Not Evangelism

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wet Weather Gear for Cycle Commuters

Some thoughts on waterproofs for cycle commuting

Yes, I know that every website and magazine are doing articles on this topic at the moment. But it's important stuff; as the weather changes and the mornings and evenings darken, it's more of an effort to get out on the bike. I need to fight the ennui that tries to keep me in my warm bed and warm car, by removing any excuses I have not to cycle because it's a bit damp and a bit grim.

These, then, are my requirements from my cycle commuting waterproofs:
  1. Remove the excuse not cycle. The waterproofs have got to be practical and convenient. They've got to deliver.
  2. Arrive warm and dry.
  3. Not so precious that I don't wear them for fear of damaging them. This generally means that I've got a price point in mind.
  4. Unobtrusive enough that I've got them at all times; if there's any chance that I'll start to think of them as baggage (because I'm not wearing them), that will increase the chance that I don't wear them, so will feel unprepared, so won't cycle.
I won't turn down reflective patches on any of my waterproofs, figuring that it's better to look like a Christmas decoration and be noticed, than not be seen and end up on the side of the road.

My cycle commuting waterproofs

My waterproofs are a large part of my core wardrobe; I wear them all the time because they're practical, convenient and useful. Affiliate links for more product information, if you need it.

Gore Bike Wear Helmet IV Cap (Wiggle)

I usually wear my hair pretty short, so feel the need for a layer under my helmet as soon as the weather gets a bit chilly. I bought the Gore cap (with the long name) in 2009 and it performed brilliantly all through the winter. Windproof and breathable, with an "anatomical cut" that covers my ears and keeps them out of the wind. I've also found it to be lightly waterproof, enough for all but the worst downpours.

Altura Night Vision Waterproof Gloves (WiggleEvans)

These gloves are the business. Simply put, they're warm, waterproof and reflective. Warm enough that I've never felt the cold whilst wearing them, despite sub-zero temperatures. The cuff is nice and long and sits well under the sleeves of my jacket, reducing the chance of chilly wind getting in. In less cold conditions my hands sometimes feel too warm, so it's nice that they're also breathable. They're waterproof enough that the misery of cold, wet hands is a distant memory. There's a textured grip on the palm to make sure I can keep hold of my handlebars in the rain. And the back of the gloves are reflective so that cars can see me indicating.

Altura Night Vision Waterproof Cycling Jacket (WiggleEvans)

This jacket has been a mainstay of my wardrobe.  It's probably warmer than it needs to be, even with the armpit vents.  But it's high-vis, reflective, warm.  It's also windproof and waterproof.  It's my standard cycling jacket; the cut and fit are bang-on, and it's sensibly priced.  I've had four years of use out of it, and whilst it might not be the most stylish, it's been fantastic for my requirements.

There's a zipped pocket on the left breast, perfect for keys or phone (or OBE), and a horizontal pocket on the tail, for stuffing things into on the ride.  Along with the high collar, the velcro on the cuffs and long tail with a tightener help keep the wind out.

Sure, in a really serious downpour, this jacket is going to let some water through. But at this price point, for the conditions I cycle in, it's a steal.

Endura Stealth Tights (CRC)

These tights are unpadded (I wear them over my regular cycling shorts) and very cool.  Well, actually just the opposite; beneath the waterproof outer layer, they've got a fleece inner, so they're really toasty.  They're also waterproof (with welded seams that I don't even notice), breathable, and stretchy, a great fit. In colder weather I wear them every day and stay nicely toasty.  When it's wet, I stay dry. What more do I need? Did I mention that they're also reflective?

SealSkinz waterproof socks (Wiggle, Evans)

Warm and dry, these socks have been just about perfect, once I got used to the crackly carrier bag noise. Unless it's really coming down, these are the only thing I need under my shoes. I might appreciate longer socks in colder weather, but I can always wear some underneath. Although I bought the ones with the high-visibility flash on the top, these ankle-length socks are usually covered my the Stealth Tights, so I could do without the high-vis flash, to be honest.

Frankly, the crackles are a small price to pay for dry feet.

Endura Road Overshoes (Evans, CRC)

I don't often wear these, as I find them too much of a faff for my shortish commute. But they're certainly waterproof. Last year they spent most of the winter in my panniers, in case of severe weather, but I didn't wear them for more than a handful of rides.

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