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  • Back to Blog  

    Guide To Wet Weather Cycling

       Words by Harry Archer

       on 05/02/2018 15:04:00

    wet weather cyclishero

    Ah Britain, the mere mention of the name conjures up nostalgic images of big red buses, roast dinners, the Queen and some of the most temperamental and downright miserable weather on earth. Don't get me wrong I think rain is great but it also can ruin a good bike ride when you're not prepared. Brakes squeak, cars fly by spraying god knows what from the gutter straight into your face - a scene of utter cycling devastation. But it need not be this way! With the right kit and preparation you can conquer the weather and feel warm and cosy as you blast along in the bad weather.

    wetcycling

    This blog will guide you through the maze of funky, sci-fi sounding features such as membrane linings, hydrophilic shells, thermostatic wicking and Gabba in order to give you the knowledge you need to successfully kit yourself out for battling against the elements.

    If you love cycling you're never going to let a bit of drizzle put you off doing what you do best or consign you to an afternoon looking longingly out the window as you rack up the miles on the Turbo Trainer!

    All Guides and Advice > How to Ride in the Winter >Cycling Clothing & Footwear Size Guide >

    Wet-Weather Essentials

    When riding in the rain breathable layers are a must, with a merino base layer and ventilated jersey to wick sweat from the body and prevent overheating. A major issue with riding in wet weather is dehydration due to the use of poor quality jackets that don't allow for proper ventilation and riders not consuming enough water to replace to minerals lost to sweat. The wet conditions play with your mind and make you forget to drink regularly. To divert around the hydration issue, a camelback type rucksack is a fantastic addition to the wet-weather wardrobe as it allows you quick, direct hydration. A good amount of easily-accessible pockets is also something to watch out for as this means you can bring lots of spare layers with you. Remember that for every cycling discipline you'll need slightly more or less protection than for others - For example, a five mile commute will require a different type of jacket than an all day ride in the mountains!

    Head and Neck

    Most of the heat from your body is lost via your head when it's wet and cold and once you’re exerting yourself this heat will transform into sweat, making your head very cold unless you've taken preventative steps. The new batch of aero-optimised road helmets - with fewer vents - can keep some rain at bay and waterproof helmet covers, skullcaps,waterproof caps and merino buffs can all be utilised to improve your comfort when riding in the wet. As with everything in this world it's all about balance, you have to weigh up whether breathability or insulation is the most important aspect that will improve your wet-weather experience. It might also be worth digging out those clear lenses that came with your snazzy bike glasses as they protect your eyes from spray and detritus from the road or trail. The best glasses will have hydrophobic, anti-mist lenses to enhance your comfort and visibility.

    The Jacket

    Arguably the most important piece of wet weather gear, a good jacket is key to your success when it comes to staying dry. Jackets come in a variety of styles, each designed to offer different features depending on the severity of the weather and the level of protection you need. There are many broad styles of jacket - Race-capes, Softshell, Hardshell , Showerproof, Windproof and Waterproof with some items overlapping and offering all or some of these features. Within each category there's relevant technical designs that work to keep the rider dry and warm. There's a lot of jargon to wade through but here are the main specifications to look out for:

    Showerproof (water resistant/repellent)

    • Conditions - Light rain
    • Look Out for - DWR (Durable water repellent) finish, pockets, wind-resistance, breathable fabrics

    The outer fabric of a showerproof jacket will usually been treated with a water-repellent(hydrophobic) coating that resists water. This style of jacket is unlikely to have taped seams, allowing water to leak through after prolonged exposure to wet weather but is a good inexpenisve choice.Packable jackets and race capes are a great option for a shower proof layer. Easily stored in your back pocket allowing you to stave off a pesky mid-ride shower or giving you time to get to the safety of home. Packable jackets and Race Capes can sometimes lead to overheating meaning that this is a jacket to pull on for the duration of a shower, and to take off when the rain relents.

