Bike commuting is a fun and healthy activity to add into your working day and is growing in popularity around the world.
However, it can be a little tricky to ride to work on rainy days without getting soaked, a less than ideal way to start the working day.
From my time commuting by bike, I’ve gradually built up all the waterproof gear needed and had to figure things out along the way, so I thought I’d share it with you here in this complete guide.
So, here’s my brief list of all the bike commuting rain gear you need:
- Waterproof Jacket
- Waterproof Pants
- Waterproof Gloves
- Shoe Gaiters
- Helmet Cover
- Bag Cover
- Change of Socks!
Some of the above might seem obvious, but if we bear in mind that much of it will need to be cycling-specific waterproof gear, then that changes things slightly and needs a little bit more thought.
As such, we’ll look at all of these points in detail in the sections below to help you make the right choice and stay dry on your bike ride to work.
An obvious starting point is a waterproof jacket for your bike commute.
Although you might already have a standard waterproof jacket for everyday uses, it’s definitely worth spending a little extra on a waterproof jacket cycling for cycling for a couple of reaons.
Tailored for Cycling
Firstly, waterproof cycling jackets are tailored to suit your riding position while cycling. This means that the tail of the jacket is longer than in a standard waterproof jacket.
The effect of cycling jackets being longer at the back is that it keeps you dry and covered when leaning forward and riding your bike. Without this, you risk exposing your lower back and clothes there to the elements, getting a frustrating and embarrassing wet patch around your lower back and even rear end!
Reflective for Safety
The next reason to get cycling specific waterproof jacket for your bike commute is because they come with reflective elements.
These reflective parts make you much more visible to car drivers and other road users in low-light or dark conditions. The lights of other vehicles (and even cyclists) bounce off the reflective parts of your jacket, making you stand out a lot more in the process.
If you remember that most car drivers use their headlights when it is raining, then this will then add to your own safety and visibility while riding to work in the rain.
Another key point about a waterproof cycling jacket is that they are generally far more breathable than most other standard cycling jackets.
This is because you will quickly get warm when cycling to work, even on wet days in cold weather.
If you try to ride in a standard waterproof jacket, you might feel like you are burning up, so it’s definitely worth investing in a good cycling jacket to keep the rain at bay on your way to work.
One handy design feature of many waterproof jackets designed for cycling is the zip vents which are usually found either on the side seam a few inches below the arm pit, or on the underside of the sleeve itself.
These points for ventilation allow you to cool down a little and come in really handy on wet but warm days.
You can see my top recommendations for cycling jackets to bike commute in here.
In a similar vein to the points above, waterproof cycling pants for bike commuting to work in are once again recommended.
As with waterproof cycling jackets, these should come with the reflective detail to help you stand out, while also having a looser cut to allow for the bend in your knees while riding.
If cycling to work in your work clothes, then cycling overpants are the way to go as you can slip these on over your work pants quickly and easily.
If looking to ride to work through summer showers, these kinds of overpants can be quite hot so you will need to take it easy. As one alternative, you can look into just getting waterproof pant protectors that go down just below the knee, although these do not protect your shins from splashes coming up from the road when riding through puddles and the like which, if riding on the road, you can’t really avoid.
You might also have thought that just a standard pair of gloves will suffice here but, once again, you will thank yourself later for getting ones that are waterproof and designed for cycling.
The main points here being that your hands get cold much more easily when riding a bike, so you will need gloves on days when you might not otherwise wear them if walking.
Added to this, given how susceptible to cold your hands can be when on a bike, if you add rain into the mix, standard gloves can end up gluing to your hands and actually amplifying the effects of the cold which, take it from me, is not a pleasant experience. It can also lead to your hands losing some of their dexterity on particularly cold days which is unsafe since you need to be able to brake quickly and easily at all times.
Waterproof cycling gloves avoid this unpleasant experience and allow you to ride on without any discomfort as they repel the rain and keep your hands warm and, crucially, fully functional.
They also have the design benefits of being again made specifically for the task, allowing for you to reach for your brakes easily and without impairments, as well as usually adding in some reflective detail for good measure.
The reflective detail on cycling gloves is a great value-add in that can help your hands to be seen when turning in poor conditions, so don’t overlook this aspect either.
Note the use of shoe gaiters here rather than cycling overshoes. I make this distinction after a frustrating few years of using cycling overshoes.
Waterproof cycling overshoes, or even cycling shoe covers, are only designed to go over cycling shoes. By this, they mean the kind of cycling shoes that professionals wear on the Tour de France, so think aerodynamic, sleek and, crucially, tiny by comparison to our bulky and more robust everyday shoes for work and other activities.
If you get cycling shoe covers, you will find that they are so tight, even if you buy them 2 sizes too big, that they will become shredded and worn within a year if you try to wear them with anything but the dedicated cycling shoes that they are designed for.
