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road.cc's top tips for surviving the rain, from waterproof clothing to winter tyres

No one really enjoys riding in the rain. Or do they? One thing's for sure, it's unavoidable in the UK if you want to keep cycling through the winter. 

If you’re keen to not let the rain stop you cycling, here are some tips that will help you survive, and possibly enjoy, riding in the rain this winter.

1. Waterproof jacket and tights

rapha-womens-rain-jacket.jpg

An absolute essential if you want to go cycling in the rain is a waterproof jacket. Fabric technology and garment design have come on leaps and bounds in the past few decades (Gore-Tex first introduced its waterproof jacket 30 years ago) and there’s now a huge choice of rain jackets that will keep you from getting soaked through, at a range of prices to suit different budgets.

The challenge with waterproof jackets for cycling is not just keeping the rain out, but providing the necessary breathability to allow the heat your body generated through exercise to escape. Early waterproof jackets were known as ‘boil in the bag’ affairs, because though they might have kept the rain out, you would get soaked on the inside from your own sweat. Not ideal.

Fabric technology has really improved the balance of rain protection and breathability and modern cycling jackets are very good at dealing with the tricky task of keeping a hard-working cyclist dry, and most not offer a fine balance of rain protection and body heat management.

- The best waterproof cycling clothing

Castelli Gabba 2 jersey.jpg

In recent years, we’ve seen a new solution to tackling riding in wet weather. The now iconic Castelli Gabba jacket is the best example of a new approach to dressing for wet rides. It's made from a waterproof fabric with a really close fit and good breathability. It's not completely waterproof, the seams aren't taped, but it's ideal for showers rather than prolonged downpours, and it'll keep you warm to. The Gabba has really caught on, and now quite a few manufacturers offering similar tops now.

While it’s obviously important to keep your top dry when it’s raining, you also need to consider your legs. Cycling in the cold and wet makes it harder for the muscles to operate at their optimum, and your performance can suffer as a result. Keeping your legs wrapped then up is very sensible.

Thin Lycra doesn’t offer much rain protection but there’s a new breed of winter tights that are treated with a water repellent finish that will keep your legs drier for longer, such as Sportful’s NoRain and Castelli’s NanoFlex tights and leg warmers.

The best cycling clothing to keep you warm this winter

For commuting a pair of waterproof trousers might be a more suitable option, and can be worn over regular cycling or casual clothing, as and when needed. Fit needs to be good, you don’t want them flapping in the wind or potentially getting caught in the drivetrain.

2. Dry feet - overshoes, waterproof socks and winter boots

Shimano S3000R Overshoes.jpg

There’s no avoiding it, your feet are going to get wet: they’re right in the firing line of spray from the front wheel after all. Invest in a pair of waterproof overshoes and you should be able to keep your feet a lot drier for longer.

- The best cycling overshoes — what to look for and 12 great choices

Neoprene overshoes are a good option. They don’t keep the rain out but do prevent your feet getting cold when they are wet. For more protection look for an overshoe treated with a Gore-Tex finish or similar membrane for really wet conditions.

Overshoes are available to fit most types of shoe, road and mountain bike soles are catered for. They also double up as extra insulation when the mercury drops, and they're reasonably affordable.

The other choice, and one that many people combine with overshoes or winter boots is a pair of waterproof socks. SealSkins is the most well-known maker of waterproof socks, but others are available too. They’re thicker than regular socks so you need to check you can fit them with your shoes.

Essential wet weather cycle clothing and gear

The best wet weather protection is probably a dedicated winter boot. Like a regular cycling shoe with a beefed up waterproof upper and some sort of membrane liner, they are the best choice for ensuring your feet stay dry and warm. They’re a more expensive option than overshoes but if you plan to do a lot of cycling through the winter, the investment might be justifiable. If you’re just cycling once or twice a week, overshoes are probably better value for money.

