Should you stay away from your bike when it is raining? Riding in the rain is part of life on two wheels, but with a little bit of preparation, you might just start enjoying it…

The Basics

1. Waterproof jacket and trousers

The most important item of clothing for battling the rain is a jacket. Not only will a good waterproof jacket keep your torso dry it will help you regulate your body temperature. A breathable material is essential, so you do not overheat. 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 might have kept the rain out, but you would get soaked on the inside from your own sweat. A thinner rain jacket or ‘shell’ can also be used with the correct layers underneath, although persistent or very heavy rain will get through eventually.

While it is 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. 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 or winter boots

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. 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. The other choice, and one that many people combine with overshoes or winter boots is a pair of waterproof socks. They’re thicker than regular socks so you need to check you can fit them with your shoes.

The best wet weather protection is probably a dedicated winter boot. 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. A cheap option to prolong that nice dry feeling in your feet is to slip a plastic bag over your socks, then your tights (if wearing them) pulled down over the bags, then finally your shoes and overshoes.

3. Gloves

Your cycling gloves need to protect you without being so thick as to hamper your bike control as you still need to be able to feel the brakes and gears through all that material. 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.

4. Keep your head dry

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 skull cap underneath it, or a helmet cover over the top is some of your options. 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.

5. Glasses

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. 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.

Staying aware of your surroundings is critical, but can be difficult with rain flying in your face. Some cyclists wear clear glasses, but droplets on the lenses can be just as bad as no glasses at all. Try a brimmed cap, or add an extended visor to your helmet for more coverage. Whether you wear glasses or not, this will help keep vision clearer.

Next we discuss, A few additions to make your bike rain-worthy