9 Fresh Rain Tips

Rain Riding is For Suckers

Words Cam McRae
Photos Morgan Taylor
Date Dec 13, 2018

Originally published 2017-03-23

Today was horrendous. This year's historically significant snowfall has made rain riding less frequent, but we've likely seen the last of the white. Vancouver rain is frequently relentless but it's often more of a drizzle or a Scotch mist than a deluge. Today it was coming down sideways in big drops. Normally the dense canopy shields us from the worst of it but today it felt like we were hiding under a dandelion while a Great Dane marked his territory. 

And yet it wasn't terrible. In fact it was perfect. We picked our trails carefully* to appease the trail gods and goddesses and laughed like five-year-olds stomping mud puddles in gumboots. Some local knowledge, experience and preparation kept us smiling. It wasn't the sort of day where staying dry was possible but the right gear kept us from getting wetter than an otter's pocket, to quote Rob Warner. 

Here's a few tips to help you out the door.

1. Get thee a front fender. 

Yes we sell these (with proceeds to the Stevie Smith Fund) but you can make your own by cutting up a bleach bottle and then using some zip ties. The fender, if it's large enough and installed correctly, will keep some of the trail snot from sloshing off your front wheel and up your nostrils. If you aren't wearing eyewear (more on that below) it'll keep gravel out of your eyeballs and if you are it will keep them a little cleaner. These are light enough to leave on full time when it's not rainy for all but the most committed weenie.

2. Wear eyewear. 

I wear eye covering whenever I'm on the bike these days, but when it's wet this becomes essential. I put my specs in my pocket for our second descent today when they got too dirty and fogged up and I'm still weeping gritty tears hours later. For some reason I find this oddly satisfying. I also got dropped even worse than usual because I was viewing the trail through a mud puddle (too wet for the fender to be enough). Today would have been a better goggle day likely but if I had brought a cloth and kept it dry I would have been able to keep my glasses on. 

3. Gore-Tex or some facsimile up top. 

Unless it's just above freezing or you are naked underneath, that orange road crew jacket won't cut it. If it's on the warm side go easy on layers beneath your jacket so you can keep it on even for the climbs. Vents are obviously helpful for harder efforts. Wash and dry your jacket regularly and if it begins to lose water repellency you can treat it to revive the coating. My current favourite rain cloak is the 7Mesh Revelation - but there are less expensive options that many riders swear by. 

4. Waterproof shorts. 

Really this should have been number one. I would rather ride without socks on a shitty day than forego my Goretex shorts. The difference in comfort is remarkable. I have waxed about this several times before but I will reiterate that these will change your life if you ride in the rain often. I'm putting 7Mesh forward again and while I haven't found another product that compares, other riders have found thrifty options they like. 

5. Prep. 

One of my riding buddies puts a dry underlayer in his pack. A post-ride change of clothes (and a towel to protect the neighbours from your junk) keeps your vehicle clean, Figure out a spot to dry your gear at home that won't anger your spouse and find some newspaper (which I can never find these days) to stuff in your shoes to suck the weather out. Have a large open bag to stuff your gear in - or a plastic bin for the back of your truck - so mud won't haunt you for weeks.

6. Wear wool. 

A light merino underlayer may cost a little more in the beginning but they are long-wearing, stink-resistant and they deal with moisture better than other fibres. One of my buddies swears by merino under shorts as well, complete with chamois, but I haven't tried those. 

7, Care for your feet. 

I wore my 5:10 Impact high tops today and they weighed about 7 lbs apiece by the time I got back from the ride. Not the best option. Without gaiters, fully waterproof footwear is just a dream. Some folks like plastic bags on their feet, others like fancy waterproof socks.* I generally make do with wool socks and shoes that keep the worst of the muck out.

*I have since seen the light thanks to Showers Pass waterproof socks. These work really well - as you can see below. 

8. Prep your bike for the next ride. 

Water wreaks havoc, especially when mixed with gritty soil, so take some time to clean and dry it (while avoiding power washing your bearings) but at a minimum dry and then oil your chain so it won't be red with rust when you grab it next. 

9. Stay loose. 

Going easy on the brakes and being generally light on the ground will help you stay upright in the slickery. Leaning on a tire on that shiny off-camber root is sure to send you slamming, but if you can unweight you'll likely just float over top.

Getting after it in nasty weather always leaves me feeling ready to slay some dragons. Given the choice of course I'll take bluebird - but riding in the putrid sloppiness makes those days even sweeter.

*If the trails in your area aren't built for nasty weather then please leave the bike at home. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here but it has to be said.

Please share your tips below.

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+4 Mammal Cam McRae Pete Roggeman AlanB
Andy Eunson  - March 23, 2017, 8:19 a.m.

Redwing boot dryers.  They are cheap if bought from the US and we have four of them. Used to have two homes hence four dryers. They gently dry your footwear with light warmth.

Cam McRae  - March 23, 2017, 9:47 a.m.

Great tip Andy. There are some others that are cheaper as well but may not be as good.


+2 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
Mammal  - March 23, 2017, 8:42 a.m.