3. Waterproof gloves

2ndsportfulfiandre13.jpg

What’s worse, cold feet or cold hands? Neither are very pleasant, so right up there with protecting your feet should be investing in some gloves that will keep your hands dry. When your hands get wet they get cold a lot quicker, and numb hands are very unpleasant - I’ve cut rides short when I’ve lost all feeling in my hands before.

- Best cycling winter gloves

The choice for waterproof gloves varies hugely, from neoprene gloves that retain warmth even when wet. Bigger winter gloves feature a waterproof lining or a soft shell construction, but they can be bulky or limit dexterity.

One of my favourite tricks for long rides when I know it’s going to be wet is to take a spare pair of gloves sealed in a plastic bag and change halfway round the route.

4. Keep your head dry

A dry head is a happy head. Your head is obviously first in line to get pelted by the rain, and a well-ventilated lightweight helmet doesn’t offer much shelter. Wearing a cap underneath it, or a cover over the top, will keep your noggin dry.

A cotton cycling cap offers some protection, with the peak serving as a useful gutter to direct rain from your eyes. Many clothing companies now make cycling caps from waterproof fabrics, which work brilliantly when it’s raining really heavily, but breathability can suffer from some of them.

Another option, and probably one that will appeal more to commuters and city cyclists, is a helmet cover. They’re designed to fit right over the entire helmet with elastic holding it in place. They’re usually covered with reflective details so serve an additional purpose of helping you to stand out on the dark unlit roads.

The other option is one of the aero helmets with all the air vents blocked in, or closeable vents, such as the Bell Star I tested last year. Close the vents to keep cold air and rain out.

5. Mudguards

Like or loathe them, mudguards are designed to protect you from road spray from the wheels, and can make a huge difference to preventing you getting soaked through. Mudguards need to be embraced for winter road cycling, once you've tried them, you'll never go back.

Mucky Nutz Road Butt Fender.jpg

Buyer’s guide: The best mudguards to keep you dry when the weather's not

You might get wet from the falling rain, but mudguards will prevent your feet, legs and bum getting a soaking when splashing through puddles. They also keep all the mud and other road dirt off your bike and body, so you don’t look like you’ve been out mountain biking when you get home, covered from head to toe in mud.

Mudguards vary from simple plastic clip-on fenders, which offer limited protection but will fit any bike quickly and easily, to proper full-length mudguards. These offer the best protection, as they wrap much more of the wheel and track the front wheel when steering. Your bike will need mounts and adequate clearance between the tyre and frame to take them, though.

6. Glasses

Northwave Predator Sunglasses.jpg

It helps to be able to see where you're going, and when it's raining heavily and water is being sprayed up from the road, your vision can easily become, well a bit waterlogged.

- The best cheap cycling sunglasses

A pair of cycling glasses with clear lenses are a really good way of shielding your eyes when cycling in the rain. They also keep mud and grit out of your eyes, especially handy if riding on a wheel. Some glasses have interchangeable lenses and a yellow tint can boost contrast in low light.

7. Be seen - fit some lights

Even if you’re riding during the day, rainy weather is often accompanied by dark clouds  and low light levels, and that can mean restricted visibility.

A set of small blinking LED lights, either just a rear one of a front and rear set, can ensure that other road users stand a better chance of seeing you in murky weather.

- Your guide to the best front lights for cycling + beam comparison engine

8. Avoid punctures - change your tyres

Continental Grandprix 4000s II 28mm.jpg

Getting a puncture isn’t much fun but it’s even less fun when the rain is pelting down on you. Swap your lightweight race tyres for durable tyres with a puncture belt and you’ll lessen the risk of getting a puncture.

The best tyres to keep you cycling through winter

You’re more likely to puncture in the rain because debris gets washed out of the gutter into the road, and water acts as an astonishingly good lubricant for sharp flint and glasses to slice through a bicycle tyre. That’s why I prefer to ride tubeless tyres through the winter.

Some tyres are made for the winter with a different rubber compound, intended to provide increased traction on wet roads. Ignore the tread pattern on a bicycle tyre, it makes no difference. Consider fitting the widest possible tyre your bicycle will accommodate. You can run lower pressures and benefit from a larger contact patch, increasing the traction.

