Essential wet weather cycle clothing and gear

From mudguards to waterproof jackets to overshoes and more, here are some of the best products to help you survive the rain

by David Arthur   September 30, 2014  

wet weather cyclist (copyright Jamie In Bytown)

We're in the midst of the worst storm in 20 years according to news reports, so riding in the rain looks inevitable for the foreseeable future. Few cyclists take pleasure from riding in the rain, but if you're commuting on a daily basis, or just keen to stick to a training schedule to prepare for the summer, you're going to have to face the rain. 

Fortunately there are lots of very good rain-specific cycling products available these days, 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.

Waterproof jacket

It goes without saying really, but a good waterproof jacket should be an investment no serious cyclists turns their nose up to. With high tech fabrics getting better all the time, it's now possible to choose a lightweight jacket that will keep you dry and be breathable enough to prevent the dreaded 'boil in the bag' effect produced by waterproof jackets from years ago. 

dhb's Minima S Waterproof Jacket is ideally suited to prolonged rides in heavy rain

Buy it here

You can spend as little or much on a waterproof jacket as you like, there is a jacket for most budgets, from the dhb above to the Vulpine below. If you plan to cycle a lot through the winter, it's likely the jacket will get a lot of use so it needs to be durable and stand up to frequent use. The best jackets will use high quality branded fabrics like Gore-Tex or eVent and have taped waterproof seams and waterproof zips.

Casual-looking rain jacket that you can keep up with fast guys in, Vulpine Men's Original Rain Jacket is a more relaxed styled waterproof

Read our review of the Vulpine Men's Original Rain Jacket here

If you're looking for a commuting jacket, focus on visibility and extras like pockets, hoods, bum flaps and storm flaps. These can make commuting a bit more comfortable. The level of breathability differs widely from jacket to jacket. If you're looking for a training jacket, choose 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

Read our review of Madison's Stellar II Waterproof Jacket here

Buy it here

Mudguards

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. 

If you just want to keep your bum and back dry, the SKS S-Blade is a simple and cheap clip-on 'guard. 

Buy it here

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 Chromoplastic mudguard pictured above has been a staple for audaxers, tourers and commuters for decades.

Read our review of the SKS Chromoplastic mudguard here

Buy it here

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. 

These Castelli Pioggia 3 are a good example, using a polyurethane-coated fabric that won't let water through.

Read our review of the Castelli Pioggia 3 here

Buy them here

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 de facto name (others are available) when it comes to waterproof socks.

Read our review of  SealSkinz here

Buy them here

Gloves

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.

The Sugoi RS Rain Gloves are for cycling in cold wet weather. They keep out most of the rain, and keep your hands and fingers warm even when wet

Waterproof gloves will use a membrane to keep the rain out, or be made from a waterproof material. Neoprene is favoured by some, as while it doesn't keep the rain out, it does stop your hands from getting chilled. Sizing is critical with gloves so be sure to try before you buy.

Waterproof tights/trousers

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. 

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.

These Showers Pass Skyline waterproof trousers are a solid investment for anyone who rides in really filthy conditions and wants to stay warm and dry 

Waterproof shoes/boots

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. 

A great addition to the winter wardrobe, Northwave Arctic Commuter R GTX shoes keep out the cold and wet in all but the most foul conditions.

Buy them here

Headwear

A 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.

Castelli Risvolto Winter Cap is a stylish insulated and breathale cap for winter weather.

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 Giro Air Attack was one of the first of this new breed of aero designed helmets.

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 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 rear light is a must too. This Cateye Rapid X is a compact, lightweight, rechargeable rear light with excellent all-round visibility.

Hi-viz jacket or vest

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.

The Conquest Water Resistant Gilet offers lightweight protection from the weather and it's easily packable into its own rear pocket when not in use.

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 serves to wash all the debris, grit and glass out of the gutter into the road, and the water acts as an annoyingly effective lubricant to help sharp objects slice through rubber.

There are few experiences more depressing than changing a tube in the pouring rain, so make sure you've got a spare tubes, a good working pump and tyre levers, if you need them.

Lezyne'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.

You can help prevent punctures by fitting a pair of Slime Pro Pre-filled Lite tubes. More expensive than a regular inner tube, but you should see a reduction in punctures.

Got any rain essential tips you want to add? Let's hear them below

29 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

The most important of all: sebum. All you need, really.

posted by andyp [1013 posts]
21st November 2012 - 14:52

87 Likes

*Coughs* Castelli Gabba *Coughs*

seabass89's picture

posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
19th March 2013 - 13:21

89 Likes

*Cough* Pro Peloton says Castelli Gabba *Cough*

posted by Scottyroyal [19 posts]
15th August 2013 - 11:18

87 Likes

cyclists are not water soluble under normal UK climatic conditions.

