Photo: giopuo via FlickrTook a long ride in the pouring rain a couple days ago to deliver some engineering drawings and test out some new gear. I’m looking for novel ideas to facilitate bike commuting. A commuter should be able to step off the bike and head straight for the coffee machine without having to change clothes or take a shower.

The key to that is an electric hybrid bike, but clothing is also all-important. Although I’m confident I’d look real fine in spandex, it doesn’t fit my stated design parameters. But if you must wear it, do not repeat the mistake made by the Polish bike team a few years ago. Make sure the shorts are black, not red. Word of warning to all you nerds out there: Spandex bike clothing will one day go the way of the mullet. Don’t be the last one wearing it.

On this trip I was wearing a Bell Venture bike helmet, complete with visor. I like this helmet because you can adjust the fit by twirling a knob on the back, which lets you wear a headband or hat under it without having to adjust the straps (it is also inexpensive). The visor is important to keep the rain and, in theory, the sun out of your eyes (I have barely seen the sun in many months).

I was also sporting a helmet rain cover made by illumiNITE. Not only does it glow in the dark (reflect light) but it also kept me dry with no heat build up at all — top quality.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

For cold weather, you really need a headband to keep your ears and forehead warm. For some guys, their foreheads account for a quarter of total body skin area and as such represents a major source of heat loss, not to mention aerodynamic drag. But mostly you want to keep the cold wind from whistling in your ears. Ski shops are good places to find these. Take my advice and buy something subtle so your significant other doesn’t blow you shit give you grief every time you put it on, as mine does.

You also need gloves for cold weather. Try a pair of manly Cascade Manzella gloves. They’re warm and water resistant — a serious plus in Seattle. This is a good time of year to get them in close-out sales.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Toe clips are pure idiocy for city bike commuting. I stand by that remark even though there is a remote possibility I may have offended someone with it. I’ve seen more people flop over because they couldn’t get their foot loose than I can shake a stick at. What you need are stylish slip-on work shoes sprayed with a good quality water proofing. The slip-on design negates shoestrings that will let water pour in. I wear some made by Merrell. Not cheap, but they work like a charm.

Sunglasses are a must for daytime riding and the main criteria is that they are cool-looking. There are some nice ones available in hardware stores that also double as safety glasses and as such are durable. They are popular with people who actually work for a living and want to look cool while doing it. Put a strap on them so they can hang around your neck when you take them off or inadvertently flip your bike upside down.

Consider getting a combination cable bike lock. You won’t have to waste time looking for a key or cussing because you forgot one. Use the first part of someone’s cell phone number for the combination — that way if you forget it you can look it up on your cell phone, assuming you can remember whose number it was, or where you put your cell phone.

Top these accessories off with a brightly colored waterproof windbreaker and pair of rain pants. The jacket should have lots of pockets to stuff things in like your gloves and helmet rain cover. The pants should be designed so that you can easily remove them over your shoes. Remember that the goal is to pull up to work and just saunter in while your cubicle mates are still parking their cars.

Some final tips. Wear a good quality vest under the windbreaker that snugs up around your neck. I find that once I warm up on a ride my arms are the only thing that gets overheated. You can always unzip the jackets as you ride, but your arms are stuck in the sleeves.

Oh, as for my bike ride. I never made it to my destination. As I rode along, dodging the cracks, potholes, pedestrians, and cars, I was wondering how one can gauge the depth of a given puddle when my front tire dropped into one that was about a foot deep. It blew my tire and bent my rim. I want to thank all of you, Seattle politicians, for pursuing your higher profile political agendas by diverting funds from road maintenance and letting our bikeways degenerate into dangerous gauntlets. I wonder how many bikers have been injured or even killed in Seattle as a result of dodging into traffic to avoid (or from actually hitting) these craters. I had to call my wife to come rescue me in her shiny red Prius. I managed to straighten the rim, tighten the spokes and replace the tube, so at least I am back in the saddle again. Maybe Seattle should invest a little more in bike infrastructure and a little less in biodiesel made from food crops. Ah, now I feel better.

In … politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” — Mark Twain