Wet and not exactly warm: a report on riding in the rain wearing wool

By the time I had finished my recent blog on how to dress while riding in the rain, the sun had come out. My brave talk about riding without protective gear when the water’s coming down was for naught.

A week later, the weather man promised me a day when I could find out what happens when a cyclist wears lots of wool, leaving the rain gear behind.

Since the storm with 40-mile wind gusts and heavy rain was forecast to start soon after 10:00 am, I started out at 8:30: light rain and sloppy roads, lots of spray from passing trucks, enough wind to wish that you could have it at your back both ways, which of course did not happen, 47 degrees.

I dressed with four layers of wool on top, wool knickers and over the calf socks below, and feet protected with booties that keep wind out but let the water in. My wool gloves are not waterproof, and I wore a rain cover on my helmet.

My ride was on Lower River Road on the north bank of the Columbia River. I was out for almost an hour, with a steady wind to my back going out and in my face coming back. It was easy to work up a sweat.

My heavy wool jersey was getting wet when I returned, and the front of my legs had absorbed the rain, but except for my feet I was warm enough. My comfort level would have allowed me to continue on for another hour, or so I presumed at the time.

Back home, I cleaned up my Waterford winter bike and made ready to do the second test. If I were to sit around in a warm room with my wet clothes on, would I soon get toasty warm as some of the experienced riders say will happen? I took off my wet shoes, gloves, and helmet and spent nearly an hour sitting at the dining room table talking by phone to various people dealing with our health coverage.

In itself, that’s enough to keep the warm vibes flowing. As the conversations continued, however, my legs and feet kept getting colder. My upper body was not exactly uncomfortable. If I had gone out for another hour’s ride, I would probably have been OK.

As I changed into regular clothes, I noticed that the back of my outer jersey was dry even though the arms and upper chest were wet. The forearms of my long sleeved base layer and the fronts of my shoulders were wet, but the chest of the three inner layers of wool was dry. The small of my back, where perspiration gathers when I wear a rain shell, was dry.

It’s too early to draw conclusions, and in the Pacific Northwest there will be more rainy days for further tests. Next time, I’ll wear better shoe coverings. As for my upper chest and forearms, I’m not sure what to do.

Any suggestions? 

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