Take it from someone who’s spent a good number of years cycling year-round in Portland, Oregon — cycling in the rain can be enjoyable as long as you’re dressed for the occasion.
While it will take quite a bit more planning and effort (and a good pair of fenders), the right rain gear will make a huge difference in your comfort and performance on the bike.
From head to toe, this guide will help you make the right clothing choices so you don’t get caught unprepared out in the elements.
Commonly overlooked when it comes to rain gear, keeping your head and eyes dry can make a huge difference in how comfortable you are on the bike.
Eyewear is a must for cycling. When rain brings overcast and cloudy conditions, you’ll still need a clear lens to help keep water out of your eyes. To keep the rest of your head dry, use these options:
In general, aero helmets have fewer vents and will keep your head warmer and drier than standard helmets. Some models like the Bell Star Pro may even have vents that can close, which can make a big difference. Consider this a good option for rainy day races.
Your best option for heavy rainfall, a helmet cover slides over your helmet and does an excellent job at keeping you dry. It isn’t the most stylish look, but functionally it does the job. Newer materials have also made helmet covers much more breathable, making them suitable for warmer spring weather as well.
If you want a minimalist option for changing conditions, the cycling cap is a classic. Though there are cycling caps made specifically for use in the rain, a regular cycling cap worn beneath a helmet is a much better option than using nothing at all. The visor will help keep water away from your eyes and the extra layer on your head will provide warmth in colder temperatures. And when conditions clear up, it can still be worn or stored easily in a jersey pocket.
Protecting your core is essential in the rain. What gear you choose will likely come down to the conditions and whether or not you’re training, commuting or racing. Here are a few items to choose from:
A hardshell jacket is the most waterproof and wind-resistant of all the options you’ll have. On the flip side, they are far less breathable than other options, and it’s easy to overheat during hard training efforts or racing. The hardshell jacket is best suited for heavy rain and for cycling at lower speeds, such as commuting.
Not quite as resistant to rain as a hardshell, softshell jackets are usually water-resistant instead of waterproof. Though they’ll do an adequate job of keeping you dry in a light shower, some water will get through during heavy rain. The positive to softshell jackets is that they breathe much better and can be a good option during the spring and for high-intensity efforts.
If there is one piece of clothing that has seen a huge advancement recently, it’s the water-resistant jersey. Like softshells, they might not hold up a downpour like a hardshell, but there are a few options that could do better than you might think. The Rapha Pro Team jersey from the Rapha Shadow is an expensive option, but it’s also one of the best we’ve worn.
For a light barrier to the wind and rain, a waterproof vest is a useful item that packs down easily into a jersey pocket when the sun comes out. For this reason vests are a versatile option that can also be paired with arm warmers and a base layer during the spring and fall.
While wet hands might not be too big of a deal unless it’s cold, if you’re going to be spending hours in the rain, a barrier for your hands is a good idea.
The differences between most options comes down to thickness. If you’re looking for a fairly thin glove in light to moderate rain, the Craft Storm glove or something similar may be all you need. For a true waterproof option, neoprene gloves like the Castelli Diluvio work well in harsher winter conditions when staying warm is also top priority.
Like gloves, you can probably get away without rain gear on your lower half unless it’s cold or you’re riding in a downpour. If you’re training or commuting and plan to be out for any decent length of time, these might be options you consider:
WATERPROOF LEG WARMERS
During a light rain, try waterproof leg warmers with your normal cycling shorts. The Nanoflex from Castelli is also made with a proprietary fabric that makes water run off instead of being absorbed.
For shorter rides or commutes, a lightweight pair of waterproof cycling pants will do the trick. The Storm Pant from Showers Pass is also thin enough to pack in a cycling backpack without taking up much space if they need to be removed later in the ride.
For long distance road cycling, you can either opt for a pair of full-length waterproof bibs or a pair of tights that can be worn over traditional cycling shorts. You will need to be mindful of overheating if you consider the latter option during warmer spring months.
For most, wet feet equals misery. Waterproof overshoes are definitely a good idea for winter cycling, as most also include wind-blocking technology that will help to keep your toes toasty. In the rain they’ll keep your shoes dry and clean, which is never bad thing.
If you want to take things a step further, several companies are making waterproof socks. Used in combination with overshoes, you’ll have a double layer for those extreme rides when it’s cold and rainy.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RIDE