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Cycling in the Rain

April 28, 2011

“Cycling in the rain, cycling in the rain, what a glorious feeling, I’m happy again…”

Now just set that to music and imagine me in rain boots and a trench coat holding an umbrella and swinging around my bike as if she were a lamp post.

Ok Ok, that picture is a bit too pollyannaic, even for me.

To tell you the truth I am avoiding it for the most part.  This has been a very rainy April.  According the National Weather Service, Illinois has received 19 days of rain in the past 28. And many of the sunny days have included light showers!   I don’t mind riding in a downpour on Saturdays when I am dressed for gardening, who cares if I am wet on top of dirty?  But biking on work days has become at best a challenge and at worst downright failure to launch.  I’ve braved out a few rain storms, trying to pick days when the rain would be heaviest during my evening commute.  I even dressed Michelle (my bike…yes she has a name :0) up with a tarp cover when I parked her outside my workplace to keep her dry while I worked, but to tell you the truth those were miserable commutes. Cold, wet and stressful.  Is it just me or do moderate, tolerant drivers turn into speeding-for-the-sake-of- speeding, squeeze-me-off-the-road and turn-in-front-of-me-even-though-I-am-lit-up-like-a-Christmas-tree-and-am-wearing-a-construction-worker’s-vest-over-my-raincoat jerks whenever it rains?  My old rain jacket, a packable hiking windbreaker the color of a starless night just doesn’t cut it. For one it leaves my legs completely exposed, resulting in soaked work pants or skirt!

So instead I have turned to the radar game:  “Spin the wheel and hope you get a sunny day, ” says the host in his sparkly blue suit, slicked back hair and bright red tie as I put my hand on a wheel composed of 12 slices, 11 of which depict rain clouds and one a dull yellow sun mostly hidden behind a big gray cloud.  I spin the wheel and the dial lands on torrential downpour.  “Congratulations, April you’ve won a trip to work on the train!”

I am more sick of checking the weather ten times a day with bated breath and crossed fingers hoping for partially cloudy or even a nice low 10% chance of precipitation than I am of the rain itself.

Then I hear my fellow cyclists on Chainlink saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather for biking, only bad clothing.”

It’s time to get some rain gear.  Up first are my new boots.  They arrived yesterday, and I am in LOVE!  They are made from post-consumer recycled rubber and Italian silk liners by a Canadian company called Kamik.   They are super comfortable, really sturdy, totally water proof, flexible, eco-friendly (I can recycle them! Kamik has a take back program) and to top it all of stylish!

Kamik Elizabeth rain boots (er boot)

Now all I need is a good raincoat.  Let me tell you my wish list and then I’ll tell you about the jewel of a find I’m going to buy to satisfy them.

  • Really bright color and maybe even reflective features built in (I hate wearing the vest. I feel about as cool as a crash dummy)
  • Long enough to cover my lap and knees. (I refuse to wear rain pants. I would like to maintain a modicum of dignity riding to work in the suburbs where most people–neighbors, crossing guards and my co-workers—already think that I am insane.)
  • Made of a high quality fabric, something warm enough to cut the wind, but breathes well enough to wear on muggy summer days.
  • Style: doesn’t make me look like a racer or a saran-wrapped sandwich.   (I believe in Dutch-style cycling which means one should be able to integrate cycling into one’s daily life, wearing normal clothes and riding upright at moderate speed)

And now ladies and gentlemen may I present the Cambridge Raincoat!

The only rain coat that meets all of my demands and does it with style and flair!

I searched far and wide before I found the Cambridge Raincoat Company.  The American market wanted to dress me like a racer or a hiker but never an upright Dutch-style biker (sorry I’m a writer I couldn’t resist the rhyme…).  I enjoyed perusing London macs and Dutch capes but nothing spoke to my needs.  Most rain gear was rendered in dark  colors or earth tones.  Few (namely only the racing-style cyclist jackets) had reflective features and NONE of them fit my taste and style, would coordinate with my outfits and make me feel Cycle Chic except for the  Cambridge Raincoat.  After emailing the owner and innovator extraordinaire Sally Guyer (Sally had the idea for the raincoats and collaborated with Savile Row graduate designer, Elizabeth Radcliffe to create them) who answered my every question and assured me she could ship to the U.S.,  I was sold!   Now I only had to decide what color I wanted.

As I am not schooled as fashion writer please visit the Cambridge Raincoat Company’s website to read their philosophy and to learn more about the raincoats.

The beautiful raincoats are made in a trench-coat style. However they have a decidedly fitted feminine shape, which calls to mind something worn by a 50s silver-screen starlet.  The collar is adjustable and can be worn in three ways, much like my beloved canvas navy-blue short trench coat that I wear everywhere.  The fabric is specially engineered for outdoor activities, being  waterproof, wind cutting, lightweight and breathable. Perhaps the best feature of all, is the integrated reflective ribbons on the belt, and at the cuffs.  They are an ordinary gray color until light shines on them and then, look out!   There are four bright colors to chose from: Aspen Gold, Poppy Red, Iris Orchid and Vibrant Green.  Each one is so chic and exciting that it took me over a week to decide on the one I wanted! Be sure to check out all them on Cambridge Raincoat’s website!   After much deliberation I settled on the Iris Orchid color, don’t you think it will look lovely with my new Kamik rain boots?

I have promised Sally that after I receive my raincoat and have given it a good test run, I will write up a thorough review and try to get it posted on a few of my favorite cycling blogs such as Lovely Bicycle and Let’s Go Ride a Bike.  So stay tuned for the follow up post.

I can’t wait to get my new rain coat.  I have spent much of the past few weeks looking out steamy windows at the pouring rain and fantasizing about riding with my new coat on.  I imagine that I am waiting for a red light at Milwaukee, Damen and Ashland and Martha Williams from Bike Fancy espies me and takes my picture for her blog.   Then I will break out in show tunes, spinning my bike down  sparkling pavement in the light of streetlamps.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Gin permalink
    April 28, 2011 5:41 PM

    Awesome. I have really enjoyed your contributions on Chainlink. I hear you on looking for decent gear. Thank you for finding this coat! I promise not to get the Orchid 🙂

  2. May 5, 2011 6:50 AM


    Awesome! I’m so glad you like it and I can’t wait to see what color you pick. We will have to pose for pictures in the final review I am going to do after I have given my raincoat a test drive. By the way, I have it from Sally Guyer that the next 30 raincoats will be sold at an introductory price of 135 GBP (~223 USD) plus shipping. After that the price is going up to retail. Spread the word. Best, April


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