Monday, May 01, 2006

Free Range Cyclist

This was a good weekend to test raingear. It rained so much we had a couple of ducks in the backyard for a while despite us not having any bodies of water on the estate. I had a new Camp-mor yellow rain cape that I got for $30 and I thought I should try it out. I was thinking about doing this when Henry, my 14-year-old son, said he wanted to ride up to a local mall and get some hamster food for Cooshball and Diablo, the latter perhaps the most personable dwarf hamster ever. OK, he can try it out. I snapped the raincover from my Large Bell Metro helmet on Henry's Medium and sent him off.

He returned about 45 minutes later soaking wet and filthy. One thing rain capes need to work properly is fenders so that you don't get soaked by the water thrown up by the tires. Henry doesn't have fenders. Henry got wet. Henry also got gritty.

No worries, I have fenders, so we hung the cape up to dry on the back porch and let some time go by. I have a Blue Sky Guide, sort of a tree-hugger coupon book, and there's a coupon for $5 off a $40 purchase at Mississippi Market, so I thought I'd ride there. I got the Atlantis out but the back wheel was rubbing against a brake block. Hmmm, must have bashed it out of true. I hung the bike up to look at it and found two broken spokes. That's weird, I hardly ever break spokes, and I haven't ridden the Atlantis that much this year. OK, I'll just take the Marin. I mounted a grocery pannier and my large Topeak rear basket, put the rain cover back on my helmet, and rode off.

My feet got wet. Partly this was due to my misjudging the depth of a surprisingly capacious mudhole on the informal Chatsworth crossing of the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railway tracks, partly it's because the front wheel kicks up and out water the fenders don't catch. Not that I was trying to avoid water; the Marin is what I rode through the winter and I still haven't thoroughly cleaned it, so I figured a good dousing of fresh rainwater was just the ticket, and made for the puddles and streams all along the way.

The Metro's helmet cover has a slight defect, as well. You have to take off the visor to snap it on, then can re-mount the visor. Trouble is, the water that does run down the front of the helmet goes behind the Visor and drips on my glasses. Oh well.

I arrived at Mississippi Market, about five miles away, and went in to buy my groceries. All the other tree-huggers were driving cars. My feet were wet, and the right one all brown from the mudpit, and the very bottom of my trousers were damp, but other than that, the rain cape worked pretty nicely. I shook the water out of my beard and cleaned off my glasses and made sure everything I bought was impervious to water.

I checked out and rode home. One other guy rode by on a bike, but he looked like a crazed homeless cyclist rather than an alternative transportation cyclist. The rain continued steadily and the wind at one point snapped the cape up and down, giving me a face-shower from underneath. I crossed the train tracks at Chatsworth again; the next day, some kids playing in the Calvary Cemetery next to this would find a body, which doesn't sound all that unusual for a cemetery, except this one wasn't buried and looks to be Saint Paul's sixth homicide of the year.

Home, I hung the cape and gloves up to dry again. My soaking cycling shoes (I'd put on my SPD shoes for the Atlantis and left them on for the Marin, forgetting that I still have my Power-Grip rat traps on there) were left to dry as well. A pair of dry socks and I was all set. I'd say the cape worked very well. It also packs smaller than the Carradice cape (and smells better) and I think it's more waterproof as well. I'll probably buy a couple more.

Sunday I strapped the Atlantis back wheel onto the Marin and rode it over to The Bicycle Chain, my most local LBS, to have them replace the spokes for me, then rode home, in what turned out to be the least-wet 20 minutes of the day.

On the whole, it wasn't a brilliant weekend for riding, but we did get a lot done in the house and I don't think that after today I'm going to have any difficulty convincing Henry to put fenders on his bike!


Anonymous said...

What works best for me is a plain old racing cap under my helmet. The bill is big enough to keep the rain off my glasses but not big enough to obstruct my view.

Kati said...

Thanks for the review of the Campmor bike cape. I was curious about this product as well.

Regarding the water from the front wheel, I think that might be solved by flipping the tire treads.

Matt said...


I like the cycling cap idea--I've never really worn those, but may have to get one for this purpose.

Katie, the bike cape works well. The main difference between this and the Carradice is that the Carradice has a tied waistband and the Camp-Mor has two elastic leg loops you have to step through.

As for the tire, it'll splash no matter what, it's not a very aggressive tread, what I really need is a mudflap on the end of the fender (they should make those removeable!).

Anonymous said...

Do you recommend the Camp-Mor over the Carradice? I'm overweight and sweat a lot in rain pants, so a cape seems appealing for my commute.
- Toronto