Instead, a much better option is to go for waterproof shoe gaiters. Again, this is something I have only recently discovered and had to find out the hard way.
Shoe gaiters are actually designed for a variety of purposes and actually fit your standard shoes much better, be they formal work shoes or more sporty sneakers.
I have also found that waterproof shoe gaiters are better at keeping my shoes and socks dry on rainy days of bike commuting to work.
Something not to overlook when riding to work in the rain is having a good waterproof bag cover.
This is particularly important if you are carrying important documents, or items of technology like a laptop or a tablet. In fact, I actually have to ride with my tablet from work in my bag these days and always have to be sure that I have a waterproof bag cover on me at all times, just in case.
Fortunately, these are cheap and easy to get. However, you might not even need to buy one as an extra as many cycling bags and panniers come with waterproof covers built in.
You can see this handy guide I’ve prepared for a full run-through of all recommended bags and panniers if you are looking.
As a nice extra, you can get a waterproof helmet cover for bike commuting in the rain as this subtle addition adds to comfort and can increase your visibility.
These again are extremely inexpensive but stop the rain getting through your helmet onto your hair, a nice feature in the colder months of the year or if you have longer hair.
Just be sure to get a waterproof helmet cover that has reflective detail and a drawstring as these two features then provide other benefits for the same price.
Change of Socks!
If you get the right waterproof shoe gaiters for riding in the rain, the chances are that your socks will be dry 99% of the time.
However, if you get splashed by cars from a certain angle, or have to stop abruptly and put your feet down in a big puddle on your rainy-day bike commute, you might find that some water will get into your socks.
As such, try to always keep a spare pair of socks in your drawer at work to make this a non-issue if it does happen. This then allows you to change quickly and discreetly once at work, leaving you with dry socks (and feet!) for the start of your working day.
You could go one step further and get yourself a pair of waterproof socks, but I have not tried these so cannot vouch for their comfort or breathability (which would be two of main questions around their use for cycling in the rain).
Quality of the Waterproof & Breathability
Waterpoof, and even ‘water resistant’ clothing has different ratings and you can easily find these on the product description for all good cycling jackets.
They might also have a breathability rating of the fabric or material listed, which is certainly a helpful measure to note.
To borrow from a detailed guide elsewhere, the waterproof ratings and breathability can be summarized as follows:
“A rating of up to 10K is enough to handle light to average rain for a short amount of time. Ratings between 10K and 15K can handle a moderate amount of rain for much longer, and jackets rated between 15K and 20K or higher are serious shells for heavy, intense rain over a prolonged period.”Waterproof Ratings & Breathability Guide by Evo
Knowing the waterproof and breathability ratings of your cycling jacket are two very helpful measures and give you an idea of how heavy a rainfall it can withstand.
As you can see below, my current Altura waterproof cycling jacket here in Europe has a 15k rating for both breathability and waterproof qualities.
This, however, is limited in comparison to the Proviz Reflect 360 jacket which has a 50k waterproof rating. The downside to this is that many customers have said that it lacks breathability, so remember that it’s a careful balance between the two.
Zips and Seams on Your Waterproof Gear
One last point to mention is that the zips on your waterproof bike commuting gear also play an important role as these can be a weak point for letting in moisture if they are not up to standard.
You also want taped seams on your jacket, which is again something that most of the good quality waterproof cycling jackets should come with but it’s always worth checking just to be sure.
Staying Dry: Reproofing
To keep your wateproof bike commuting gear in best condition for as long as possible, remember to ‘re-proof’ it at intervals throughout the year.
You can buy waterproof sprays to do this as well as products to put in the washing machine along with your waterproof items.
For instance, this NikWax wash-in waterproof product comes extremely highly rated and is ready to use in your washing machine.
The only further point to note is that, if using a wash-in reproofing product, then remember that your waterproof cycling gear will likely only be machine-washable on the lowest setting, so take care not to do overdo it as you risk spoiling more than just their waterproof qualities!
Doing this kind of reproofing will allow you to stay dry on more days of the year in your chosen waterproof gear while out bike commuting.
And writing this reminds me that I am overdue to to do mine, so I had better get to it soon!
How should I dress for cycling in the rain? Wear lighter clothes than normal as your waterproof cycling gear can get quite hot. Cover all parts of your body in wateproof gear, including your legs and feet as these get wet very quickly from their position when cycling.
Is biking in the rain bad for the bike? No, it’s not a problem for your bike as it is designed for use outdoors. However, it can be a problem if a bike is left unused in wet conditions for a long time. Some cheaper e-bikes also have a battery that is not waterproof.
To avoid any issues with your e-bike, be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions before buying or riding in the rain.