Im on that boat moderately oftenyouve probably pedaled past me a time or two. To think youve been that close to greatness.
In any event, the first thing I would do is make sure you have raingear for your bikethat is to say, fenders. Because a lot more water comes up off your tires than can usually come down from the sky, fenders are essential. And be sure you add an extension" of some sort to the rear fender. Then, if someone on a bike should follow you, they wont get soaked from your rooster tail. People who join our wet-ride groups and dont have fender extensions are dealt repeated blows to the head and shoulders with a Zefal bike pump. Planet Bike SpeedEZ Fenders ($40; www.planetbike.com) work fine and even have semi-adequate extensions built onto them.
As for clothing, that can be tricky as the weather where you and I live, Martha, while often wet, is rarely that chilly. The minute you put on a rainsuit and start climbing a hill, steam is apt to start coming out from around your neck. So, layer up with a light wicking base, add a medium-weight insulating layer if needed, and then a shell.
I think the best rainproof bike gear is made from the relatively new fabric called eVent, which is chemically similar to Gore-Tex but has some differences in how its manufactured. I have a predecessor to the Pearl Izumi Trifecta Jacket ($220; www.performancebike.com) and it works great. But shop fast, Pearl Izumi is dropping eVent from its product line, although some Trifectas are still on the market at Performance and elsewhere. The fact the Trifecta is being discontinued isnt a knock on eVent; it just hasnt caught on with the public, much as Gores estimable Activent didnt catch on earlier this decade.
Another good choice would be the Gore Bike Wear Allround Plus Jacket ($199; www.gorebikewear.com), which uses Gore-Tex XCR as its waterproof-breathable layer. Its a nice, light piece. Gore Bike Wear also makes a waterproof pant from lightweight Paclite that sells for $159.
An alternate is to try a soft shell jacket, which keeps you pretty dry while offering better dry-weather performance and better performance than a rainproof shell. Cloudveils Switchback Jacket ($195; www.cloudveil.com) uses superb Schoeller Dynamic fabric, which breathes much more liberally than a strict shell. Layer it over a light T-shirt and youre all set in all but the hardest downpour.
Check out this years more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive section of womens gear, in the 2006 Buyers Guide.