Keep your head, hands and feet warm, and that doesn't necessarily mean dry, and rain alone won't do any real harm, nor stop you riding.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [389 posts]
13th October 2013 - 13:43

97 Likes

couldn't agree more - it's only rain!

dafyddp's picture

posted by dafyddp [174 posts]
13th October 2013 - 15:51

74 Likes

Keep the wind out and get your head into some serious effort to generate some heat, works for me. There is something strangly compelling about riding in the rain, so long as you've got mud guards, otherwise its miserable.

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [245 posts]
13th October 2013 - 19:44

83 Likes

All depends what sort of riding you're doing though, "keeping your head down and getting in to some serious effort" is not necessarily an option for short trips to shop/work etc or for urban commuters. Personally I'd also rather be warm than dry, but if you're not riding flat out that often means some extra insulation.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4152 posts]
21st October 2013 - 8:17

66 Likes

I personally stick to Gore bike wear. It is the only brand i have found that is really waterproof. I also think the capes made by carradice are great if you are on the bike and want to wear normal clothes under neath.

cycling.instructor's picture

posted by cycling.instructor [4 posts]
7th January 2014 - 8:22

55 Likes

An Endura Stealth II jacket keeps me dry on my commute.

posted by Neill_M [5 posts]
7th January 2014 - 10:47

47 Likes

What is it about current fasion? The DHB jacket is far too short in the body, as is the Vulpine, I have the same problem with GORE wear. The photo of the cyclist shows the "unfasionable" orange top has a good design with sufficent length and cover for the backside.
The good thing is that sleeves tend to be longer now than a few years ago.
Having said that, I'm with the camp that says "skin's waterproof". Have a good breakfast, get on your bike and keep moving, you'll be fine.
Josie Drew also reported that cycling to work kept her children far healthier and free from colds than those that went by car.
It's only wet..............

posted by Posh [46 posts]
17th January 2014 - 13:26

41 Likes

So, a word of warning on the Lezyne screw-on mini-pump (which perhaps applies generally to screw-on pumps): Sometimes, after you've pumped the new tube up, when you unscrew the hose it will unscrew the valve core from the valve outer tube/stem rather than unscrewing from the valve core. Once this happens, you're (sorry for the pun) screwed, and you'd better hope you've got another tube with you.

I've had this happen twice over 2 years, with Schwalbe tubes. Not often, but when it happens it's a *major* pain. The first time it took me ages of faffing trying, unsuccessfully, to get the valve core tight enough into the stem again. Luckily, a passing rider stopped and lent me his clamp on pump.

The 2nd time, I was on an extremely quiet country lane in the middle of nowhere in autumn, with a huge rain storm coming in, its first drops starting to fall. The core screwed out on my first tube. I didn't even bother trying to screw it back in, knowing I'd never get it tight enough. I just went and replaced the tube with my 2nd spare straight away. I could have cried when then its valve core *also* came off with the hose. Sad

By amazing luck, a pair of cyclists came along. One who'd also just punctured (same thorns from the cut hedgre-rows). Luckily they had a clamp-on pump I could borrow.

In light of this, I'd recommend a clamp-on pump.

This Lezyne pump is very good, and the screw-on hose makes it more robust. However, if you buy one and depend on it, then make sure:

1. When you buy new tubes, go through them and tighten the valve cores (e.g. with a small adjustable wrench) before bringing them on a ride.

2. Just in case you happen to forget 1, or something else goes wrong, you really need to find a small tool for your saddle bag that will let you tighten valve cores back in to a stem on the odd occasion this will happen. My LBS found a small tool that came with Mavic wheels (I think) that does the job for me.

Lezyne really ought to supply that tool for 2 with this pump, IMHO. Me, next time I'm buying a clamp-on pump.

posted by Paul J [667 posts]
17th January 2014 - 13:41

38 Likes

PaulJ - thought it was me being a muppet with the lezyne. Had a similar miserable autumn storm moment and another problem soon after so threw in the back of a drawer. Think I'll dig it out again and give your tip a try. Cheers

posted by Jbob [1 posts]
18th January 2014 - 19:56

36 Likes

I've been caught out like this before.
You can get tubes where the core isn't removable but if it is and you have a screw on pump grrrr...
I bought a topeak road morph in the end, excellent pump.

posted by bike_food [106 posts]
19th January 2014 - 9:26

39 Likes

Invest in wet weather clothing by all means, it will make you more comfortable, but remember, only your skin is 100% waterproof - you will get wet!

Water from the sky should be your secondary concern = the water from below is what will make you uncomfortable, hence full length mudguards.

More on cycling in the rain here on my blog

The Human Cyclist A blog. Try it, you might like it...

sm's picture

posted by sm [355 posts]
20th January 2014 - 7:25

40 Likes

Jbob wrote:
PaulJ - thought it was me being a muppet with the lezyne. Had a similar miserable autumn storm moment and another problem soon after so threw in the back of a drawer. Think I'll dig it out again and give your tip a try. Cheers

likewise - removed the core from a continental tube literally on the start line of a sportive ride a couple of years ago and had to blag one off a repair van. The solution is either to buy tubes without removable cores or unscrew them and put a teeny bit of loctite in before doing them up again.

