The rain or shine biker’s survival guide!

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Illustration by Chloe Kendall

If you’re anything like me, you like to ride your bike in this city…under certain conditions. 

As much as you try to bike to work and school, when the streets get wet and your brakes begin to scream, or it’s so hot that you need a shower longer than your bike ride…you get back in the car.

Before you overwhelm yourself with YouTube videos and gear trips to REI, take advantage of your free Portland State Bike Hub membership!

You will find not a horde of bronze, spandex-plastered muscles clacking their clip-in bike shoes on the concrete floor while glaring at you behind reflective lizard sunglasses, but a bunch of sweatshirt and flannel-donning, regular people who are happy to answer your questions!

In the rain?
Worried about keeping your bum dry? “The big thing is putting fenders on your bike,” said Dan Penner, lead mechanic for the PSU Bike Hub.

Dr. Jeffrey Gerwing, PSU associate professor of Environmental Sciences and Management and avid year-long biker from NE Portland, agrees. Gerwing wrote in an email, “If you ride in Portland in the winter, PLEASE GET FENDERS for your benefit and that of those riding behind you.”

Fenders are inexpensive plastic or metal caps for your tires that screw onto the middle of the wheel hub.

In addition, Penner explained how there are many clothing options to keep you comfortable in the rain. “We have rain pants and rain jackets,” Penner said. “The rain pants aren’t as big of a deal unless it’s really coming down, and I always recommend carrying an extra set of clothes, or having an extra set at work or school or wherever you’re going.”

Gerwing added, “Jeans in the rain equals unhappy ride.”

Penner said that sometimes heavyweight rain gear will cause you to sweat more, just as you would in the summer months. For that reason, I agree that having a change of clothes is almost always necessary.

In the sun? What’s that?!

Personally, I wear hiking shirts or tank tops in the summer, but with plenty of sun-screen. “[This] might seem counter intuitive, but black merino wool t-shirts are my go to,” Gerwing said. “[They] keep me cool and don’t show the sweat.”

Sunglasses are also important because you need to see nearby cars as much as they need to see you.

Lights!
Gerwing recommended buying bright, rechargeable lights. While I agree, I’d like to remind everyone to throw them into your bag after parking your bike because they will get stolen. I learned the hard way in a hospital parking garage of all places.

I’ve always set my rear lights to the flashiest setting, but other bike riders avidly disagree. “What are my cycling-related pet peeves you might ask?” asked Gerwing. “Blinking tail lights. Just stop the visual madness.”

However, since three bike riders within three miles of my house have been killed by large vehicles turning sharp right corners, I refuse to end my flashy-light habit anytime soon. Call me terrified!

Last Word

Don’t forget to ignore everything I’ve said and go to the Bike Hub yourself. The Hub is located in front of the Academic Student and Recreation Center on SW 6th Avenue and offers free classes and discounted gear and clothing. If anything, snatch one of the Bike Hub’s free city bike maps—you don’t want to use Google to navigate you by bicycle!

*Editor’s Note: Original publication mis-identified source of quote in paragraph 7. Online version of article is now correct although the printed version was not able to be corrected in time. 

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