With the right wet weather cycling clothing and a determined attitude, riding in the rain can be less of a chore, though few cyclists say they enjoy it. If you're commuting on a daily basis, or just keen to stick to a training schedule to prepare for the summer, here's a selection of the best gear to help you handle the rain. Got your own favourites? Tell us about them in the comments.
There are lots of very good rain-specific cycling products available, from waterproof jackets to mudguards and overshoes. We've rounded up some of the best wet weather clothing and gear that will hopefully make riding in the rain a little less unpleasant.
A good waterproof jacket is your first line of defence against the wet. With high tech fabrics getting better all the time, you can now get a lightweight jacket that will keep you dry and that's breathable enough to prevent the 'boil in the bag' effect of waterproof jackets from years ago.
The B'Twin 500 High Visibility Waterproof Cycling Jacket provides excellent rain protection with a coated membrane material and taped seams plus plenty of reflective details to help you been seen on the commute to work. There are vents and breathability is very good. We reviewed it at £19.99 and were impressed.
Read our review of the B'Twin 500 jacket
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dhb Classic Rain Shell Jacket - riding.jpg
Available in gender specific cuts and neutral colours, the dhb Classic Rain Shell is a nifty little shell, compact enough to fit in a jersey pocket. Boasting waterproof and breathability ratings of 10,000mm and 30,000 m2/24, it's a specially crafted polyamide (nylon) fabric with taped seams conceived to resist moderate to heavy downpours.
Read our review of the dhb Classic Rain Shell Jacket
Gore Bike Wear ONE GORE-TEX Active Bike Jacket - riding.jpg
With its new One Active fabric, Gore replaces the durable water repellent treatment of its previous Active fabric with a new Permanent Beading Surface. This allows Gore to reduce the construction of the jacket from three to two layers, and in this jacket it has created a simply superb bit of kit. This paring down of the jacket has several noticeable consequences, all of which contribute to this jacket setting a new benchmark for lightweight waterproof jackets.
Read our review of the Gore Bike Wear One GTX Active Bike Jacket
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>>Read more: Buyer's Guide to Waterproof jackets
It's not just rain that gets you soaked, your own spray from the road can, without mudguards, ensure you'll be soaked very quickly. Mudguards are available in wide range to fit just about every model of road bike, from full-length traditional 'guards to simple and cheap clip-ons.
The mudguards you can fit depends on your bike. If you have eyelets at the fork and rear dropouts and clearance in the frame, you can fit full-length traditional mudguards. They are light and offer the best protection from the spray as they nearly fully enclose both wheels.
Worry not if your frame isn't compatible, there are many mudguards that can be fitted to almost any bike. Using clips and zip ties these 'guards can be attached, and removed easily, to any road bike. While they don't quite give the same level of protection as traditional mudguards, they're better than not having any at all.
The SKS S-Blade will fit seatpost diameters between 25.4 and 35mm. It works best with 18-26mm tyres. 28mm upwards shows signs of compromise with tell-tale spatter congregating along the peripheries. Getting everything aboard is effortlessly simple; you'll just need a 4mm Allen key for tweaking the angle.
Read our review of the SKS S-Blade mudguard
Jamis Quest Audax - SKS chromoplastic mudguards 4
The SKS Chromoplastic mudguards are one of the best known, and very highly regarded, full-length options. They’re made by sandwiching aluminium strips inside a plastic housing. The resulting profile is quite deep which makes it stiff and sturdy. Stainless steel stays fix them in place and the Secu-Clips on the front means they pop out of the mount if somehting gets caught between the mudguard and tyre, rather than locking teh wheel and putting you on your face. You get a generous mudflap on the front mudguard and a reflector on the rear. They’re available in several sizes to fit tyres from 20 to 45mm.
Read our review of SKS Chromoplastic mudguards
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Crud Roadracer rear crop.jpg
The other popular option is the Crud Roadracer. As long as you've got 4mm between the top of your tyre and the inside of your brake caliper, the Roadracers will slide in. The Mk3 version is the longest of any clip-on mudguard, almost as long as full-length mudguards, and has a front mech protector too.
