Last weekend a friend asked me and Trisha what we do about thunderstorms, and we both agreed that we simply do not bike in them. However, that is a simplified, partially true statement. The full explanation is that I choose not to bike in the morning if, at the time of leaving, hard rain is actively falling or the forecast all but guarantees thunderstorms. I tend to ignore vague forecasts for the possibility of thunderstorms in the evening, because so many times when I started bike commuting, I was tricked into not biking when the weather was fine.
Which is how I now end up biking home in thunderstorms more than I would like.
My commute is long enough to give the weather ample time to change (30 minutes) but short enough that I feel okay pushing through bad weather. I wait out storms with thunder and lightening, but the most common scenario has me leaving work just before the sky opens up, and once I’m already on my bike, only the worst conditions could stop me. Otherwise, I push on through cautiously but assertively.
Such was the case last night.
Photo from last year. Imagine this, but dark.
Leaving a fundraiser benefit for my employer, the weather seemed fine, although the night sky was too dark to see clouds. Only after I biked half a mile did the rain suddenly start pouring. Thunder and lightening soon followed.
I was wearing an elegant black ensemble: a silk dress, blazer, tights and dress shoes. I had a raincoat tied around my waist because my new dress became way too short on the bike (more about that later) and for visibility, not because I anticipated rain. After the storm started, I considered pulling over to put the raincoat on, but did not want to lose momentum, so I continued all the way home as I was. Of course, by the end of my commute, the storm had calmed to a drizzle. Arriving home, drenched and drowned-rat-esque, I immediately hung my clothes to dry and took a hot shower. This morning, both the clothes and I are fine. My Po Campo bag, which is advertised only as water resistant, amazingly kept all of my contents safe and dry.
There is a lot of talk on bike blogs and forums about gear like rain pants, ponchos, etc. Those accessories are important in some situations (like if I were on my way to the event), but if you’re going straight home, there is nothing terrible about getting caught in the rain in your regular clothes. I do not want newer bike commuters to worry that they are not properly prepared for bicycling until they acquire all that stuff.
I am grateful that I had my Planet Bike Superflash. Powerful lights are always important when riding in the rain, especially at night.
Somebody tell me that I’m not the only one with bad luck when it comes to getting stuck in the rain. What do you do when unexpected thunderstorms hit?