Commuting By Bike: Rain Pants or Your Bottom Half

I commuted to work by bike every day this week (and I work on Sundays – so that’s 6 days of bike commuting!) Unfortunately, it also rained every day this week. My ride to work is only about 2.5 miles and takes me around 15-20 minutes, but rain is rain and whether you’re riding in it for 10 minutes or an hour you’re going to get wet.

It’s especially important to have the right kind of gear for riding your bike to work because when you arrive you have to look presentable. I have a coworker who’s just starting to build his bike commuting gear collection, and he asked me for advice on riding in the rain and commuting in general. I got so excited! Other people wanted to know about this crazy bike commuting thing I do! That’s why this week I’m doing a mini series on commuting by bike centered mostly around riding in the rain.


The way I see it, there are two options for dealing with your bottom half when riding to work in the rain. To start we’ll be talking about an important piece of gear for riding in the rain, and option one: rain pants! Rain pants are awesome, and if you are someone who likes being outside you should probably just go ahead and buy a pair. They are nice to have for hiking and camping and any other situation where you might be out in the rain for a long time. I bought my pair before heading to a football game where I’d be sitting in the stands in the rain. When it comes to biking in the rain, you’re going to get a lot more wet than standing around or walking (especially on your legs) because you’re moving into the rain drops and your bike is going to splash a lot of rain from the ground up onto you, so they can be especially nice. Keep in mind that even if it’s not actually raining, a wet road can be the perfect time for rain pants. Ex: My boyfriend splashed wet-tar-speckles all over his brand new khakis last week.


I got my packable rain pants at academy sports. (They were out of women’s ones in my size, so I snagged a men’s small and they fit fine.)

All of that said, I actually have a love hate relationship with rain pants. They are really great for biking, but only in super specific weather. If it’s not cold out, I get super sweaty riding in my rain pants, which kind of defeats their purpose. So, I’d say that if you’re biking to work somewhere where it gets cold, you absolutely need a pair of rain pants. But if it’s warm, there are better ways to deal with your bottom half in rainy weather. That brings us to option two:


When it’s warm but rainy I ride in small cycling shorts (or just simple spandex shorts) and change into more appropriate-for-work bottoms when I arrive. I bring a small microfiber towel with me to dry off before I put my dry work pants on. And, I carry my towel, spare pants, and a snack in a dry bag that I throw in my basket or bungee to my rear rack.

I feel like I should say that I’m lucky enough to work in a building that has a pretty accommodating restroom. In fact, we have lockers available and a shower in our main staff restroom (spoiler alert: I’ve never actually used either and don’t really plan to – so if you don’t have lockers and/or showers available to you, don’t fret – all of the tips to come will still be super helpful.) But what rocks about that whole environment is that it encourages being able to change into work clothes after I arrive.