I was still living in Spokane when I crossed the tipping point between fair-weather rider and all-season rider. This meant building my collection of gear to make it a little more comfortable to ride on cold, wet, or snowy days. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear, right?
Boots with wool socks for the feet, sometimes with wind/water covers on top. Waterproof jacket with venting armpit zips for the top layer over wool base layers. So far, so good.
One problem I never quite beat: the soggy lap. I have water-resistant pants but the gap between “resistant” and “proof” is very real in a soaking rain. My rain pants are waterproof but that works both ways. They keep rain out but at the same time they trap sweat inside so it’s like biking with your legs sauna’d in plastic wrap. Then you get to work and you have to peel off the pants, which are now wet and clammy inside and out, and you’re either trying to work them off over wet boots or you’re taking your boots off and getting your socks wet as a result. Yuck.
I didn’t like the idea of a cape or poncho flapping all around—not that I’m particularly aerodynamic, but why have a sail slowing me down and making more work? I could wear a longer coat but if it’s long enough to cover my lap it’s also long enough to get soggy and dirty from the rain and mud kicking up from the surface.
Then we moved to Seattle. I could pack away my lobster-claw “Vulcan greeting” gloves and the ski mask I used to keep my face warm; it just doesn’t get as cold here. But the soggy lap problem? Yeah….
It doesn’t rain in Seattle quite as much as its reputation would have you believe. (I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you that because then you might move here, so this is just between us.) Quite a few days are rainy but not always raining—showers with periods between, so if you’re able to plan your day you can be on wet streets but not actually riding in falling rain. But plenty of winter days still have me facing the wet lap.
Wander Wrap to the rescue! This is such a simple concept and it makes all the difference: a waterproof skirt to snap on over other clothes. No sweatbox effect, as air can circulate. Truly waterproof, not just water-resistant. Zippered pocket so if you need to keep your phone handy you can get to it without digging into all your layers or your bags. Reflective trim at the hem. Designed and made in Seattle by a woman-owned company (of course).
It comes in two lengths good for rainy days: below the knee (black, charcoal gray, or crimson red options) and at the ankle (black only). I got the shorter of the two, figuring I didn’t want a length that might tangle in the spokes, and ordered in a slightly large size than needed so I could wear it outside all my layers. The waistband has some elastic so it’s pretty forgiving in any case. The order arrived promptly with a nice handwritten note on the packing slip and I put it to work within a couple of days.
My usual winter layers include wool stockings and socks with leggings or stretch pants, or my wonderful Outlier Women’s Daily Riding Pant that is tragically no longer available. I wore the Wander Wrap with leggings so I could test how much water made it through on a genuine nonstop rainy ride.
I’d label the results 90% successful. On the left side where three snaps hold the skirt closed, my leg was completely dry. On the right side where it only snaps at the waist, it can fall open a bit more while pedaling and my right knee was a little damp. Not soaked as it would have been with no protection, and it dried quickly, but I plan to add an internal tie near the bottom edge so it will be held closed similar to the left side. With that small addition I expect it to score 100% on the “dry and happy” scale.
The first time I wore it I was riding my upright Mary Poppins bike, with my lap truly exposed. The second time I was on my road bike with the forward posture that provides a little lap protection. The skirt is longer than what I’d usually wear on a bike but didn’t present any problems on either bike getting on or pedaling.
When I got to work I just unsnapped it and draped it on my bike to dry—no awkward dance to peel wet pants off over wet shoes. Based on my experience, a friend who enjoys hiking said she may get one to stay dry in damp underbrush without the sweatbox pants problem.
Bottom line: If you ride or walk in wet weather you want a Wander Wrap. It’s practical, provides much easier rain protection than pants, and leaves you dry, not sweaty.
I’m 5’6-1/2, about same weight as you, carry my weight below the waist. I got a size large in the longer one (http://www.wandergoods.com/wander-wrap/), not the Seattle Sarong shorter one. It snaps on just fine over layers of clothing beneath my coat layer. I imagine if you needed to you could add additional snaps to adjust the waist fit.
I was reading your Allegany/C&O adventure when you mentioned the wrap… what size did you purchase, what size are you??? I have had 2 pairs of zip off showers pass rain pants but can’t seem to get them to fit right. I’m short with a big belly/ hip/ thigh section. 5’3”, 155…
And it’s just another $30 in your pocket for not driving that day. Life is good!
I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post.