This year’s warm, wet winter has given me a lot of opportunities to break out my rain gear for my commutes to and from work. For years, my “rain suit” has consisted of:
- Patagonia rain jacket with hood
- Waterproof Gore-Tex biking gloves
- Novara rain pants (REI house brand)
- Regular, non-waterproof Altra sneakers with neoprene shoe covers (booties)
I should point out here that I ride flat pedals exclusively, having given up clipless a few years ago.
While neoprene shoe covers are useful as an extra insulating layer on extremely cold days, I’ve never been particularly enamored of them as rain booties. They do the job, but they’re bulky, and the soles get soggy and gunky if you have to get off the bike and do any walking. Also, the cuffs of my rain pants tend to slip off them while riding, leaving the tops open and often resulting in wet shoes and socks. On top of that, I’ve never been able to find a pair that’s large enough to completely fit over my Altras, so there’s always a slight opening at the back, providing more of an opportunity for moisture to get in.
This year, I bought a new pair of waterproof Altra Lone Peaks. These are marketed as trail running shoes, but I bought them with the intent of using them for mountain biking (I wanted something that was going to keep me dry when I occasionally stick my foot in the water during a stream crossing). Since they’re waterproof, I decided I’d see how they work for rainy bike commutes. My last few times out, I left the old sneakers and booties at home, and wore the waterproof Altras with gaiters instead. No more bulky neoprene shoe covers, and my feet and socks have been bone-dry after every ride. The shoes have nice, tough soles, and will hold up much better than booties if I have to do any walking. It’s a win-win all around, and I find myself enjoying my rides in the rain a lot more.
I should add that gaiters are essential in this setup. The rain pants go over the tops of the gaiters, which in turn go over the tops of the shoes. That way, there’s no way for water to get in. Without the gaiters, there would be a gap between the pants and the shoes, allowing water to seep in around my ankles. The Altra Lone Peaks have a convenient metal loop below the laces that is designed for gaiters, making them especially well-suited for this application.