Hey, it’s winter in the Pacific Northwest! There’s no denying it: we’ve had everything from snow, to ice storms, to torrential downpour and more sucker holes than hours of daylight in a 24 hour period. With several more months of this weather ahead it might be easy to call it quits and put your bike on ice till summer. But we think with a mix of determination (resignation?) and the right gear you can power through the rest of winter without missing a single pedal stroke.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite picks for decking out your bike and body to combat the rain and perpetual darkness of Portland’s winter months.
Winter in the Northwest is a dark time. The sun sets early and rises late, and when it is in the sky it’s usually obscured by clouds. Having a solid light on your bike helps you see and keeps you safe.
Brandon says: “When looking at long-term costs compared to continually failing battery-powered lights, they are a major plus… and they are less wasteful than throwing old batteries in landfills. Also, costs of hubs and headlights have come down significantly in the last couple of years.
If your bike is in need of a new front wheel it could be a great time to upgrade adding a dynamo hub and light. Or build up a second front wheel and swap it out. Lucky you there are many options to choose from! Cost: Between $120-150 for the hub, and $70-150 for the light (plus installation)
Nobody, and we mean NOBODY likes a soggy bottom (except for these guys?). A solid, full wrap, fender set is an awesome way to protect your butt and your bike from all the wet road garbage your wheels will be slinging around. We sell a couple of options, but one of the more adaptable fenders is the “Full Metal Fender” by Portland Design Works.
Brenna says these fenders are, “Nice and long, super durable, classy looking. Two colors, two widths–the road width fits so many bikes that weren’t designed to take fenders… pretty superior to other fenders out there. I’m very happy with them!”
The thin profile of the PDW “Full Metal Fenders” opens up a world of possibilities for bikes with minimal tire clearance (we know some of you ride your race bikes year-round) and they come with special mounting hardware for bikes without integrated fender eyelets. Brilliant! Cost: $120 (plus installation)
Riding a bike is all about going places, but hey stopping is pretty sweet too! All that rainwater can really wreak havoc on a bike’s brakes making slowing and stopping ineffective at best. Disc brakes are known for maintaining their stopping power in wet conditions, and contending with all that bio-matter from the roads.
Andrew says, “For a flat bar setup, Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes are a great option. They are only marginally more expensive than a mechanical setup and much more powerful and reliable.”
Of course there are great hydraulic disc brake options for drop bar setups too, but if you love your flat bar setup as much as we do you should give these some serious thought. Cost: $100 per brake (installation and rotors not included)
Not everybody has these new-fangled disc brakes on their bike, and you know what? That’s cool with us. There’s a reason rim brakes have been around so long and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. On the downside they don’t always stop so fast when it’s wet out, and your rim will wear out over time (especially with all the build-up of wet gunk from the road). Enter the Kool Stop “salmon” brake pads. They’re specifically designed for wet conditions with a softer compound that’s also less likely to collect crap in the pads leading to a longer rim life.
Mike recommends, “regular cleaning of drivetrain and braking system, regular application of non waxed lube…. or just buy an Isuzu Trooper”
Great advice, Mike! These pads come in a variety of styles for different braking systems. Cost: $8-12 (Plus an additional $1000-$3000 for the used Isuzu Trooper add-on)
How many bikes is TOO MANY? We have no idea, we’re still counting. This here is the full-meal-deal of commuting rigs. A complete bike with all the on-bike essentials to survive a NW winter: Fenders, buddy flaps, disc brakes, water, COFFEE, lights, and tools! But why have a dedicated commuter rig? Well for many of us with a quiver of specialty bikes the commuting bike is the one that’ll take the brunt of the day to day slog to work in the rain. Putting fenders on a race bike (only to take them back off when the sun comes out) or commuting on a mountain bike isn’t always the most enjoyable option. Additionally all of the gritty crud that gets slung onto your bike in winter riding will wear parts out fast, and it’s nice to have a commuter with parts that are cheaper to replace when the time comes.
Erik says, “Do it the hard way!”
Pricing on a commuter bike can be as cheap as $300 for one of our rotating stock of consignment bikes to upwards of $1575 for the base model Kona Jake the Snake like the one above which you can accessorize to your heart’s content. We definitely favor CX bikes for our commuters as they tend to be more robust than your average road bike with lots of clearance for fenders and plusher tires. On a budget? Check out the Kona Rove AL!
Kaia says, “Let’s be honest, it’s PORTLAND, you’re going to get wet! The least you can do is wear wool socks so your feet aren’t miserable.
She’s right! There are few things than can turn a decent ride into a death march faster than cold & wet feet. There was a scientific study done (you know the one) that proves happy feet lead to a happy disposition. Wool is great for wicking away moisture and retaining body heat. See, doesn’t that sound nice? We have a lot of options but definitely love our shop branded Defeet Wooleator Socks. Cost: $18
Real talk: sometimes a really long and wet ride just can’t be avoided, and carrying a half-gallon of water around with you in your shoes is a horrible idea. So to avoid the “miserable feet = murderous disposition” scenario we recommend a shoe built for the most adverse of riding conditions. Shimano makes full use of Gore-Tex’s waterproof lineup, and since they’re integrated into the shoe itself there’s no need to haul around a gross pair of neoprene booties!
Pace says, “When it’s raining, these shoes are the best way to keep your feet warm and dry – much better than shoe covers and they’ll last a lot longer. Ideally, keep the cuff of your leg warmers or tights pulled down over the collar of the shoes to further shed water.”
Go get those base miles in after work no matter how much it’s raining! Cost: $230
A quality rain jacket is essential for bike riders in the Northwest because it’s darn hard to ride a bike with an umbrella (who owns umbrellas in Portland anyway?!). The “Element” jacket by Gore Bike Wear is an excellent option both on and off the bike. It comes in black, which is always in style, and has retro-reflective detailing to help you “be seen”.
Cary says, “Its super breathable, and keeps you dry. Win win!”
Gore Bike Wear has also done a great job keeping you comfortable too with a surprisingly soft and warm inner liner. Cost: $220
We “accidentally” locked Joel in the basement over the holidays when we cut the utilities to the building. Lucky for him he had wool gloves to keep his hands warm, and old shoes to fill his belly! It’s no secret that keeping all your digits in-tact is a sure-fire way to survive any snow-pocalypse, and cope with a bike ride that’s more of a canoeing expedition.
Joel says, “They work great for wet weather as they stay warm when wet and work well for temps between 50F-20F. They also make them work with a smart phone!”
As an added benefit the slim fit of these gloves wraps nicely around your handlebars without bunching up under your hand, and they’re cheap! Cost: just $25