Kindergartner in bright orange rain gear standing next to an adult size bicycle with a tagalong bike. Misty/rainy. Taken at Council Crest Park

Turtles and Dolphins

Published 2015-12-03

For about three years now I’ve given the winter-weather bike commuting advice to be a dolphin, not a turtle. TL;DR: dress for warmth and ease of movement, rather than attempting to stay dry. I didn’t always used to be that way, in fact I kind of snuck up on it. By the time I was horsing Orion to Kindergarten (2013) I seldom wore more than old CCX kit, my warmup vest, and a jacket.

But now I’m wearing rain pants (again).

A year ago my morning commute included 250′ of climbing directly out our front door. With about 75lbs of potential dead weight on the back of the bike (my first kid was a reluctant trail-a-bike pedaler). And moving at grownup speed — eight to twenty miles per hour. Our shortest route to school was about 8.5 miles and would include about 400′ of total elevation gain.

So for a long while — before kids, and then especially after my oldest started school — my major concerns (even in cold weather) were overheating and pedaling efficiency.

Well now that we’re three miles and 300 vertical feet closer to school — and we’re moving kid speed (5 to 8 MPH) — dolphining makes less sense. The kids dress turtle-fashion every day: rain pants, rain jacket, mittens & wellies.

So this week I started wearing rain pants (again). Today I even wore my gumboots. (Although I won’t repeat that. They don’t have SPD cleats & I really miss them.)

Turtle fashion has undeniable advantages. The obvious one is that I am warmer & (mostly) drier, but this it turns out is NBD. I never got that cold or wet.

But the biggie is that I don’t have to pack extra (dry) clothes for work. That’s a couple pounds off my back. No changing out of wet gear & hanging it to dry. No donning half-dry gear at day’s end for the homebound commute. My only transition now is changing shoes; and the rain pants.

The major downside is that it makes extracurricular rides less likely. That’s too much gear for hill repeats on Tabor or for my ritual summit of Council Crest (which I will happily do in street clothes generally). Rain pants are just too bulky to ride up a big hill, and then I’d arrive at work sweaty and overheated.