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Bikepacking The Bikebacking forum is for discussion that relates directly to bikepacking (also known as bicycle camping). Subject matter should involve the backpacking/camping/bike gear and trip planning as it relates to mountain biking and bicycle touring.

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Old 05-31-2010, 11:02 AM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Bike Touring (Bikepacking) in the Rain

How do you prepare for (and handle) riding in the rain -- what's your strategy (for gear and personal protection)?

It's understood that there are several variable to consider (e.g. rain intensity, duration, temperature,...).

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Old 05-31-2010, 12:16 PM
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adventure_dog adventure_dog is offline
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Location: Portland, OR
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Like backpacking, it's probably 20% gear, 80% psychological. It gets to be a real challenge (for me) to bike day after day in the rain without having an opportunity to dry out. I have a policy on extended bike tours: no more than two nights of camping when it's raining. I pony up the money for a motel room so I can dry out my gear and clothes and give the bike a wipe down and re-lubing. Wet road grime can do a number on your chain and cog set.

Wrapping items in the panniers in plastic bags and then using waterproof covers to keep off big water and road grime. It's important to keep your "off the bike" clothes dry.

Eye protection. I typically use rose or amber colored lenses in the rain because the lenses help with contrast in the flat light. They also keep dirt/mud and road grime out of my eyes which tends to get kicked up more in the wet. I have also found that having a visor on my helmet keeps a lot of the water off my glasses and from hitting me in the face.

Fenders. Don't leave home without them. The more the fender wraps the tire, the less crud you'll get sprayed on you and your gear.

Moisture management - whatever that takes for you. Unless it's really cold, I will only ride with a rain jacket and skip the rain pants. I really like Burley jackets because they're designed by cyclists who ride in the rain and are very durable. I've had my Rogue jacket for nearly 10 years and it still works great. Alas, they don't make them anymore.

Gore-tex socks or Seal Skins are nice when it's cooler out because they keep your toes and feet a little warmer. But I have found that water will drip down your leg into the cuff of the sock and pool inside, which is no good. They work better if you have tights or leg warmers on.

Bike shorts, leg/knee warmers, arm warmers, gloves and a proper bike jersey. They may look goofy, but they work. Working as a modular "layer" system, they stay warm even when wet because they're so close to your body.

Keeping the bike dry at night. We usually carry a tarp on tours to keep the cooking/eating area dry when it's raining, and to cover the bikes at night. At the very least, carry an extra plastic bag to keep the seat dry.

Lights. I always turn on my lights in the rain so that I'm more visible to vehicles on the road, particularly on rural back roads where drivers may not expect you in the roadway. I have a red flashing rear light and a white flashing LED light in the front, and I also use a reflective safety triangle that I can either strap to my panniers in the back or my jacket, if necessary.
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Old 05-31-2010, 09:16 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Thanks for the comprehensive response, adventure_dog.

I have UL liners and covers for my panniers. I have a tarp that is large enough for me and my bike. And I have fenders.

I have several clothing options for when it's cold and wet. [This is something changes from time to time and that I'm often tweaking.]

Like you, I do my best to avoid extended trips (days) in the cold rain.

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Old 01-15-2012, 06:35 PM
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RicemanDan RicemanDan is offline
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Backpack: GoLite Jam (50L)
Sleeping Gear: GoLite Ultra 20 Quilt; Exped Synmat UL 7 (S)
Shelter: Highlander Basha Tarp (8ft x 5ft) with GoLite LA1 Shelter
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Devon, England
Posts: 8
Hi chaps.

My first post - very pleased I came across this great website.

What better way to introduce myself to rain than with NZ as my first long-term cycle tour. A country which averages 2m/78in of rain on its west coast (south island) a year and has been known to experience 11m/400+in. Luckily for me, my first week was blissful autumnal sun and zero rain!

I only really experienced 1 day in my trip where I gave up at 4pm due to rain and booked into a hostel - psychological I agree! (I was very strict on budget and wild camped more than 50%. Paid accommodation made up about 1/4).
I have a Berghaus Gore-tex paclite I picked up in the sale, but that day it couldn't cut it. Not sure many would though, as it was a good 6hrs constant spray-rain. It's a good all round jacket, but I'm looking at upgrading to something more breathable (I've read the Montane Minimus is exceptional).

During NZ, I took advantage of their merino base layers (getting them for $10 a piece!), but I've since tried (tweaking!) polyester/minerale from Golite (BL3 I think), which is excellent in cool weather and also some Sugoi polyester tops. Great quality. When away, with the merino, I wore a thrift store $3 lightweight 100% acrylic v-neck, which was very hydrophobic and the two layers were great for riding down to 40-50deg and along with the paclite, good for 3-4hrs of rain abuse. The Golite layer is faster drying however, so I think will be preferable, despite incurring odours! (I loved this about Merino - esp for backpacking.).

I have never used anything for below the waste except typical cycling shorts under my nylon convertible pants (Mountain Hardware 2nds bargain) and over-shoes. I've now abandoned over-shoes for the more convenient water repellent/wind-proof extremely lightweight socks (Sugoi again). My last over-shoes were beaten to pulp by several tramps (NZ speak for trekking). Obviously the socks will survive.. Live and learn!

The thing/key for me was flexibility. I had no deadline other than my own ambition to see as much as possible, but the overall purpose was enjoyment, so if the forecast heralded rain, I'd sit tight wherever I was (a nice Warm Showers/Couchsurfing host's place for example) and set off at a later date in better weather. Having this (luxury) was the foundation for my positively alluring experience continuously living on the bike for 7months.

My panniers were basic, $30/60% off for a pair at Kathmandu outdoor shop and I used a simple/cheap backpack cover laid across for added waterproofing. Never had a problem with the rain. Common sense principles, such as a big plastic bag inside each pannier and any waterproofs at the top (tarp atop 1, raincoat the other).

One thing I had problems with in the rain however, was my Velo 8 Cateye cycle computer. It could never withstand torrential downpours, which I had in Texas several times. Frustrating to say the least, not that I care for it (agree that it is distracting), but I liked to keep a certain mileage up per day.

I should give high praise to the Highlander Basha tarp I used (only $40). 15oz, but very waterproof (2000mm, compared to lightweight alternative such as Golite poncho [1200mm]) and good size, plus army camouflage for when I was stealth camping. I used it along with a jungle hammock, with mozzie net, but that was not waterproof and slightly bulky/heavy at 1.4lbs (I'm quite fussy.). I loved the benefit of choosing 1 or 2 layers depending on weather however. Camping in Vegas (yes I know....the less said about this...) in summer I would have died with a waterproof skin! I may replace the hammock with the Golite Shangri-1 nest, though it's not as stealthy as the hammock (I rarely deployed it between trees, just a simple inner on the ground). It has a waterproof floor mind.

I remember when I was 18, cycling to Scotland with my brother, stood in supermarkets waiting for the rain to stop. We were probably wearing cotton t-shirts and poor performance jackets. I do say, I don't have that mindset any more, but how much that's down to gear vs psychology, I could not quantify.

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