Read our review of the Crud Roadracer Mk III mudguards
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>>Read more: Buyer's Guide to mudguards
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Overshoes and waterproof socks
Ride a bicycle without mudguards and soon your feet will be very wet from front wheel spray. Most cycling shoes are far from waterproof, the large majority have lots of vents. Great in the summer, just let in water during the winter.
Overshoes are simple items that slip over your shoes, with zip or Velcro fastener at the rear to seal them up. While not always completely impenetrable by the rain, they can go a long way to preventing your shoes from becoming paddling pools for your feet.
The Shimano S3000R NPU overshoes are a good, very typical example of the breed. With their thick neoprene construction and water resistant coating, they provide the necessary barrier to the elements and insulation to keep you pedalling happy circles and not frozen squares. The thick neoprene construction provides excellent insulation for colder rides, and with taped seams, the S3000R NPU overshoes seal out most of the rain, puddle splashes and spray.
Read our review of the Shimano S3000R Overshoes
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Sealskinz Mid Weight Mid Length Sock
An alternative to overshoes are waterproof socks. Often when it's really wet, we'll pair them with overshoes or oversocks for an extra layer of defence against the rain. Sealskinz is the name you'll come across most often, and its Mid Length Socks are a good thing to have in the drawer once the cold and wet weather draws in. There are some UK conditions that will breach any foot fortifications, but these socks are a great last line of defence. They've been rebranded as mountain bike socks, but they still keep out the wet on the road.
Read our review of the SealSkinz Mid Weight Mid Length Socks
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>>Read more: Buyer's guide to overshoes
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Perched out on your handlebars your hands face the brunt of the weather. As your hands become sodden from the constant rain, their temperature quickly cools, and before too long you can have some very frozen fingers to deal with. Frozen fingers aren't much good at changing gear, braking or clinging to the handlebars, and they're agonisingly uncomfortable. Here are three typical options.
Sealskinz Ultra Grip Gauntlet
SealSkinz Ultra Grip Gauntlets have been designed to cope with cold and wet conditions, offering protection from water and wind as well as being breathable, all in a knit, stretch glove. They deal with the elements competently, keeping your hands protected and dry. They can get a little warm on the inside but rather that than cold, wet hands.
Read our review of the SealSkinz Ultra Grip Gauntlets
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Altura Night Vision Glove.jpg
The Altura Night Vision Waterproof gloves are worthy options for commuting from late autumn through to spring, as well as for training and general middle distance road riding.
Some truly waterproof designs use a TPU lining, which is very welcome in sub-zero conditions but horribly clammy when the mercury nudges 6°C or so. Altura has gone a different three-layer route: the backs employ a pliable polyester laminate, next in sits a windproof, breathable membrane, and a thermal liner completes the sandwich.
The Night Visions passed our freezing canal water immersion test – right to the stitched cuff line. On the bike, rain, sleet and snow just rolled away.
Read our review of the Altura Night Vision Waterproof Gloves
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Showers Pass Crosspoint Softshell WP gloves will keep your hands dry and toasty even in a hard winter, but if it's mild they might be a shade too warm.
Read our review of the Showers Pass Crosspoint Softshell WP gloves
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>>Read more: Full archive of full-finger glove reviews on road.cc
>>Read more: Buyer's guide to winter gloves
You've got a good jacket, now you need to think about the lower half. Trousers or tights, depending on your preference, are available in waterproof varieties. Waterproof trousers are ideal for commuting and short rides, they can be worn over regular clothing. There's less choice for waterproof tights, but some brands do add a waterproof finish, like Castelli's No Rain treatment, which encourages the water to bead off the surface. Here's a great example of each.
Sportful's Fiandre bib tights combine the inherently water repellant NoRain with strategic panels of waterproof silicone to make these ideal tights for riding in the British winter. This version of the NoRain tights takes the protection to another level, for the truly ghastly weather that will properly test your motivation.
Read our review of the Sportful Fiandre NoRain Bib Tights
Better fabrics and more careful tailoring mean we've seen a substantial improvement in waterproof overtrousers in the last few years. Made from waterproof and breathable Artex hardshell 3L ripstop fabric, the Showers Pass Transit Pants do a great job of keeping the water out.
