Riding in the Rain and Living Car-Free
The soggy season has arrived, which means it’s time to enter the Ride in the Rain Challenge. While some fear the clammy cold, bicycling in the rain is no sweat for one Cascade staff member who doesn’t own a car.
For many people who bicycle through Seattle’s inclement weather, riding in the rain is optional. For Chris Hemminger, who decided with his wife to go car-free two years ago, pedaling in the rain is a five-day-a-week necessity.
“Leaving your cozy and warm house when it's raining and cold outside is the hardest part,” Hemminger says. “It’s a mental challenge more than a physical one. But once you get outside and get going you forget all about the rain and focus on riding.”
November is the annual Ride in the Rain Challenge month at Cascade and Washington Bikes. The goal is to celebrate biking during the rainiest month of the year and encourage people to ride year-round. The challenge is free to enter, people can participate individually or as a team, and participants can win prizes including rain gear, saddlebags, and more.
Hemminger, Cascade’s staff accountant and an essential employee still working from the office, commutes 20 miles every work day, or 100 miles weekly, from his house in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood to Cascade headquarters in Magnuson Park.
Hemminger locks up the office before riding home. He rides a 2016 Jamis with disc brakes, a rack and Ortlieb pannier.
Riding to work in the rain requires a different clothing strategy than riding in the rain for exercise or recreation, says Hemminger. When riding for fun, the goal is to stay warm, and it’s OK to get wet or sweaty. But when riding to work, Hemminger makes sure that he is dry and comfortable for his time at the office. That means packing dry clothing--especially socks--that he can change into at the office.
“There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad fashion choices,” says Hemminger, who prefers wool shirts that dry quickly. He recently bought a new rain jacket and rain pants from Showers Pass, but he only wears these in a solid downpour because they can be hot and clammy.
Autumn leaves add a burst of color to riding in the rain. But they can be slippery so exercise caution.
“Riding in the rain is more of a mental battle. Getting wet is worse than being wet,” says Hemminger, who competes in the Ride in the Rain Challenge on his wife’s University of Washington workplace team, Dawgeddly We Mushed, a previous winner in the challenge's points competition.
Other teams in this year’s challenge include the City Slickers, Soggy Bottoms, Riders on the Storm, and I Bike for Cake (created by Cascade’s Director of Development Michelle Johnson). As of Wednesday, 128 teams and 533 individuals had registered.
“It’s fun to have the camaraderie and competition of the challenge,” Hemminger says of participating on a team.
As for living car-free, Hemminger says he has “no regrets.” He and his wife sold their old car two years ago when it needed $4,000 worth of repairs. They were both already bicycling to work regularly, and they determined the expense of a car was no longer necessary. They own a bicycle trailer for shopping and carrying bulky items, and they live in a neighborhood with stores and other necessities within walking or biking distance. When leaving town, they rent a car. “We had the opportunity and the luxury to go car-free so we did it. It was a lifestyle choice. It seems scary but isn’t.”
In addition to wracking up a lot of points in the Ride in the Rain Challenge, and saving money, daily bike commuting has other benefits. It burns a lot of calories. Says Hemminger: “I like to eat.”
Another rainy commute completed, Hemminger coasts into his no-car garage. I'm hungry, what's for dinner?
Earn bonus points by participating in food bank deliveries operated by Cascade and Seattle Pedaling Relief, or by pedaling to BIPOC-owned businesses.
Watch the video of Cascade Education Coordinator Amy Korver answering questions about riding safely in the rain.