Or use a different pump

re: all the MTFU style comments about getting wet not being an issue. Add wet clothes and windchill + unforseen circumstances, miles from home and you get potential for hypothermia. Better to try and stay dry in the winter IME

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [877 posts]
25th January 2014 - 14:28

43 Likes

Where the hell are you 'waterproof ' skin guys riding?

Up here in Scotland, today for example, if your clothing is soaked through, you will literally get frost forming on your clothes and get hypothermic.

Fair enough in summer, I just get wet, but getting soaked when its cold and windy will make you Ill.

I ended up with the shakes today even with the proper gear as the rain tracked into my gloves and overshoes, but without them it would have happened mid ride in the middle of nowhere, not 20 minutes from home. ( yes I had full length sks guards on)

It's really bad advice for new riders.
You really need proper cold/wet kit, no amount of MTFU can overcome the winter rain and snow. Unless you're inside on your turbo that is.

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [650 posts]
25th January 2014 - 15:37

59 Likes

+1 for the Northwave Arctic boots!

posted by LondonByCycle [9 posts]
30th January 2014 - 12:08

42 Likes

I'm another who's screwed up a tube by screwing out the core thing. I've also snapped off more than one valve with a clamp-on. Can't win. Crying

posted by dottigirl [17 posts]
31st January 2014 - 23:05

29 Likes

I'm often riding somewhere, stopping and returning back to base. Full waterproofs required. Got breezeblockers, suit me as I ride on the tops lots. +1 to Scotland recommendations. Full length stronglight mudguards, my bike looks naked without them.

Dunbar, Scotland

posted by mjcycling [13 posts]
1st February 2014 - 0:57

26 Likes

A good dose of Rule 5 will get you a long way.

posted by alexholt3 [52 posts]
17th February 2014 - 9:34

25 Likes

Waterproof skin? Man up? Ahhh ha ha ha ha.

Off to join the SAS with the lot of you. Get down and give me 50!

posted by vbvb [282 posts]
22nd February 2014 - 19:47

25 Likes

On the commute, waterproof clothing is invaluable, I wear jeans to work so riding in them wet would be torture.
However when I'm 'all kitted up' for a training ride I don't normally bother with excessive amounts of waterproofing, my standard bib and leg warmers, then a water resist softshell and either a cape or gilet which I slip on when it gets bad. Any more than that and I personally overheat. Windproofing is the major concern, so as long as you have sufficient protection in that respect on your body, it shouldn't get too chilly. You will be soaked when you get in though.
Oh and Crud Road Racers are God's greatest gift to cyclists

posted by argotittilius [23 posts]
23rd March 2014 - 20:49

22 Likes

Personally I'm not a fan of the Slime filled inner tubes. The "gloop" is meant to ooze out of any holes, coagulating as it does so, and stopping the leak. Unfortunately it also does the same to the valves - so I ended up with valves that I couldn't undo without a pair of pliers, and then couldn't force any more air in!
I'm sure some people think they're great - but I'll stick to my Gatorskin Hard Shells.

posted by Jones The Steam [23 posts]
1st May 2014 - 9:47

14 Likes

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [72 posts]
1st May 2014 - 11:13

13 Likes

Thank you!! I thought I was doing something wrong with my screw on pump. At Wits End The valve core needs to be on a reverse thread really to stop it happening. Clamp on for me next time. Cool

posted by MrGeoff1000 [1 posts]
1st May 2014 - 12:11

9 Likes

My spoke wrench (that came included with Shimano wheels) fits the valve on my continental tubes perfectly. I try to remember to pre-tighten new tubes valves when they come out of the box using the spoke wrench - that way, when you use a screw on pump, the valve won't come out when you unscrew the pump from the valve. I have the spoke wrench in my saddlebag anyway, which is helpful in case I forgot to tighten the valve on that tube. A small inconvenience given what I find is the benefit of the screw on nature of the pump.

posted by bgp [0 posts]
28th May 2014 - 20:52

8 Likes

Need a steer on waterproofing tricks. I have some great waterproof boots (Sidi) but water still finds its way in to them down my legs. Because the boots are 100% water tight, I arrive with boots completely full of water. Any products/tricks to stop water getting?

posted by BigAl99 [0 posts]
17th November 2014 - 9:18

0 Likes

BigAl99 wrote:
Need a steer on waterproofing tricks. I have some great waterproof boots (Sidi) but water still finds its way in to them down my legs. Because the boots are 100% water tight, I arrive with boots completely full of water. Any products/tricks to stop water getting?

Waterproof trousers so that the water goes outside the boots rather than wicking down your socks...

posted by jacknorell [511 posts]
17th November 2014 - 9:52

0 Likes

Thx. I guess that might be the only solution. I get too hot with waterproof trousers on but maybe that's the only answer...

posted by BigAl99 [0 posts]
17th November 2014 - 10:04

0 Likes