Top 10 waterproof essentials
From mudguards to waterproof jackets to overshoes and more, here are 10 of the best products to help you survive the rain
Cycling in the rain can be a miserable experience. But there are plenty of measures you can take (besides staying indoors) that can really help make a big difference. They might not make you smile, but they should help you get to work, or wherever you're cycling to, in a little less of a soggy mess than you would otherwise.
So here's our top ten waterproof essentials:
Goes without saying really, but a good waterproof jacket should be an investment no serious cyclists turns their nose up against. With high tech fabrics really coming on leaps and bounds in the last decade you can now be waterproof and avoid the dreaded boil-in-a-bag sensation that used to afflict jackets years ago.
Don't be shocked then at the high prices some jackets can command, this is the most valuable item of clothing in your cycling wardrobe and unless you want to get wet, you shouldn't skimp. The best jackets will use high quality branded fabrics like Gore-Tex or eVent and have taped waterproof seams and waterproof zips to avoid any opportunity for water to leak into the jacket.
Rapha's Rain Jacket is a well designed lightweight, stowable and high performance jacket.
If you're looking for a commuting jacket, focus on visibility and extras like pockets, hoods, bum flaps and storm flaps. The level of breathability differs widely from jacket to jacket, and if you're looking for a training jacket, one that boasts good breathability with optional vents and panels that open up will help prevent you overheating on the hills.
Madison's Stellar II Waterproof jacket ticks all the boxes, with a windproof and waterproof build with fully taped seams and very generous reflective panels.
It's not just the rain falling onto you that gets you soaked, your own bike sprays up a serious amount of water when riding. You're getting blasted with water from above and below. Mudguards, well we don't know how we ever ride in the rain without them, they're so effective.
The mudguards you fit to your bike depend on what your frame will take. If you have eyelets at the fork and rear dropouts and clearance in the frame, you can fit full-length traditional-style 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 they are many mudguards that can be fitted to almost any bike. Using simple clips and zip ties these 'guards can be fashioned to any road bike, and 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 Chromoplastic mudguard pictured above has been a staple for audaxers, tourers and commuters for decades,
Overshoes and waterproof socks
On a bicycle without mudguards, your feet will quickly become very wet from the spray the front wheel kicks up. Most cycling shoes are far from waterproof and most race shoes are covered in vents. Great in the summer, crap in the rain.
Overshoes are simple items that slip on 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 mobile paddling pools for your feet. Some are made from waterproof fabric that promise to completely seal your feet in.
These Castelli Pioggia 3 are a good example, using a polyurethane-coated fabric that won't let water through.
An alternative to overshoes are waterproof socks. And 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 de facto name (others are available) when it comes to waterproof socks.
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 a load of very frozen fingers to deal with. And frozen fingers aren't much good at changing gear, braking or clinging to the handlebars.
Waterproof gloves will use a membrane inside to keep the rain out, and there's many different material approaches to offering the best waterproof glove. Sizing is critical with gloves so be sure to try before you buy.
These Extreme Winter gloves from Wiggle's inhouse brand dhb are a good example of a well designed winter glove.
Like jackets, choose waterproof longs that are waterproof and breathable. There isn't a huge choice of waterproof tights but there are a few available. And some brands even make waterproof knee waremrs if it's not cold enough for full-length leg covering, but you want to keep your knees covered up.
The Ride Aquazero bib tights pictured use a water-repellent material, which typical road spray from damp roads posed no problem to their water shedding ability.
Another option is waterproof trousers or baggy shorts, borrowed from the mountain bike world. For commuting shorter distances waterproof trousers can be pulled over your usual cycling kit and will ensure you stay dry.
The Showers Pass Hybrid Zip-Off Pant here have a breathable and water-repellent polyester construction to keep the weather out.
Sometimes, even overshoes aren't enough protection. If you're planning to ride a lot through the winter it's likely a fair amount of that riding time will be in the rain. Especially if you're commuting, it's going to be unavoidable. In this case a pair of waterproof shoes/boots can be a very smart investment. One ride in these and you'll never regret buying them. The might look odd, but that's the price you pay for a fully waterproof shoe.
And the Northwave Celsisu GTX boots are warm enough to keep your feet comfortable right through the winter.
If you wear a helmet, all those vents just let the rain in, leaving your head wet and soon, cold. Wearing a hat or cap underneath will stave off the cold and there's many to choose from. Simple cotton caps can serve you well, and the peak serves to prevent a lot of rain dripping into your face.
Some companies have even fashioned the traditional cycling cap from waterproof fabric making them invaluable in the rain. Even a simple Buff-style garment wrapped around your head will go a long way. Skull caps, thin underneath to slip under a helmet, also work well to keep your head warm and dry.
Castelli Risvolto Winter Cap is a stylish insulated and breathale cap for winter weather.
Be seen - lights
The rain can seriously impair visibility out on the road so have a set of bright front and rear lights in good working order is another consideration for cycling in the rain. You see most motorcyclists using headlights during daylight, even when it's not raining, so there's no reason why you, as a cyclist, can't adopt the same approach.
The Strada from Exposure Lights is a serious light and punches out 800 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.
A jacket with hi-viz panels and details, or alternatively a hi-viz 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 a reflective vest will grab the attention of other road users.
Craft's Active Safety Vest is going to get your spotted on the road, that's for sure. http://road.cc/content/review/52990-craft-active-safety-vest
Spare tubes and a good pump
You're far more prone to punctures in the rain, so it's a good idea to carry a spare inner tube or two. The water washes all the debris, grit and glass out of the gutter into the road, so it's right in your path, leaving you vulnerable to punctures. There's few experiences more depressing than changing a tube, let alone when the heavens are pouring down on you, so make sure you've got a spare tubes, a good working pump and tyre levers, if you need them.
Leyzne's Alloy Drive Mini Pump might look beautiful but it really does the job and will have you back up and running as quick as you like.