It is Tuesday Oct. 17 in southern Ontario and it's basically miserable out. It's pouring, that's the first thing you need to know. I had a tailwind for a while as I trekked through Whitby, and I was thankful for that, but then I turned east on Conlin and a heavy headwind blasted itself into my chest. I suddenly felt like I was doing the Scarborough Bluffs climb on my mountain bike.
Anyhoooooo..... I thought I'd talk about gear today.
It's not too big a stretch to claim that my lifesaver for this commute has been this backpack. It's from the Running Room (I worked at the Running Room in the Beaches for several months up until September) and I highly recommend it for any biker.
You know the backpacks you have in your closet which are covered in salt stains from sitting on your back as you ride on hot summer days? And how the clothes/books you have in that pack are icky and damp when you arrive at wherever you're going on those hot days? Well this backpack has a mesh sheet which sits flush against your back, and the actual pack is suspended slightly off you - so that the sweat breathes off your back and your gear doesn't get ruined. It also has a little holster pocket on the right shoulder strap which I assume was designed for cell-phones, but for cyclists it's the perfect place to store a gel and to stick the gel wrapper when you're done.
The final bonus is the black thingy you can see hanging below the pack in this photo. It's a rain cover which stows into the bottom of the pack, and which you can pull up and over your pack to protect it from the rain. The only drawback of this pack is its carrying capacity. If you have to carry shoes and a change of clothes with you (I don't - I leave all that stuff in my office) then you're going to be in a bit of trouble trying to also get your lunch, book, locks etc in there.
These are some old favourites and new additions. The old favourites are the balaclavas, neck mufflers, and the foam face mask (for use in the winter when the wind would otherwise rip your face off. Bonus is it makes you look like some kind of stormtrooper). The new additions are the Pearl Izumi toe warmers on my shoes (they're good, but it's mid October and they're no longer warm enough). Also pictured are some M.E.C. shoe covers, which so far have been quite good for rain protection and for general warmth.
I had this past Friday off and I did an errand I've been meaning to do for a while - I bought old school rubber boots (the kind, when we were kids, that we waded through ponds with up north catching frogs to go fishing) and heavy(ish) duty rubber gloves! When it's really pouring, like today, I ride my Kona Hahanna instead of the Cannondale because the Kona has fenders. The Kona having street pedals I have to wear street shoes, and I've long thought that plain old rubber boots would be the best footwear to have on days like today. I think I was right - after the ride this morning my feet and hands were both warm and dry!
And my Kona... sigh... if I was a cowboy and had a good old hardworking horse that I'd been riding for years, I'd feel the same way about it that I do my Kona. I've had it since about 2001. I've changed the drivetrain a couple times, the tires a couple more times, and the seat is shot and the seatpost is stuck, but otherwise it's still a workhorse.
I remember going for a rainy day ride up the Don Valley biking trails once. I hit one wooden bridge too fast, the front wheel went out below me and I found myself in midair thinking "hell, since I'm up here I might as well play this for all it's worth" and I stretched my arms out in a superman pose and hit the bridge on my chest and slidddddd... along it for several metres like a pro. About 20 minutes later I came to another wooden bridge, tried to take it carefully (editor's note - wooden bridges are SLIPPERY AS HELL in the rain) but still wiped out on it, and as I picked up my bike I patted it gently and said "dude, I am so sorry... I can't seem to keep you upright on bridges today."