11 Jul 2016

11th July 2016 Avoiding getting wet in the dry.


Monday 11th 60-65F, 16-18C, breezy and overcast. There was very heavy rain and thunderstorms last night. Today is about possible showers. During an early walk I was treated to the sight of a Red Kite hunting, with wings widespread,  low over the fields. It eventually alighted and completely disappeared into the crops. A few light showers this morning but it should brighten up. I spent an hour of so using a heavy, extended hedge clipper just in case I wasn't getting enough exercise. Heavy showers all day. No ride today.

Tuesday 12th 61F, 16C, breezy with showers. It rained while I prepared to deliver the car to the workshop but stayed mostly dry as I rode back home. Bike racks are essential for trikes. You can't just bung them in the boot unless you want to remove the wheels. [AND, remember to take the tools to fix them safely back on again!]

Wearing ordinary clothes while cycling is a very warm experience and best avoided. I had forgotten quite how hot it can be. Those who commute in their daily wear should seriously consider wearing shorts and thin polyester cycling wear to stay cool. It's certainly not showing off. It's just dressing appropriately for the heavy exercise involved. Clothes intended to keep you warm and dry while standing at the bus stop are not remotely suitable for even a quite a gentle ride.

I find bare legs are one of the best ways to stay cool from Spring to Autumn. Even the thinnest [supermarket] "skiing tights" will do in winter down to well below freezing. The pedalling bod provides all the warmth necessary. Which is why you don't need a duvet jacket on a bike even at -10C.[14F] I have ridden below -10C wearing fleece jackets and trousers. Absolutely hopeless! Hot and sweaty on the climbs and freezing cold on the descents.

Wind-proofing is essential as temperatures drop but not insulation. [Except for your hands.] Your wind-proof shell material must be breathable or you quickly become a mobile sauna. If a jacket doesn't breathe then you have completely wasted your money on a very fancy bin/trash bag!

You will start sweating within seconds and soon be as wet as if you have fallen headfirst into the canal. I kid you not. Assuming you had fallen into the canal what would you do then?  Change literally every item of clothing? Do you have a complete change of clothing in a sealed bin/trash bag stuffed into your saddle bag or in your works locker?

If you really think that wearing your sweat-saturated clothes will soon dry them out then you'd better get rid of that jacket! Remember that it is waterproof both ways. The sweat can no or evaporate indoors than it can outside. What if it's windy at your destination? You'll freeze! Just as you'll freeze on every descent once you are saturated to the core and have lost the damned jacket.

Climbing and hill walking took a serious dive when polyurethane sealed, nylon shell jackets took over from traditional, natural materials. A proofed, tightly woven cotton anorak or even a decent tweed jacket was far better. Unless you intended to stand completely still in the rain on a cool day you'll sweat in any proofed nylon jacket or cagoule.

Remember that tweed was a response to dressing outdoor workers who desperately needed all-weather comfort in all seasons. Look at old pictures of cyclists [or manual workers] and you'll see tweed jackets. A century before proofed nylon clothing came along they could still climb the highest mountains and cycle from Land's End to John o' Groats in all weathers. They could also work outdoors all day long on every day of the year in the pouring rain, frost and snow! Ireland is a perfect example of traditional wear to perfectly suit the very wet climate. Coincidence, or not?

Watch serious cyclists in the wet and cold of winter and you'll be astounded at how thin their clothing really is. The best, modern materials provide breathability as well as shower proofing. They had to invent this very expensive material because the cagoules and anoraks were killing off too many people through hypothermia in the wilds! Very tightly woven cotton and naturally greasy wool provide wind-proofing and warmth and can still be reasonably rain proof if treated with the correct proofing materials. More importantly, the wearer's sweat can still evaporate so they can walk or cycle themselves dry again after a shower.

Those of us who have tried camping in single skin, proofed nylon bivouac tents will remember how wet they got inside. That wetness was not leaking rain. It was your own sweat and your own breath condensing inside the [bin-bag] waterproofed material. Handy for a bad case of hiccups? Dunno.

"Proper" nylon tents had to have the same flysheets that their older cotton cousins always did. The breathable inner tent is just a physical barrier to stop you from touching the nasty, cold and sweaty, flysheet or outer shell.

Choose a breathable jacket for cycling after reading lots of online reviews. Or just wear a bin/trash bag with holes cut for your arms and neck instead. Take the jacket [or bin bag] off as soon as you can without discomfort. Staying cool makes you a cool cyclist however short your journey. Most cyclists know the sweaty feeling that comes shortly after they have arrived at work, school or are even visiting the shops. The body has a flywheel warmth effect which follows every ride. So avoid overdressing until you have returned to your normal comfort level. Stay as undressed as your social conditions allow as you get rid of that heat from healthy exercising. If you normally wear a suit then leave the jacket on your office chair while you cool.

I commuted 15 miles to work and 15 back again on bikes and a trike in my youth. I wore a jumper or two but in winter the wind blew right though me and out at the back. So I started tucking a newspaper inside my jumper. A trick which even the Tour De France riders employed until very recently for the mountain descents after a long, hot climb. However, my jumpers were loose and the paper kept wanting to fall out and was really a damned nuisance. It was no good, at all, in the rain.

Then I found a branch of Blacks of Greenock and fell in love with brightly coloured nylon jackets. I wish I'd never heard of their damned, polyurethane proofed nylon! It followed me to the mountains too. Where I sweated up every climb. Then couldn't take off the damned jacket or cagoule to cool off on the summit as I stood up to my neck in a 3560' deep pool of my own sweat! Proofed nylon is only useful for coarse fisherman. Or those who never [ever] move a muscle and feel they must sit or stand in the rain on a cool day to pass the time constructively. On a warm, wet day you'd be better off in a bin/trash bag. At least your arms will stay cool!

I still manged to get a ten mile ride in today.


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