In weather, as in life, a period of brief discomfort can often be followed by intense happiness and joy. That's exactly what the saying "April showers bring May flowers!" means, but just because the rain brings good things doesn't mean you won't still have to slog through the wet streets when it comes -- and I feel bad for you East Coasters, because you're in for one the hottest, rainiest summers in recent memory.
While May is well known for flowers, it's also National Bike Month, and National Bike to Work Day is May 16th! If you are a person who commutes on two wheels, you already know that doing so in the rain is especially dreadful. I don't ride my bike to work, but I do ride it at work all day long. Studio lots are huge, and if you took the time to casually walk everywhere you needed to go, you'd never get anything done! Cruising from the tailor shop to stage on your bike is the only way to live.
But once it rains, I chicken out and take a golf cart -- because I don't want to know anything about riding a bike in the rain. (That's why I moved to California, duh!) But luckily, my nephew Ryan was a bike messenger for years -- so I cribbed his best tips for riding when it's wet and ran them through my cute filter to present you with the smartest, stylish, most functional ways to ride your bike in the rain. (Because as Ryan says: "With the right gear, you can ride through anything!") He should know -- here he is carrying a window A/C unit home on his bike handlebars.
Ryan says: "You obviously need a good rain jacket."
Seattle-based company Freeman makes what can only be called the Cadillac of rain gear -- the Lady Freeman, an intensely functional, high quality rain jacket made in Seattle by a husband and wife team who set out to design the ultimate rain coat. It seems they succeeded -- the Lady Freeman features a two-ply waterproof and breathable outer layer, toasty flannel lining, interior security pockets, zipper storm flaps, an adjustable drawstring waist and a contoured hood that doesn't get in the way of your peripheral vision when riding your bike while wearing it. It's pure luxury in rain jacket form.
If the Lady Freeman is a little too rich for your blood, Kohl's has you covered (see, the store is not just for suburban moms). Their rain jackets are far better constructed than your average twenty dollar affair.
Those of you who happen to live in California (or someplace where it only rains once in a blue moon) are in luck -- you can press an inexpensive novelty raincoat into service. Just be sure to pick one with a hood unless you like the sensation of water pouring down the back of your neck.
Personally, I like the idea of a reversible, packable pink rain poncho -- obviously just for walking, not for biking.
I'd top that rain poncho off with a water repellant bucket hat to keep my freshly blow-dried hair nice and dry:
Ryan says: "You're also going to want a pair of rain pants -- and gloves!"
Wearing rain gloves is a hot tip -- because keeping a grip on slippery bike handlebars in the rain is of utmost importance if you want to keep your teeth in your head and not spit them out on the sidewalk. But I've got sad news: There is absolutely no such thing as a cute pair of waterproof rain pants or gloves. They are purely functional items meant to be taken off the minute you get to your destination. (And hung up to dry so you don't have to put wet pants back on at the end of the day, reminds Ryan, who actually carries his real pants in his bag and rides to work with -- well, I guess NOTHING on under his rain pants.)
Ryan says: "Be sure to waterproof your shoes."
He's talking about wearing a proper pair of cycling rain-shoe-covering things, but I say you should go full-on rain shoe style. Alyssa has a super-cute selection of classic wellie-style boots right here -- however, to properly ride in the rain, you need something with a proper tread on the sole to keep your feet on the bike pedals without slipping! This short Dr. Marten-style lace-up pair totally fits the bill while still looking sharp. (Plus, wearing florals for spring is obviously a groundbreaking idea.)
If flowers aren't your speed, these clever lace-up rain boots also come in about a million other colors:
I like a shorter rain boot because it calls far less attention to itself and doesn't take over an entire outfit like a classic pair of tall galoshes does. It makes it easier to wear your rain boots all day long and pass them off as a style choice rather than a purely functional item. Ryan points out that you can also layer a plain old plastic grocery sack in between two pairs of socks to create the ultimate waterproof shoe.
Ryan says: "Top it all off with a waterproof bag."
What Ryan actually said to me was this: "Protect your phone and wallet. I keep mine in a plastic sandwich bag." Which is obviously very clever and all, but I need to also protect my makeup bag, rotating collection of hair accessories, fifteen pairs of sunglasses and emergency sandwich while I'm at it. I need a proper carryall bag.
Ryan says: "Make sure your bike has fenders!"
This is not a fashion tip, but a practical one. A good set of bike fenders will keep mud, dirt, and water from spraying up into the air and drenching your body. Plus, Ryan tells me, it's just good bike manners!
Alison says: "But I want a cute umbrella!"
No roundup of rain gear would be complete without a smattering of fancy umbrellas -- just don't try to ride a bike while carrying an umbrella, unless you want to wind up like this guy:
These umbrellas are strictly for drizzly street strolling and looking cute.
Ryan's final piece of advice on riding your bike in the rain is actually one of my personal life mottos: "Always pack a spare pair of socks." Truer words were never spoken -- because with a pair of clean, dry socks on her feet, a girl really can rule the whole world.
I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.