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Rain gear

What does everyone use for rain gear? Do you always ride with it or only days with rain in forecast?

24 Replies

Kevin James, December 29, 2021 at 3:53 pm

I’ve learned to keep everything at a minimum on the ride. I would most likely not even bring rain gear if rain was in the forecast.


karenelsken, December 29, 2021 at 4:09 pm

Tempting depending on temperature.


stevecycles200, December 29, 2021 at 8:14 pm

I don’t use rain gear if it is warm weather. If it is chilly, which I doubt will be an issue but then I would have a jacket and shoe covers to keep those things dry and a bit warmer.


Uncle Kraig, December 29, 2021 at 8:43 pm

I carry two trash bags in my bike bag all the time. Pop my head and two arms through and its ready to go. If rain is forecast and inevitable, I will bring / wear a very cheap, light, rain jacket I got for making some donation or another years ago :) The first day in 2019 from Council Bluffs to Atlantic it rained ALL day as I recall. That complimentary rain jacket did its job just fine. You will see a lot of trash bags too.


LawnchairMan, December 29, 2021 at 9:10 pm

A rain jacket is a good investment for Ragbrai. They are lightweight and fold to nearly nothing. Styles range from waterproof to water repellant and breathable or not. (repellant types will soak through eventually) The price range is from fifty to three hundred dollars. The more expensive ones are waterproof AND breathable. Of course, you could just take a trash bag and cut off the bottom corners for armholes and the middle bottom for your head. It’s my superstition that if I don’t bring my jacket it will rain for sure. I also bring legwarmers if it really looks like rain.

Iowa’s climate changes quickly. It can be hot and humid one day and cold the next. Of my six Ragbrai’s, I’ve been caught riding in the rain only once, but don’t forget about “Soggy Monday” of Ragbrai IX. Everybody got soaked and cold. The time I was in the rain, several items inside my bag got wet, so now I put most of those into sandwich bags. I hope these tips help. Have a great ride!


Chris, December 31, 2021 at 3:51 pm

Like LawnchairMan said, a rain jacket is a good investment for RAGBRAI. We always have one in our luggage; if there’s more than a 0% chance of rain in the forecast that day, we’ll stick them in our pockets as we roll out for the day. We might not use them if it’s 85 degrees and it’s a warm rain, but if it’s 72 and a cold rain, it makes things a lot more comfortable. Well, perhaps not a lot. At least some, though!

As for brand: whatever goes. We like either high-viz yellow or orange over black, as even though there are a billion of us on the road, the more visibility, the better! Id suggest something that fits pretty snugly, though. The flapping around of a loose fitting bit of rain gear gets annoying after a bunch of hours.

RAGBRAI does have a habit of throwing strange stuff at us. :)

See you in July.


Mike Murphy, January 1, 2022 at 11:50 am

I have done Ragbrai 11 times. The first few I didn’t take any rain gear. One year the day started off with rain and cold temps. I started thinking it would stop raining and warm up (its the last week in July, how can it be cold!!!!). I went through the first couple of towns and thought about buying a rain jacket but didn’t. I finally get to a town and I am freezing cold. I stop at a school and spend at least an hour, it looked like it was clearing up so I head out. Less than five miles down the road, the sun disappears and the rain starts up. So, I rode about 60 miles freezing cold and wet. Since that year, I always pack my rain jacket and if there is rain in the forecast and temps below 60 I take it. Which I think has been twice the last 5 or 6 rides I have done.


coloradoshortbus, January 1, 2022 at 1:41 pm

I try to keep the amount of gear to a minimum. If it rains hard or is chilly, I usually knock on someone’s door and ask to buy a trash bag for $1.


Joseph Schlau, January 3, 2022 at 11:11 am

What qualifies as rain gear is also a consideration. The cold wet ride that Mike M spoke of is an example. That day I had both the rain jacket and lightweight rain pants on and did fine. One husband and wife pair however did not do so well. At a stop he had asked me if I was having trouble with rain leaking through the jacket. No, I pointed out to him that their jackets were labeled “Water Resistant” by the seller. A marketing tactic employed to sell what appears to be a super light and compact jacket. Water resistant or wind proof labeled garments give a very brief protection from rain which fails after a few minutes of a steady rain. They have their place in cold dry conditions not rain. As rain soaks through it soon becomes part of the problem. Waterproof garments are just that. They provide an actual barrier to water. Yes, you sweat inside the jacket but it is much better than a steady infiltration of cold water. which saps the body heat. The wife was at a point where she was visibly shaking. The husband had also made some inquiries and was told no SAG service was available, just push on. Think about it, on a cold day with wind and steady rain, Ragbrai is able to provide SAG service to some but not everyone.

This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Joseph Schlau.


Dusty Ayers, January 3, 2022 at 1:48 pm

Bring rain gear, at least a good rain jacket and try it out first.

I grew up in the Midwest and thought, Bah! How bad can a July rain be!? I bet it will feel great!