9. Head indoors - get on the turbo trainer

Sometimes, even the most determined and committed cyclist can be put off going out for a ride when the rain is relentless and just shows no sign of easing off. Sometimes chanting Rule 5 just doesn’t do it.

- The best cycling turbo trainers — buyer's guide + 15 of the best trainers and rollers

While you might not have the option if you’re commuting to work, if it’s a training ride you have planned, then riding indoors might be a good choice. No, we don’t mean doing laps of your living room. Don’t be daft. A turbo trainer or rollers turns your bicycle into a static trainer and you can do a workout in the safety and warmth of your home/garage/shed.

Got any tips we've missed?

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

27 comments

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Spiny [63 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I have a pair of Endura MT500 tights & they have a ruberised panel on the shins, great for keeping road spray off your lower legs.

Glasses I struggle with though, find them worse than none in wet weather or in fog like today they will mist up from the outside as there's so much moisture in the air.

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DaveE128 [996 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

For me, it's not the riding in the rain that puts me off, it's the faffing around with the wet bike, kit etc when I get home that is the issue. Trying to get shoes, overshoes, gloves, helmet pads etc dry in time for the next ride is also an issue which limits my riding in bad weather. Of course, if I was made of money, I'd just have seven sets of everything, but I'm not!

Any neat tricks for this? Atm I use the old newspaper in the shoes, put them under a radiator, but it still takes ages.

Need to get myself a helmet cover I think.

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DrJDog [472 posts] 2 years ago
7 likes

Avoid manhole covers like they are trying to kill you.

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Spiny [63 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes
DaveE128 wrote:

For me, it's not the riding in the rain that puts me off, it's the faffing around with the wet bike, kit etc when I get home that is the issue.

...

Any neat tricks for this? 

 

Not really, it just sucks. I've bought a pair of Northwave goretex winter boots this year. They're bone dry on the inside riding on wet roads, but I haven't been in a deluge yet. If the rain stays out of the tops that may fix the drying shoe problem at least.

The breaking point was last deluge I rode home in... my shoes absolutely stank 

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jollygoodvelo [1712 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
DaveE128 wrote:

For me, it's not the riding in the rain that puts me off, it's the faffing around with the wet bike, kit etc when I get home that is the issue. Trying to get shoes, overshoes, gloves, helmet pads etc dry in time for the next ride is also an issue which limits my riding in bad weather. Of course, if I was made of money, I'd just have seven sets of everything, but I'm not!

Any neat tricks for this? Atm I use the old newspaper in the shoes, put them under a radiator, but it still takes ages.

Need to get myself a helmet cover I think.

I have a dehumidifier  1

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DaveE128 [996 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Gizmo_ wrote:

I have a dehumidifier  1

Good point... I also have one of those. May need to repurpose it after wet rides!

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ibike [166 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

Mudguards AND mudflaps, especially at the front.

The most important item of clothing for daily commuting is a complete change of clothes in the bottom draw of your office desk.

Remember though that it doesn't rain heavily that often (in the "drench you to the skin" sense). In one year of daily commuting I only needed to use my change of clothes once.

 

 

I fond in  one year of London commuting that

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mike the bike [1080 posts] 2 years ago
4 likes

There is a point of view that says you should spend only a reasonable sum to fend off the worst of the weather and after that, just relax and accept that some bits of you are going to get wet.  Once you have accepted your fate it no longer seems to be a huge problem.  After all, if you are wet you can't get any wetter.

 

 

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mike the bike [1080 posts] 2 years ago
4 likes
Spiny wrote:
DaveE128 wrote:

 

 ......... I've bought a pair of Northwave goretex winter boots this year. They're bone dry on the inside riding on wet roads, but I haven't been in a deluge yet. If the rain stays out of the tops that may fix the drying shoe problem at least.

