I read about these wool pants that are designed for bikers. The biker- nerd- engineer in me thinks they're great, but I've long ago learned not to trust my own sense of style in this sort of thing. So I'm going to post the question to any readers I might have. Especially, if you are not into biking answer me this: Should I save up and buy them for a rainy day? Or should I stay far, far, away and just learn to take the bus? Click the link, check them out, take the poll, let me know.
P.S. My wife gets the final say.

7 comments:

GhostRider said...

Wool might be warm when wet, but you'll still have "swamp ass"...wet pants, no matter what they're made of, are incredibly uncomfortable.

You'll look like a dandy wearing those wooly knickers, though...better get yourself a meerschaum pipe and a checked newsboy cap to complete the "couture".

Tracee said...

I believe you'd have to be a very confident person to don these pants and wear them in public. LOL. Good luck figuring out how to keep dry! Do they still make "parachute" pants? Maybe you could wear those over your jeans? LOL! Strange thing for me to be offering advice on! ;)

jenni said...

LOL! Surely you're not serious about wearing those in public? I might see getting by with it in England if you got the pipe and cap and had the confidence mentioned above. However, as your sister, I would caution you to not embarrass your wife by wearing those pants. (I'm still laughing here, btw)

I'm sure there are other items you could wear while biking in the rain that would keep your jeans nice and dry. Try a pair of waders, the kind fishermen wear while standing in the middle of a river. Or, better yet, ride in shorts, then you can slip your jeans on in the restroom once you get to school. Either way, unless you move to the UK, keep away from the knickers. LOL!!!

Peter said...

Those pants are hot! In a strange, almost disturbing, way they are both hard to look at and hard to look away from. I'm torn between continuing to type this comment and hitting the Back button on my browser to get another look at them. Knowing Hannah, you will not be permitted to purchase these puppies. You should go to Target and get regular nylon windpants. I have a pair I got there that would be good in you sitch...They have snaps up and down the sides so you can easily takes them off upon wet arrival at your destination. They are nylon, so they will dry quickly. You could even hose them over of dirt and the like.

Mike your BIL said...

I find these pants most interesting. I would encourage you to wear them as much as possible, especially in public places. Dare to be different! Live on the edge!

Samuel said...

Only you could get away with this Tim. I say go for it!

Jenny said...

Oh, dear....as a friend of Hannah who seriously cares about her well-being, I must caution against these pants. I'm worried about the stress to Hannah that would surely occur the very moment you put these on and said you were wearing them out of the house....

I have to ROFL at Tracee's suggestion of parachute pants. I'd almost forgotten about those. Maybe you could find a Member's Only jacket to go with them?