Welcome to my nightmare. Photo: Sven Brandsma
I’ll probably always need a car. But I dream of living in a way where my car is only used when it’s absolutely necessary. All the small things I do every day — commute to work, shop for groceries, drop my kid off at school — can be done on a bike. This spring, that’s exactly what I tried doing.
I picked up an E-bike in hopes of making my dream a reality. E-bikes are a game-changer for daily bike commuters. Mine has allowed me to save energy, carry more cargo, and incorporate riding into more of my daily tasks. I had a glorious 2-week stretch where my car never left the garage. I felt like I’d made it, and I was living in the greenest way I could. Then I relapsed and spent a week driving my car.
What happened? There is one simple thing that has kept me from riding my new E-bike as much as I hoped: Rain.
My Ultimate Commuter Bike
Living the dream...
I picked up a Benno Boost E cargo E-bike because it’s not excessively large, but it still has a pretty impressive carrying capacity (400 pounds!). With a huge rear rack and a few big bags, it has transformed how I handle daily errands. I used to put off going to the grocery store for single items because I didn’t want to drive, but now I can pop out on the E-bike and be back with an onion for dinner in 15 minutes.
A large amount of the mileage I put on my car is going to and from my son’s school. But now that I have an E-bike that effortlessly gets me across town, I’ll choose to ride that instead. My son can just hop on the back and we have a great time commuting together.
On the weekends, we’ll take the E-bike to the farmers market and local parks, or we just cruise around and have fun. I was super happy with the Boost E, and I felt like I was finally living my dream. Then, the rainy season hit, and everything was ruined.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
I have plenty of experience riding in the rain. I recently spent a summer commuting to work every day by bike, and there were more than a few rainy days. Here in the mountains, a good number of rides involve afternoon thunderstorms.
Objectively, rain is good because drought has been a constant in Colorado since I was a kid. That said, riding a bike in the rain sucks. Being wet and cold sucks. Getting pelted in the face by raindrops sucks.
If I’m out on my gravel bike, it’s somewhat bearable. I’m in my cycling kit, which dries quickly. I’m also working harder, which keeps me warmer. While nothing really eases the sting of rain hitting your face at 20 mph, I can at least convince myself to push through it because I’ll likely have to do so in a race someday.
But if I’m riding around town and doing daily tasks on my E-bike, it’s absolutely miserable. The main problem is that I’m usually wearing my everyday clothes. That was a key reason for getting an E-bike. I wanted a bike that could go long distances quickly and haul bags without drenching my regular clothes in sweat. But getting drenched with rain is just as bad or worse.
Several times this spring, Colorado has been hit with lots of consecutive rainy days. So I drive instead. Last week, I drove every day, and I’ve been feeling pretty defeated.
What Can I Do to Improve?
Get Better Clothing
Shell, check. Crocs, check. Bring on the rain.
The key issue is my clothing. As a Coloradan who grew up during an extended drought, I actually don’t own much rain gear. As I’ve started building out my new E-bike commuter wardrobe, I’ve been looking at mountain bike gear which is made for pedaling and uses performance fabrics that repel water but still have a more casual look.
A light and packable mountain bike shell should do the trick for most downpours. It will also be super easy to stow in one of my bags, so it’s always there, just in case. I’ll probably also wear mountain bike shorts since they’ll handle water much better than the cut-off jorts I usually wear.
Then there’s the issue of footwear. All of my casual and cycling-specific shoes tend to take on water. So the solution is something I know a lot of people are going to hate: Crocs. They’re waterproof. I can wear them without socks. And they already have holes built in for drainage.
As for my son, I got a cute kiddy poncho to stash on the bike and guess what, he’s getting his first pair of Crocs now too.
I know some of you out there are shaking your heads at my softness. I am far from a hardman, but clearly, the best way to get over riding in the rain is to just ride in the rain more.
When I started cycling I hated climbing. Now, well I don’t love it, but I hate it a lot less. When I was commuting on my gravel bike to work every day, I rode in the rain because I had no choice. It was either ride or stay at work. I just need to apply that same mentality to going to the grocery store. It’s just water.
As a type-A (a.k.a. obsessive and competitive) cyclist, I’m always chasing perfection. I lose my mind over missing workouts or cutting rides short. But in the grand scheme of things, a few days off probably helps me more than it hurts me. Maybe I shouldn’t feel so down. Yeah, I drove my car every day last week, and I’m not happy about that. But I rode the E-bike every day the week before that. When it's time to get back on the bike, I'll be fresh and stoked.
I can’t control the weather. I’m not going to have a 100% success rate when it comes to leaving the car at home. Somedays, I’m just not going to be in the mood to ride my bike. As long as I do my best, and try to use the E-bike as much as possible when the weather permits, maybe that’s enough.