The breaking point was last deluge I rode home in... my shoes absolutely stank 

 

I don't carry overshoes as a matter of routine, they are bulky and grubby and make everything in my bag dirty.  So if I get caught in the rain without them I resort to a couple of bread bags that sit, tightly folded in an outside pocket.  They take up almost no room, cost nothing and can be pulled over your shoes, held up with elastic bands.  Your cleats still work well, pushing through the thin plastic and when you get home, chuck 'em in the bin.

Fashionistas please note - you may draw the line at some of the more colourful designs but Hovis bags are more subtle.

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Daveyraveygravey [600 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
DrJDog wrote:

Avoid manhole covers like they are trying to kill you.

White lines take on a lethality of their own too!

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gmac101 [206 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

I've only used these when I've worked in Norwegian fabrication yards, the changing rooms have racks of them to dry your work boots, they are great and I imagine they'd dry a pair of cycle shoes in no time.

 

 http://www.clasohlson.com/uk/Shoe-Dryer/18-4300

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Dr. Ko [207 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I found last seasons team rain jackets/caps a good solution in relation of function versus price. The Rapha race cap is quite nice although pricey. The thing I hate the most are wet feet.

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Richard D [129 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

Tip #10 (although I'd place it #1) - stay clear of manhole covers, cattle grids and other ironwork when it's wet.

I didn't, and as a result I've not cycled since June, won't be able to cycle until next March, and have more titanium in my leg than in my bike frame.

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Chasmundo [8 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Glasses in the rain? Well they just get covered in raindrops and it's double-bad when riding at night.

A cap or helmet with a brim helps with the rain from above.

Spray from below? Mudguards solve that problem.

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Ian Carey [3 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

I cycle all year round for work, using my bike to get meetings in and around the fine city of Leeds.

There are two things I have learnt. 

One is that it that it doesn't actually rain that much. 

The other is to wear quick drying clothes as it doesn't take too long to dry.  Most times I get a bit damp. Very rarely do I get drenched. 

 

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Ian Carey [3 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

I cycle all year round for work, using my bike to get meetings in and around the fine city of Leeds.

There are two things I have learnt. 

One is that it that it doesn't actually rain that much. 

The other is to wear quick drying clothes as it doesn't take too long to dry.  Most times I get a bit damp. Very rarely do I get drenched. 

 

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robertoegg [112 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I very rarely bother with a waterproof jacket. A "nike combat" or similar base-layer and wicking top are all I need. I do have some knackered old 3/4 length waterproof kecks which are used a lot. And, I've kinda just taking to wearing over-shoes (the cheapo planet x neoprene ones) most of the time - they are easier to stick in the washing machine to get rid of crud.

I repeat. You don't need a jacket! Unless it's cold  1

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Simon E [3333 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Tyres: use lower pressures. Try at least 10 psi lower than what you'd use in the dry.

Glasses steam up. I find the peak of a cycling cap does a superb job of keeping the rain out of my eyes; and a cap won't break if I accidentally sit on it. Otherwise get some £8 Bollé safety glasses.

Can't see the problem with carrying overshoes. Put them in a bag - 5p from your local supermarket.

When it's really cold I wear walking boots. A buff/snood under a helmet keeps the rain and cold air off your head and ears.

Mudguards, especially full length ones, make a huge difference. Some Raceblade reviews:

http://road.cc/content/review/50952-sks-raceblade-long-mudguards
http://cyclinguphill.com/clip-sks-mudguards-review/
http://traumfahrrad.com/2012/01/22/race-blade-longs-sks-vs-crud/

To dry overshoes and gloves wrap them in a towel to get the excess moisture then pop them in the top oven of the cooker (after the bottom oven has been turned off!). For drying shoes - repeatedly change the newspaper stuffing and finish off with a hairdryer and airing cupboard / aforementioned oven. Or buy new overshoes.

The most difficult thing is motivating myself to wash the bike after dinner. Yes it's a faff but it's invariably worth it.

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rjfrussell [480 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
DaveE128 wrote:

For me, it's not the riding in the rain that puts me off, it's the faffing around with the wet bike, kit etc when I get home that is the issue. Trying to get shoes, overshoes, gloves, helmet pads etc dry in time for the next ride is also an issue which limits my riding in bad weather. Of course, if I was made of money, I'd just have seven sets of everything, but I'm not!

