So it is finally going to rain. This is a good thing, but it has been so long since we’ve felt the soft touch of water on its roads, I feel the good people of NorCal need a refresher. Plus I’m sure you have better tips and tricks than anything I’ve cataloged here so log into Facebook and slap them down in the comments section.
First off, get a good thick tire. Rain washes out all kinds of junk onto the road, and changing a flat tire when it’s pouring is the worst. Something like the Continental Gatorskin 25c or the Schwalbe Duran0 works well. They can fend off almost everything short of a nail, hold up well at 90 psi when you have a 25c, and will last a whole season. While they may not be “light” enough for racing they are perfect for year round training.
The golden rule of bike ownership, that the appropriate number of bikes one should possess is N+1, dictates that a rain bike should be in the quiver. If it is still in play, your first bike outfitted with a decent pair of fenders is a great set up. Though a bit of a pain to mount, the SKS Raceblade is the best choice for regular racing bikes. They mount quickly through the quick release and caliper brakes, and do a good enough job that they are used regularly in outposts like Seattle where rain bikes are a must have.
If you looking at a full new rig, an aluminum cyclocross bike is relatively affordable, provides clearance for real fenders, and is born to get muddy. Cantilever brakes are not the best for going down the big mountains but if the rain is falling, wait untill dryer weather to get your serious climbing in. If you are hardcore and need a bike that can descend, and has clearance for fenders, I’ve never heard complaints about Ridley Noah bikes, or Scott Foil road bikes.
Winter clothing in NorCal is impossible to figure out. It’s hot, it’s rainy, it’s cold, and that is just when you ride to Halfmoon Bay in July. A good rain cape, like something from Showers Pass, can double as a Mediterranean-winter riding jacket. Rain pants, and serious waterproof/thermal tights, should be reserved for places that really have it hard like the Pacific Northwest and Minnesota. Aside from a cool cotton cap (wool will be too hot unless it’s below 40), the best investment will be in a pair of quality gloves. Surprisingly, the best stuff out there like Glacier gloves are less than $40, and they put the Assos fancy pants mitts to shame.
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