Rainy Season Bike Gear

The past couple of weeks have been a little on the wet side.  Rainy season is now in full force, with the full panoply of rain varieties on display:  the torrent, the drizzle, the drip, the light mist, the soaking mist (which is really insidious, since it looks like it isn’t really raining but soaks you within minutes), the steady rain, the downpour…you get the idea.  We have also had dreary, cloudy skies when it isn’t raining, which is having a deleterious effect on peoples’ moods.  That, and the two impending high-level visits this week aren’t helping any, since everyone is sucked up into the vortex of visit planning in some way or another, even if it’s because you can’t get something done because the key person is in a planning meeting.  Friday, I was feeling a little like Margot from Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day.  Fortunately, the sun broke through this afternoon to cheer things up a bit.  We’ll probably be socked back in tomorrow.

Since last rainy season, I’ve upgraded a couple of pieces of equipment, and it has made a huge difference.  First, I got a good bike jacket, I think made by Bellweather.  I got it on pretty good clearance, and it was definitely worth it.  My previous one was at least 10 years old, I think, if not older, and was as water resistant as a handkerchief.  The new jacket is bright yellow, with reflective strips, so there’s a visibility bonus.  Anyway, I needed to use it for a few commutes, and it worked perfectly.  The only complaint is that it is pretty warm.  Of course, any material that will keep rain out tends to keep personal humidity enclosed.  It does have ventilation zippers which help, but I’m just glad to not be so thoroughly soaked.

Brake pads were next.  This was a bit of a crisis purchase.  I knew I was getting close to needing to replace the pads, but then one afternoon it rained heavily on my way home and I had to make use of alternative braking procedures (read:  foot on ground).  That ride was just a little more exciting than I really prefer, so I ordered a set of Kool Stop pads.  I am very impressed with them.  They work amazingly well, even with the wet/sand/grit mixture I get to deal with.  Some reviews noted that the pads tend to squeal until broken in, especially if not toed-in properly.  I haven’t experienced that, so maybe I got the adjustment right the first time.  Definitely worth the investment.

The other upgrade was a new garbage bag in my panniers.  The Nashbar-brand panniers I have are billed as water resistant, and they do a pretty good job, all told.  Where I run into issues is not water coming in from the top, but coming up from the bottom.  Either the rain splashes up during the normal course of riding, or, sometimes, I have to go through a lake that has suddenly replaced what used to be a road.  In either case, the bottom of the pannier gets wet, and any water that gets in stays pooled in the bottom.  So, garbage bags are a necessity.

I finally got the gear requirements figured out just in time to leave the country and leave Monrovia’s uniquely heavy rains behind.