Yesterday morning I did my first ever shift as a volunteer for the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (VACC) Bike to Work Week. Yesterday morning also just happened to be the morning when a hurricane lashed its tail end across the Lower Mainland. Or so someone told me. And having been out cycling in it, I entirely believe it …
I set off in pitch dark and driving rain at 6.00 a.m. Within five minutes, my water resistant boots were wet through. This is always the case with water resistant things. I have come to believe that the term “water resistant” is short for “resistant to missing any opportunity to soak up water”.
Next I cycled through a minor flood on the “temporary” portion of the Central Valley Greenway. Wet and bedraggled, I arrived at Gilmore Skytrain Station, to find no one there. I felt like I’d been stood up on prom night. In the rain. Cold and wet, I huddled next to a Starbucks (I could see happy, warm, dry people inside, drinking coffee). After consulting my faithful iPhone, I figured out I was in the wrong location. Off by a block. No surprises there, given the way the morning was going.
After that though, things improved. I found the intrepid group of VACC volunteers, huddled under two tents kindly supplied by Norco, in the parking lot of the Home Depot. They were friendly, and they gave me coffee. And although it wasn’t nearly as warm and dry as Starbucks, the conversation and company were way more interesting. I almost forgot that my feet were soaked and frozen.
To my amazement, a constant stream of soggy but well-lit-up bike commuters went by on the Central Valley Greenway, despite the utterly foul weather. Encouraged by Sylvain who enthusiastically danced around on the trail and yelled a lot, many of them stopped.
Some had coffee and snacks, most entered the competition to win Ethical Beans Coffee, and some got a quick bike repair (again kindly supplied by the guys from Norco).
Just as I was starting to relax and wander around taking photos, Logan yelled for help because the tent was about to blow away – that darn hurricane tail again. Grateful that I am still pretty heavy, I held down the tent while Logan fetched concrete blocks to anchor it. We debated whether the decorative banners proclaiming Bike to Work Week were about to turn into sails and send the entire tent into the stratosphere. In the end, in the fearless tradition of people who voluntarily cycle in hurricanes, we decided to take our chances – and the tents stayed up.
Although I only managed to show up at 6.30 a.m., this group of volunteers had been out in the freezing cold and rain since 5.30 a.m. I take my hat off to all of them, and to the effort they are making to improve cycling conditions for all of us. Even if you cannot get out there and work at a station, there’s still time to register for Bike to Work Week and support the VACC’s lobbying efforts – just by riding to work!
Postscript: Check out Alex P’s video of Bike to Work Week in pouring rain.
Heh, my feet were the only part of me that stayed dry on Monday morning, thanks to the MEC booties. I have had leaks in them before, but I guess I fastened them better this time. My “waterproof” gloves didn’t do as good a job, and I do wish I’d followed through on my plans to buy a new jacket this past weekend.
I plan to try the booties, because my feet and hands were the only parts that got wet! I have yet to find truly waterproof gloves – if you ever find any, let me know. Maybe I should wear rubber kitchen gloves …
A fellow at work wears something resembling scuba gloves, but he has a much shorter commute than I do, and is assisted by BionX.
Mmm, that’s an idea, shop for cycling gloves in a scuba store – I like it 🙂
I had to make a relatively rare trip downtown on Monday morning. I really wanted to bike, especially when I discovered it was Bike To Work Week, but when I went outside at 6:30AM I reluctantly had to reconsider. I recently picked up a rain cape for my upper body, but at the rate the water was coming down the rest of me would have been soaked through.
Those booties might be my next purchase. What do you guys do to keep your legs dry?
Alex P says
Rain pants from MEC combined with Decente Element shoe covers… never had a drop get through the shoe covers, although after five years, the pants are leaking a bit. Not bad for five years though, they were the cheapest pants they had.
Asked by Sean, answered by Alex – and I agree. Even the cheapest kind of rubbery pants from MEC do the trick, and are not uncomfortable. Mine keep me completely dry.
The most important purchase for wet weather is a good set of fenders for the bike. This might sound obvious, but the full-wrap kind that mount close to the wheel keep a lot more rain and mud off you than the flexible plastic ones.
I have used both kinds, and there really is no comparison. My Axiom Roadrunners (about $30) pretty much allow me to forget about splashes coming from the bottom and to only worry about what’s falling from above.
Totally agree, Graeme. I have full-wrap fenders and they make all the difference. Without them, you really get just as wet from below as from above – not to mention that gross, embarrassing spray of mud right up your back and down to your butt!
Sorry I missed you! I go by there every morning, but I was slower than usual on Monday and didn’t go by until 9:15, at which point everything was pretty much packed up. I did, however, go through the LAKE on the CVG. Normally I just ride through it, as if you keep to the very edge of the North side it isn’t very deep. Unfortunately for me, it was much deeper than usual by that time…up to my pedals, so even tho I had quite a bit of speed going into it I got wet feet and just about had to bail into the middle of it. Good for you – and thanks – for working at a station in the hurricane!
Sorry I missed you too, Janine! I had to leave by about 8.30 so I was not too late getting to work. That puddle was extreme even at 6.30, so it must have been quite the lake at 9.15.
You’re welcome about working at the station, but I must say I did not do much. However, I went again yesterday, and this time was able to help out. I’m kind of a “volunteer-in-training”! I think I will post about it tonight.
Ha-ha, I remember volunteering at Gilmore last winter. I don’t remember a lot of wind, but it was WET. Booties are great for riding, but don’t do much for volunteer duty when I accidentally walked through giant puddles in the parking lot!
MEC has some good neoprene paddling gloves, which were well under $20 last time I checked. The bonus is neoprene gets warmer when it’s wet, so even at the end of the day when you put on wet gloves they warm up quick. A bit of a pain to turn them inside out to dry though.
Hi Glenn. Do the neoprene paddling gloves actually keep your hands dry, though? Or do they just keep your hands wet but warm?
They will keep your hands dry for a while, but will eventually get wet if it’s pouring. The benefit, is they’re fine when they’re wet. Still, they’re not great when it gets below 5C and you have a long trip. I have some gloves that are waterproof but they’re really too warm above 5C. They’re made by Gore, but are pricey. I got mine in Seattle so they were a bit cheaper.
Thanks Glenn … I would like to find those Gore gloves. Any particular name, apart from just Gore water proof?
GORE Bike Wear “Cross” gloves $70 @ REI.com
I was told at Bicicletta that the GORE gloves (different model than mine) were the only ones that
were truly waterproof, but he may have meant they’re only waterproof gloves they sell.
Anyway, $100 was more than I was willing to part with, so when I found these at REI, somehow $70
seemed like a “deal”. One of those crazy impulse purchases as I barely get to REI once a year.
Somehow I wonder if some extra large kitchen gloves over top of a light wool/fleece glove wouldn’t work as
Ouch. $70 is a bit steep, even for dry hands. Funny you should mention kitchen gloves – I have been having the same thought myself. Also, I am thinking someone could make a fortune out of AFFORDABLE, water proof cyclist gloves – it’s ridiculous that there is no such thing.
Of course, right after I write that, I come home and see waterproof breathable gloves with grippy palms in a Mark’s Work Wearhouse flyer for $30 or less. Probably worth checking out to see if they’re not too bulky/hot.
THANKS Glenn, I’m totally going to check that out (plus MWW is one of the few clothing shops I don’t hate going to).