In 2010, we made fun of our friend for riding with a jacket rubber banded to his handler bars all week, but then the skies opened and the temp dropped and he had the last laugh while we shivered.

We made do with trash bags from some bar (I can still hear the flapping of it in the wind) and forever after, I always packed a jacket in a frame bag if there was even the slightest chance of rain!

Better off warm and wet than cold and wet! A helmet liner of some sort helps too!


LawnchairMan, January 3, 2022 at 1:58 pm

This is a tale about Iowa weather. Since I was young I’d heard the old adage; “If you don’t like the weather in Iowa just wait fifteen minutes and it will change.” This is an example.
In 1973 I was moving from Ames to Sioux City and decided to bike there. I’d moved all but my bike and camping gear earlier, so I was out for my first cross country ride.
The start of the first day was perfect cycling weather. It was warm, sunny, and I had a slight tailwind. The road was flat, so I was casually rolling along and miles were accumulating. Around noon I noticed a few clouds, but gave them no thought. By two it was partly cloudy, and by three it looked like rain. I was only a few miles from my day’s destination when it started sprinkling. In a little town, I found a place to camp and set up my tent. It stopped sprinkling, so I went across the road to a bar. I don’t think they had Caseys at that time. I was only there about fifteen minutes when a guy came in completely drenched. I rushed out in wind-driven rain to find my tent flapping open and all of my gear soaked. I spent a cold night in a restroom trying to get warm from a can of Sterno.
The next morning I used a laundromat to dry my sleeping bag and then packed my stuff. It was still overcast, but I got going again. It took a total of three days to get to Sioux City, but only that one day of rain. It caught me by surprise. I would like to know which little town that was, but that was nearly fifty years ago. Lots of things change in that amount of time. I don’t think I will ever know. I do know that I take Iowa weather seriously now.


Dizzy, January 4, 2022 at 7:17 pm

Hello Karen,
The best answer is a question: what’s your personal tolerance?
Go out and ride in the rain at home.
Did it bother you?
Were you fine w/o rain gear after going out in the rain?
Or were you happy you had it when you road in the rain?
Therein lies the answer.

All the best, D


Mark47n, January 4, 2022 at 10:06 pm

Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent so much time in the backcountry and I’ve had the 10 Essentials pounded into my head (and needed them at one time or another) but I’d never head out on an all day ride, let alone a weeklong ride without raingear. Even in the summer hypothermia is a possibility and there’s nothing more dangerous that being cold AND wet. Given what we spend and the hassles we subject ourselves to in order to participate in an event like this there’s no good or reasonable excuse to not go prepared. Of course, that applies to any ride.


Joseph Schlau, January 5, 2022 at 3:16 am

To add to the suggestion by Dizzy, midway through the practice rain ride just stop. When you stop, stand there for an hour in the cold rain just like you would if you had to change a flat tire on the rear wheel or maybe wait for a SAG wagon if you had a bigger breakdown. Fixing a flat tire when you are cold, wet, tired and everything is slippery is much more complex than doing the same task on your patio table on a nice warm day. Many riders can push through even when cold and wet because of the body heat they generate . . for awhile. However If all of a sudden a bike problem brings the plan to a halt, now you have an added problem. But even this test ride my be deceiving. Ones tolerance to the cold/wet is dependent on your physical condition at the time. Hunger, dehydration, and exhaustion all play a role.

Like Mark47, I have spent considerable time in the backcountry, some of it in the mountains where it rained almost every day. I have yet to meet any individual who is immune to hypothermia.


Gypsy Rose, January 5, 2022 at 9:32 am

My second RAGBRAI (1981) was the year of the infamous “Soggy Monday.” My wife and I, along with our 2-year-old daughter on the back of my bike, had inexpensive ponchos for the ride. When that cold, wet day began, we cinched up the poncho around Desiree and headed out. Rain, headwinds, daytime temps remaining in the 40’s eventually led us to catch a lift to the end town in the back of a pickup. (Local residents were plucking riders from the route for most of the day and taking us to the gym that was being used as a shelter for the night.)

As a commuting and touring cyclist, I’m accustomed to riding with at least some gear on my bike. I ride RAGBRAI with a rack trunk (Arkel). Inside, along with other “essentials,” is an inexpensive rain jacket along with a helmet cover. Rarely used, they are certainly worth their minimal weight when needed.

The other, perhaps equally uncomfortable part about riding in the rain is something a bit more difficult to control. That is the stream of water and mud flying up from thousands of narrow bike tires. Not only is it coating the riders backs with crud, but it becomes a real issue for those behind them.

I ride with full-coverage fenders. (Remember, I’m a touring/commuting cyclist.) Not only do they keep the water and grime off of me and my drivetrain, but they prevent that nasty rooster tail that is cursed by those riding behind fenderless bikes.

Being among a small minority of RAGBRAI participants that ride with fenders, on rainy days I try to avoid the spray by starting my day’s ride later in the morning than I normally would, and opting for less bike traffic and less spray. Or, if the forecast is calling for just brief showers, that’s when I’ll look for a comfy sheltered spot to wait it out.



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