Read our review of the Showers Pass Transit Pants
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>>Read more: Buyer's guide to winter tights and trousers
Waterproof boots & shoes
Sometimes, even overshoes aren't enough protection. Waterproof shoes and boots can be a very smart investment, especially if you're determined to ride in the rain. They typically have a neoprene liner and extended ankle, and a fully waterproof exterior that completely seals the feet up. Pair with waterproof socks for the ultimate protection from wet feet.
They're intended for mountain biking but the MW7s are great for road warriors who like running SPDs (and being able to walk around) through the wetter and colder months. Commuter-friendly touches include reflective details on the sides and back providing 360 degree visibility. The Gore-Tex liner keeps the water out and they're comfortable with mid-weight socks down to low single figure temperatures.
Read our review of the Shimano MW7 Gore-Tex SPD Shoes
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The Gaerne G.Winter Road Gore-Tex road shoes offer the sort of protection you need if you're determined enough — or should that be mad enough? — to keep cycling through really bad weather. There's a Gore-Tex membrane inside the shoe that delivers impressive rain and road spray protection. Your feet stay dry even in prolonged downpours, or riding through flooded roads.
Read our review of the Gaerne G.Winter Road Gore-Tex shoes
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All those vents in your helmet just serve to let the rain in. Wearing a hat or cap underneath will keep some of the rain out, and will stop your head from getting too cold. Simple traditional cotton caps can serve you well, and the peak serves to prevent a lot of rain dripping into your face.
You can buy cycling caps made from waterproof fabric, and there are numerous skull caps made from water resistant and windproof fabrics. A simple Buff-style garment wrapped around your head will go a long way to keeping the cold at bay.
The Prendas Sublimated Pro Winter Hat does a brilliant job of keeping your head and ears warm. The fabric is thin enough that it'll fit comfortably under a helmet, yet provides adequate insulation for temperatures well below freezing.
Read our review of the Prendas Sublimated Pro Winter Hat
Aero helmets, intended to help you go quicker in the summer, also come in handy in the winter, as the lack of vents help to keep out most of the wind and rain compared to a regular helmet. The LAS Victory Vento is one of the least expensive of this new breed of aero designed helmets.
Read our review of the LAS Victory Vento
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Be seen - lights
The rain can seriously impair visibility out on the road. A set of bright front and rear lights in good working order is another consideration for cycling in the rain.
The Strada from Exposure is a serious light and punches out 1000 lumens onto the road ensuring even on the darkest country lanes you'll be able to see potholes, rabbits, badgers or other road users in plenty of time.
Read our review of the Exposure Strada
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Lucas KOTR City 25R rear light
A good rear light is a must too. The Lucas KOTR City 25R is a compact, lightweight, rechargeable rear light with excellent all-round visibility.
Read our review of the Lucas KOTR City 25R
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Reflective jacket or gilet
A jacket with reflective panels and details, or a gilet that can be worn over the top of anything, is a good way to boost your presence on the road. You want to make sure you can be seen by other road users ahead and behind, and reflective panels, or even a completely reflective jacket will grab the attention of other road users.
If you ride in the dark reflectives are what you need. UK company Proviz has taken this to the extreme with the Reflect 360 jacket; the outer is made entirely from reflective material.
Read our review of the Proviz Reflect 360
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Craft's Active Safety Vest will help make you visible on the road.
Read our review of the Craft Active Safety Vest
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Spare tubes and a good pump
Water makes a pretty good cutting lubricant, so you're far more prone to punctures in the wet, especially with the rain washing all the debris, grit and glass out of the gutter into the road. Even more than in summer, then, you want to carry tyre levers, a couple of spare tubes and a decent pump.
This pump mounts on a clip under your bottle cage and comes with a couple of CO2 cartridges to get you back on the road as quickly as possible.
Read our review of the Birzman Infinite Road + CO2 pump
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You can help prevent punctures by fitting a pair of Slime Pro Pre-filled Lite tubes. They're more expensive than regular inner tubes, but you should see a reduction in punctures.
Read our review of Slime Lite tubes
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Got any rain essential tips you want to add? Let's hear them below