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  • Ready for the Rain

    Posted on August 1st, 2017 admin No comments

     

    After getting soaked on my four-day tour,   I acquired some new gear.

    • New (used) bike (actually, I got the bike the day before I left on the tour).
    • New (used) rear panniers (ditto).
    • New front panniers with rain covers.
    • New rain pants.
    • New green waterproof cover for tent.
    In this photo, I haven't attached the front handlebar bag.

    In this photo, I haven't attached the front handlebar bag.

    New Gear Needs to be Tested

    It's my opinion that new gear should be tested before use.   It always amazes me to find someone in a campground struggling to put up a new tent for the first time, often under stressful circumstances such as rain, high wind, or interference from helpful but hyperactive kids.  "Did you try it out at home?"  Nope.

    I just can't understand that.   When I was selecting a tent for bike touring, I tested each choice a few times before making a selection to take on tour.  We also have an older large 8-man dome tent that we might use for an upcoming truck camping trip; I set that up in the back yard to refresh my memory on setup, ensure that all the parts were still there, and to make sure it hadn't suffered from years of storage (found one large hole that needs patched).    Confession:  my "solar" phone charger arrived shortly before my tour, so I was forced to take it with me untested.  And it bit me in the end: the solar charging didn't work and my phone died.  Caveat emptor.

    World Tour 20L Pannier Indigo/Cobalt

    My front panniers are new MEC 12L World Tour that were $20 off for a pair. Yes, the photo shows 20L, but otherwise they're identical.

    Anyway.  Today I stuffed some random gear into the panniers, put the rain covers on the front, then rode for 30 minutes (about 10 km) in the rain to see if everything -- including me -- would stay dry. For the most part, it did.

    The Panniers Perform

    I had some concerns about the front panniers.  The bottom hooks didn't engage the rack, which meant that the bags could swing out.  It was also the first time I had ridden with full front panniers, and I've read that they could affect steering and maneuvering.   Turned out neither was an issue.  The panniers stayed where they were, and I rode some zig-zags, tight circles, and figure-eights, with no problems at all.

    The front pannier covers worked beautifully.  They fit well and shed the rain.   Although some water splashed up on the back of each pannier when I went through puddles, the plastic backing kept the water out.  I suspect that after a day of rain, the bottoms of these panniers would be wet and the contents damp.

    I got the rear panniers with the bike and front racks.  The folks I bought them from  had used them for front panniers on a trip to South America.  However, they seem to be in good condition and the waterproof lining has not worn through anywhere that I could see.

    One of the rear panniers let in a little water, but it may have been that I didn't have it fastened down properly.  They're an older MEC model, no longer available -- waterproof bags with an inner drawstring closure, compression straps, a few extra inner and outer pockets.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    The drawstring closure sack at the top is not waterproof, and I think I had one overstuffed (with my old mummy bag) and not compressed enough.  A part of that sleeping bag got wet.

    Keeping Myself Dry

    As for the cyclist -- my Gore-Tex rain jacket did a good enough job, and the new rain pants kept my bottom half dry.  I used poor-man booties, which consist of a plastic garbage sack slipped over each foot before putting on my runners.  This is an old trick: the running shoes get wet, but the feet stay dry and warm.  After my half-hour shower, I was dry.  Sort of.  Both my jacket and my rain pants are supposedly "breathable", but neither has vents.  After 30 minutes at a moderate pace,  sweat had started to accumulate, and I was riding with the jacket and my under-layer unzipped.  By the end of an hour in the rain, I might have been pretty damp in my "dry" clothes.

    Ready for my Next Bike Tour

    So, several hundred dollars later, I've got gear that I think will work well for the light touring I plan to do.  Apparently, with four panniers and the front bag, I have enough storage to tour for months (after all, I did four days on two smaller rear panniers).

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