    View all Showerproof Jackets >

    Windproof Jackets & Thermals (Softshell)

    • Conditions - Cold, blustery weather, light rain
    • Look out for - Tight fit, DWR, pockets, flexible material , vents/pockets, thermal and breathable features, Gore-Tex, removable hoods/high collars

    Windproof layers are normally thick and tight fitting, keeping the heat you generate close to your body and preventing cold air entering via elasticated hems. Usually used as an inner layer in heavy showers and a lighter, outside layer for very light showers and cold, dry days - Windproof fabrics are specifically designed to prevent wind-chill. They are predominantly for keeping you warm as they aren’t very protective from wet weather alone. Fabrics become windproof by weaving them very tightly so that the gaps between the threads are too small for air to pass through at speed. Look out for brands that use Gore-Tex technology (E.G Castelli) as Gore-Tex clothing is renowned for providing long-lasting, comfortable weather protection from your head down to your toes and has excellent water and wind resistant properties. Windproof garments are not limited to just jackets, it's possible to buy windproof jerseys, gilets and other protective items such as buffs, warmers and hats.

    Reviewed: Endura Pro SL Thermal Windproof Jacket >

    Thermal jackets are very similar to Windproof jackets and are intended to predominantly keep you warm via excellent insulation features. Thermals can be used as the outer layer when it is especially cold and slightly damp but when the rain becomes heavier they're better utilised as a mid-layer as they are not designed to be fully waterproof.

    Softshell jackets are incredibly versatile and practical whilst often fairly breathable and water resistant. They normally feature some form of adjustable cuffs and hem that help to keep the wind and rain out. Softshell Jackets are easy to layer over and made from a woven material in contrast to the stiffer material of hard shell (or waterproof) jackets. A softshell does not have a lining but instead is created via the joining together of two individual layers of fabric, forming a layer that is the compromise between a fleece, which offers less water resistance and protection from the wind, and a waterproof jacket which is less stretchy and breathable.

    View all Windproof Jackets >

    Fully Waterproof (Hardshell)

    • Conditions - Heavy rain, storms, snow
    • Look out for - Waterproof/breathability ratings, hood, fit (remember layers underneath) , construction material

    The difference between waterproof and water-resistant cannot be understated, a fully Waterproof jacket normally features a claimed waterproof rating of at least 10,000mm, multiple layers,taped seams and storm-proof zips. Water-resistant will usually have a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating that wicks water away from the surface of the jacket but is not fully Waterproof. Breathability of a garment can be rated , with ratings of 10,000g and above going a long way to prevent you from boiling from the inside. The more waterproof a fabric is, the less breathable it becomes (although there are some expensive exceptions to the rule). Modern designs provide extra breathability with the inclusion of vents and breathable fabrics under the arms and around the garment. Fast riding or racing will require a tight fitting jacket that reduces fabric flap to maintain aero performance. Slower, all day riders may require a looser fit so that they can layer up underneath.

    Waterproof-Ratings-Explained

    Waterproof jackets are primarily designed to keep you dry in rain. It's vital to combine a good waterproof layer with the correct layers underneath - Riding in rain and wearing too many warm layers will cause moisture to build up under the shell from your own sweat. If you are riding in cold, wet rain and not wearing warm layers under the shell, the outer fabric is likely to conduct cold to your skin and bring on the shivers in a matter of seconds. If you are to invest heavily in any area of cycling clothing for wet weather, a high quality waterproof hardshell is where you should splash the extra cash - you'll really feel the difference in quality and subsequent ride experience whilst you can also use the same jacket all year round from winter showers to summer storms , justifying the slightly pricier initial outlay.

    View all Waterproof Jackets >

    Gloves

    Cold hands are a nightmare when you're on the bike, making shifting and braking an uncomfortable affair. When riding in the rain, Neoprene gloves are a great option. Fully waterproof gloves can be very hot and sweaty but do the job nicely of keeping your hands warm. The best gloves will have quick drying inner materials such as merino and will be designed to be stretchy, with long cuffs ensuring that there are no gaps between your jacket and gloves where air can get in.

