Walking off the holidays

If you’re like me, heavier food and Mom’s cookies were in abundance,  which did not do do wonders for my waistline.  And, especially here in Oregon, winter is back with a vengeance, which is not doing wonders for my motivation to walk or ride.

So here’s some of the things I do to kick my ass back into gear.  First and foremost, I got myself a high-quality set of appropriate weather gear.  Here in Oregon that means rain gear.  If I am walking, that means a nice lightweight rain jacket by REI, Columbia or Mountain Hardwear, which you can get from their outlets for a pretty reasonable price.  For Columbia gear, make sure for something that has the OmniTech label on it, which is their equivalent to Gore-Tex.

Avoid stuff that says “water-resistant” unless you are dealing with pretty light rain – go for “waterproof”.  Then test it with an hour’s walk close to your house the next time you have heavy rain to make sure it does the job.  No point finding out later the manufacturer missed sealing a seam.  For that matter, they make seam-sealer, for after-market touch up jobs, which you can get at most outdoor stores.

I’d look for something as lightweight as you can get, and in a size larger than you normally wear.  If you are walking, or doing anything physical, outside, you will start to sweat, and if the shell is lightweight, you can ditch underlying layers, but you can’t ditch the outer, waterproof layer until it stops raining.

If you’re dealing with lower temperatures, or are naturally cold-blooded, wool is also a good option, because you can get wet and still stay warm.  Merino wools can also be pretty lightweight, and they retain their warmth when wet.  Good wool gear is available from Icebreaker and Smartwool, for a bit more money.  I tend to prefer synthetic fibers because they dry out faster, and I am ok with being a little colder, especially when riding.

I am less stringent waterproof gear for biking, at least for any temperature above about 40ºF.   I find that if I am doing any kind of speed, I generate enough body heat to counteract the effect of moisture at least a bit, unless it’s very windy.  So while I still wear warm tights and a good, water-resistant bike jacket, I avoid the sauna effect of rain gear altogether.  For me this works, certainly for leisure riding.  Even when bike commuting, I usually threw dry work clothes in my pannier and let myself get a little damp through my bike clothes on the ride in.   I found this preferable to biking in rain gear over my work clothes and getting all steamy and dank (I didn’t have a shower at the office).

Which reminds me – a good water-proof bag is irreplacable.  I have a bike messenger bag from Chrome that is pretty water-resistant, but will soak through if I’m out in really heavy rain for more than an hour or so (Chrome does make waterproof bags, but I cheaped out – oops).  Meaning I can’t really use it in heavy weather if I plan on carrying around books or electronics.  My Vaude panniers are pretty bullet-proof in that regard.    Ortlieb bags are supposed to be excellent as well, though I haven’t tried them.  A roll-top bag is the right sort of closure for that sort of thing.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I try to get over myself.  Unless I’m in a rural area, or in a blizzard, or am dealing with extreme terrain of some kind, I’m unlikely to find myself more than 5-10 minutes from civilization, centralized heating, and a cup of hot chocolate.  Once in a while I let myself get cold or wet a little bit.  Our ancestors walked around for days in fur loincloths.  I’ll survive.  And eventually I find my definition of cold is a little different than it used to be.


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