The rainy season has come early to the San Francisco Bay Area this year, so I’m glad I brought home some great bike rain gear from Amsterdam. But I already owned a crucial piece of rain gear, made right here in the USA–my wool cycling cap.
If I’d never learned how awesome a wool cycling cap is in the rain, I’d probably would have bought a helmet cover, like my friend Julie did. Julie is a mountain biker forced onto the road for her work commute. Last year, she posted this photo on Facebook with the caption: “As if road riding wasn’t dorky enough as it is…”
You’re right Julie. Like most gear aimed at commuters, helmet covers are dorky. And they really don’t do the job anyway. They trap heat inside so your head gets clammy and your hair is still exposed to the rain. I stepped in with a little advice: “Darlin, you are in desperate need of a street style makeover! Return that plastic bag and buy a wool cycling cap today. I promise it will keep your head dry and your ‘do intact.”
What I didn’t do was show her how my wool cap works. So here’s to you, Julie, and all the other bike commuters looking for a better way to keep their heads dry in the rain.
First step: Tuck your hair into a classic small brimmed wool cycling cap, like my three panel cap from Walz. Why wool? Wool keeps you warm, but breathes so there’s no moisture build-up. There’s nothing like wool for keeping you comfy, regardless of the temperature.
Second step: Add helmet. Cycling caps are close fitting, so helmets with adjustable retention systems have no problem fitting over the cap. This arrangement will get you through the typical Bay Area wimpy rainstorm.
Third step: If it’s really pouring, you can always pull up the hood from your rain coat or jacket. But honestly, this level of coverage is rarely needed, at least not in the South Bay.
Since we’ve got our heads covered (pun intended), let’s move down to toes. There are all kinds of booties for sale and I have some I use on my road bike with clipless pedals. But for commuting on a bike with fenders and flat pedals like Zella Mae, who needs them? Leather boots do the trick, with tights on cold days or without on days like today when it only pretended to be chilly.
Leather and wool, two classic materials that kick butt when it comes to wet weather riding.
What’s your strategy for staying dry in the rainy season? Is there a critical piece of gear that works for you?