Any neat tricks for this? Atm I use the old newspaper in the shoes, put them under a radiator, but it still takes ages.

Need to get myself a helmet cover I think.

 

Aga

Avatar
dazwan [323 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Ian Carey wrote:

One is that it that it doesn't actually rain that much.

... in Leeds.

in the past 18 months commuting into Leeds I've maybe had 20 or so what may be considered wet rides (I don't count drizzle as a wet ride) so yeah we get it fairly good up here.

some years ago I lived in Oxfordshire (Abingdon) and commuted daily the 6 or so miles to work daily on the bike, down there it felt like at least a 1/4 of the time it rained, winter seemed to be just wet almost every day, but the summer and the commute through the countryside in said summer more than made up for it.

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Jimnm [296 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes
Spiny wrote:
DaveE128 wrote:

For me, it's not the riding in the rain that puts me off, it's the faffing around with the wet bike, kit etc when I get home that is the issue.

...

Any neat tricks for this? 

Wayerproof socks are great but will cost over 20 a pair. Best just ride in the dry if possible. 

 

Not really, it just sucks. I've bought a pair of Northwave goretex winter boots this year. They're bone dry on the inside riding on wet roads, but I haven't been in a deluge yet. If the rain stays out of the tops that may fix the drying shoe problem at least.

The breaking point was last deluge I rode home in... my shoes absolutely stank 

Avatar
kraut [163 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes
Jimnm wrote:
Spiny wrote:
DaveE128 wrote:

For me, it's not the riding in the rain that puts me off, it's the faffing around with the wet bike, kit etc when I get home that is the issue.

...

Any neat tricks for this? 

Wayerproof socks are great but will cost over 20 a pair. Best just ride in the dry if possible. 

 

Not really, it just sucks. I've bought a pair of Northwave goretex winter boots this year. They're bone dry on the inside riding on wet roads, but I haven't been in a deluge yet. If the rain stays out of the tops that may fix the drying shoe problem at least.

The breaking point was last deluge I rode home in... my shoes absolutely stank 

Febreeze FTW. Or Ace bleach if it's really bad.

Avatar
Stratman [118 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Spare socks as well as gloves.

Last summer I was caught in a downpour as I left work, feet wet in the first 2miles.  Rain stopped after 8 miles and the sun came out.  Poured the water out of my goretex shoes (with shoe covers) and changed to dry socks, even with wet shoes it was transformative.

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John Smith [65 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes
Stratman wrote:

Spare socks as well as gloves.

Last summer I was caught in a downpour as I left work, feet wet in the first 2miles.  Rain stopped after 8 miles and the sun came out.  Poured the water out of my goretex shoes (with shoe covers) and changed to dry socks, even with wet shoes it was transformative.

A dry pair of socks when you have wet feet is the most wonderful thing in the world.

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Bill H [80 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

For commuting on bikes with a flat handlebar and in a sit-up and beg position I found a heavy, waxed cotton, Carradice rain cape superb. It was still quite warm, but better than a jacket thanks to the airflow coming from underneath. It also kept the worst of the weather off of my legs and feet, dry shoes for the ride home.

I did not like using it with my drop bar bike though. The different riding position left material bunched up between my hands and it just seemed to be always in the way. 

 

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MoutonDeMontagne [108 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
DaveE128 wrote:

Any neat tricks for this? Atm I use the old newspaper in the shoes, put them under a radiator, but it still takes ages.

Must admit I get stuck with the newspaper trick too, but I've a set of boot driers for my outdoor/snowboard boots which helps speed things up but still takes overnight. And if its really wet,  boots still needs stuffing with newspaper for an hour or so first to remove the worst of the water.  

Some friends I know have one of these that seems to work well though and much quicker. I'm quite tempted to get one too. 

 

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chaos [34 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Skin is waterproof; enjoy the ride!