    View all Cycling Gloves >

    Lower Body Wet Weather Protection

    Skin and lycra dry quite quickly and as a result it’s often best to go with the usual water-repelling Bib-shorts  and bare leg combination as too much wet and cold material on your legs can actually make you colder. There are a variety of options for shorter rides and commutes where staying clean, dry and warm is absolutely essential. Thermal tights/Bib-tights are body-tight and will feature chamois pads, wicking technology and ventilation points to ensure your comfort whereas fully waterproof over-trousers will keep you very dry but they are not particularly breathable and so should be avoided on longer, harder rides.

    Cycle Clothing Guide >

    View all Legwear >

    Keep the heat in your feet

    Your feet remain pretty stationary on the bike, especially when road riding and therefore require a larger level of protection from the elements. Unless you have immense circulation you're more than likely to require at least one of the garments below to ensure your comfort on cold,wet rides.

    wet weather feet

    Socks - As we have seen with the upper body, the primary layer of insulation is always most important. Good socks are a vital and a very important investment. Bare in mind that thicker socks offer a bit more insulation than thin summer socks. Socks are usually constructed from synthetic or naturally occurring fabrics such Merino wool. Merino is an excellent choice due to its fast-drying, odour resistant properties that keep you dry. It also offers a lot of insulation and comfort that with the addition of synthetic fabrics can enhance the wicking and moisture containing features of the sock.

    View all Cycling Socks >

    Overshoe

    Water resistance ratings for shoes are unavoidably low, overshoes combat this by not only keeping cold wind out but also by protecting your feet from spray from your wheels. If you can stop the wind and rain getting at your shoes and subsequently your feet, your suffering on the bike will be dramatically decreased. Overshoes are made from multiple materials including neoprene and various windproof and waterproof fabrics depending on the level of protection you require.

    Some work like wetsuits, allowing water in but retaining the heat, keeping you warm but not especially dry. Others are a little more hard-core and will stop everything from getting in, but of course these will be less breathable and could lead to over-heating. On cold and dry days an Over sock or toe-cover may be sufficient, just make sure you check ahead to make sure you don't get caught out if the heavens open!

    wet weaather 1

    There are such things as 'winter boots' that have recently begun to enter the market. Essentially, Winter Boots are cycling shoes with integrated overshoes, with all the vents closed up and lots of insulating and weather protecting materials that provide the ultimate protection when the weather turns wild.

    View all Overshoes >

    High-Visibility

    Riding in wet weather isn't just about being warm and dry it's about being seen as well. Poor weather conditions can make the visibility for other road users very low and therefore if you're riding in wet weather in well-populated areas or isolated, dimly lit areas then it's vitally important to be wearing some form of reflective attire. Obviously you'll have lights fitted but you can never be too visible when out riding. Below are some excellent examples of wet weather gear that's specifically designed to increase your visual presence on the bike.

    Bicycle Light Buying Guide >Winter Commuting Guide >Autumn cycling clothing guide >

    Non-Clothing Wet Weather Essentials

    When riding in the wet a good set of mudguards is a must-have, protecting yourself and the riders around you from road spray. Mudguards either mount directly onto your bike or clip onto the seat post or under the saddle. Wet-weather specific chain lube, luggage and cleaning materials will get rid of that sticky winter mud, disc brakes and grippy tyres are all additional accessories that will greatly increase your wet weather riding experience.

    How to Clean Your Bike > Essential Cycling Accessories >

    Essential Cycling Accessories >

    Find your nearest Rutland Cycling store

    Browse our entire rage of wet weather gear online, or head to your nearest store for a closer look.

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    FREE DELIVERY OVER £10

    EASY RETURNS

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