Ok, so I think this is where I finally post my rant about women’s bike gear….
Yesterday I finally got around to getting some proper rain gear so I can bike-commute through the winter (barring ice/snow). First we went out to Cabela’s to look at just generic outdoorsy rain gear. The store is way out away from everything, although there’s lots of signs & architectural drawings to show that someday it will be the center of some sort of “Lacey Gateway Town Center.” What it is now is scrubby oaks and pines on the bluffs above the Nisqually Delta…and a huge faux-log cabin with a metal roof surrounded by a sea of parking.
Oh, I don’t know that I’m ever going back to Cabela’s. It was crowded, both with people and with close-set displays. We wandered through the men’s raingear side first, which was where C found the jacket & pants he wears for biking in the rain. But of course those are all way too big, the jackets hilariously so. They don’t even seem to stock smalls. And I think I’ve figured out that the basic difference between men’s & women’s jackets (other than the obvious) is the length of the sleeves.
We went to the women’s side…most of the outwear was for snow rather than rain for some reason. I tried on a set that seemed to be of dubious waterproofing, and a pair of Gore-Tex pants: the waist & hips were about right, but the lower legs and cuffs were way too baggy. Looked at another pair, but those seemed too heavy.
So we left Cabela’s. Next stop: the outdoor stores downtown. Alpine Experience was like a microcosm of Cabela’s, at least as far as what was available. One pair of North Face, one of another brand…I don’t remember the name. Large was the closest that I could find to a decent fit, and that still meant a slightly tight fit around the hips and way baggy around the calves and ankles. (They had several pairs of extra-smalls, by the way. How many elf-girls live in Olympia and want rain paints?) By that point I was actually getting surly, and I’d had a headache since we left Cabela’s.
Olympic Outfitters finally had a pair of almost-right pants: Isis rain pants, and they even fit in a size that I normally wear in actual pants. But not quite…still a little much cuff, and noisy! I looked at other rain pants and was unimpressed. Finally we went up to the back of the store, which is a separate bike shop, and looked at actual bike rain gear. They had exactly one kind of rain pants for women. Of course, they also only had two kinds for men, but of course only the more expensive ones in a women’s fit.
Luckily, the ones they had were quite nice: not too noisy, comfortable, with cuffs designed for biking. I might need to trade up from a medium to a large…which of course is the one and only size they didn’t have. Two smalls, an EXTRA-small, a medium, and oddly enough, an extra-large.
I also found an AWESOME rain jacket, a shower’s pass jacket in bright orange with scotchlight stripes. I will be visible from miles away! And the Shower’s Pass stuff was on sale, too. (Notably, Shower’s Pass doesn’t MAKE women’s rain pants, and the men’s in stock were all larges.)
I wore my new gear to the grocery store this morning and it was delightful. I’m actually looking forward to a little rain on my next commute, to try it out for real.
But what a hassle! What about online, you ask? Well…most bike sites have 2 or 3 kinds of women’s rain pants, at MOST. Fitting of biking clothes is even more ridiculous than normal clothes. So it’s a crap shoot buying anything, even without considering the wait for shipping…and then the possibility that I’d be shipping it right back.
True story: a couple of years ago I orded a jacket from REI in an extra-large. Went to pick it up at the store…I don’t know that it would fit me NOW, and I’ve lost a lot of weight since then. As it was, I gave it an honest try, then laughed and returned it before I left the pickup area.
The point being…I’m intrinsically motivated to ride. I love bicycling. And I’m a Washingtonian now: I don’t mind the rain. But the stores, the manufacturers, they make it hard to keep doing this thing that I love. And when I was a size 18, instead of a size 10(-ish), it was impossible to find the right gear at any price. Why? Why does it have to be like this?
That may be a rhetorical question, but I’m still annoyed and frustrated!
Oh, and that’s just rain clothes. Even finding regular biking clothes that are a likely size, and NOT PINK….
I don’t like pink. I don’t wear pink, except for my ratty house slippers, and a semi-ironic 80s style top. And I don’t need to make every damn purchase in my life about breast cancer research or prevention or “awareness” or whatever. So I get furious when half of the very few women’s bike clothes in the catalog are pink to support breast cancer whatever. I just want to buy comfortable appropriate clothing that fits for biking.
(Yes, there are a few companies that specialize in women’s bike clothes, but even they tend to only carry summer riding stuff.)
I just want to bike, and have the right stuff, and not feel like I’m “fighting the man” to do it.