Dollar store flexible 3 ring binders make great material for home-made fenders (in many colors). $1.50 binder makes 2 fenders. The tracing template can be taken from the muckynutz website (the provide a flat profile in their product listings), and printed out. 

I've probably made 6 so far between my bikes and the GF's bikes. 

I know they are readily available, and not super expensive, but sometimes I love being cheap.


+3 Cr4w Cam McRae Pete Roggeman
Mammal  - March 23, 2017, 8:49 a.m.

Bringing a spare set of gloves for when the climbing is done. Double up on the socks. Full leg warmers instead of knee pads when it's super sloppy. All that, combined with some sort of shell that keeps me warmish if not dry, and I'm feeling invincible.


+2 Cam McRae Moto Master
Cr4w  - March 23, 2017, 9:16 a.m.

I'm a big believe in better shoes. Winter riding boots seemed sort of dorky and aimed a roadies and commuters. But now we have the Shimano MW7. Goretex, good functionality and a soft enduro-y sole that actually sticks to stuff. I didn't know how irritable wet cold feet were making me until it stopped happening.


+4 natbrown person person grambo ExtraSpecialandBitter
Jerry Willows  - March 23, 2017, 9:37 a.m.

If it's a deluge of rain, better to get a $15 shovel from Rona.

+1 person person
Cam McRae  - March 23, 2017, 3:02 p.m.

Who doesn't own a shovel? And sometimes it isn't a deluge when you begin.


+1 person person
Jerry Willows  - March 23, 2017, 4:28 p.m.

I would say most people don't...  and most times the weatherman is pretty accurate an hour or two out.

+1 Mammal
Cam McRae  - March 23, 2017, 8:14 p.m.

The weatherman accurate in North Van? That's a knee slapper!

+1 Cam McRae
Niels  - March 24, 2017, 10:22 a.m.

Weather radar is actually pretty good for spotting gaps in the rain in the next two hours. Combine that with a flexible work schedule and you can avoid riding in the worst weather most of the time. I've even used it to decide which mountain to ride.

Or, if you invested in expensive rain gear, you can use radar to find a good window to use that gear in the weather it's made for ;-)


+1 Cam McRae
Merwinn  - March 23, 2017, 1:17 p.m.

I have some Gore Bike Wear Gore-tex shorts which are about two years old, but I'm not sure they make the model anymore. Only downside is that they don't stretch but are ideal for colder/wetter days as they can be pretty warm on 10+ C days. My butt stays dry so my body stays warm-er.


+1 Cam McRae
AlanB  - March 26, 2017, 10:13 a.m.

Keep your car seats clean with a chaise lounge cover. Mine lives in the trunk so a muddy ride is never a problem.


+1 AJ Barlas
Mammal  - Dec. 16, 2018, 10:12 a.m.

Keep a mexican blanket in the car. In the winter, it's a mud cover for the seats (stretches across both front seats). In the summer it's a picnic blanket/chill-view seating. When you're shoulder season camping, it's an extra emergency layer. 

Mexi-Blankets are clutch for good living.


Chantal  - March 26, 2017, 3:26 p.m.

Boot dryers best newspaper any rainy riding purchase ever 👍

Cam McRae  - March 27, 2017, 9:35 p.m.

Of course they do! But that's like saying a snow blower is better than a shovel. One is cheap, self-powered and readily at hand and the other you've got to go out and purchase.


+1 Cam McRae
Mammal  - Dec. 16, 2018, 10:14 a.m.

Picked up our boot dryer at Costco. Same 4-boot one they sell at MEC, at $40 full pop.


+1 Cam McRae
Michael Klein  - Dec. 13, 2018, 11:50 a.m. Lets you change while staying warm and dry, whitout scaring anyone.


+1 Cam McRae
legbacon  - Dec. 14, 2018, 7:41 a.m.

I moved to Vancouver Island 5 years ago, so because I had never mountain biked much in the wet I started looking for ways to mitigate the discomfort pretty quick.

Mudhugger rear mudguard.  I have waterproof shorts but may as well sell them since I installed the MH.  Clean, dry bum for me.

RRP Proguard Max Protection.  As mentioned in the article this does a great job of keeping the muck off.  Since installing this my eyes have been splash and mud free.

Peet Boot Dryer.  $50 at MEC, drys my 5.10 Freerider Elements over night.

2 pairs of shoes.  Even before the boot dryer I seldom put on a wet pair.

Extra gloves.

Goretex over socks.  These work OK but have big holes in the top.

Bridgedale waterproof socks.  These have kept my feet dry.  They have a nylon outer sock, membrane, and a merino inner sock.  My 5.10 Elements hold the water against the socks and my feet felt wet, but when I took them off my feet were in fact dry.  Maybe with a shoe that has lots of mesh?

A rain jacket small enough to fit in my SWAT bibs pocket.


+1 Cam McRae
AJ Barlas  - Dec. 17, 2018, 7:44 a.m.

Just put the RRP back on last week (I was being lazy). What a job it does! Up front it looks to be dry out, haha. 

What rain jacket have you found that fits in a jersey/bib pocket?


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