How Do You Bike Commute in the Rain?

Bike commuting is a fantastic way to get to work, but one of the only catches is that it means you can’t avoid cycling in the rain.

How do you bike commute in the rain? Wear waterproof clothing from head to toe, covering every inch of your work clothes to stay dry. Add bike lights on the front and rear of your bike to remain visible. Use a waterproof cover on top of your helmet to stop the rain from making your head cold!

You should also give yourself more time for your bike commute in the rain as you should go slower to allow for longer braking distances in case if emergencies.

Now that we’ve covered some of the key points, let’s consider these more thoroughly below to help you make the right call when it comes time to ride to work in the rain and stay dry doing it!

Waterproof Clothing

Reflective Waterproof Cycling Jacket

You definitely need to get a waterproof jacket specifically designed for cycling to be seen in the rain.

This is because cycling jackets have specific features like a cut that is designed for you to lean forward on your bike. If you have this kind of jacket, it will come into its own in the rain as it will not leave a gap in your lower back when you are leaning forward to cycle. Cycling jackets are much lower at the back then at the front to allow for this so they therefore keep you (and your work clothes) protected from the rain at all times.

Cycling jackets should also have reflective detail, this is a priority over them being high visibility in colour because the reflective detail makes you far more visible to car drivers than a high visibility colour like fluorescent yellow.

You can also find some cycling jackets that have an inbuilt light on the back of the jacket, making you that much more visible on the roads during your commute.

Waterproof Gloves

I used to think that normal gloves would be fine for bike commuting but I was quickly proved wrong as I started to ride through the colder winter months. The problem is that as soon as there is a drop of rain, normal gloves will stick to your hands like a wet blanket. This then has the unfortunate consequence of making your hands feel even colder than if you had no gloves at all!

Real waterproof cycling gloves, however, will provide a barrier for your hands against rain and wind, while also giving you the added grip and dexterity that you won’t get in normal gloves if using them for cycling.

Note that, as with all clothing for bike commuting, if you can get cycling gloves with reflective detail this is extra helpful when using your hands to indicate that you’re turning while riding on the road when it’s raining.

man cycling through the street in the rain in formal work clothes and waterproof clothing
Cycling to work in the rain can look a t lot like this, but it’s often more fun than it looks, too! Photo Credit: Robert Iana on Unsplash

Waterproof Overpants

Similar to a cycling jacket, you’ll need waterproof overpants specifically for cycling.

These will be much more comfortable than the cheaper but standard waterproof pants. Cycling overpants will allow you to ride comfortably on your bike without every feeling tight. Remember that if your waterproof garments are touching your clothing then they will get them wet and effectively lose their waterproof properties.

Waterproof Overshoes

You might not think waterproof overshoes are that necessary since you don’t wear them over your shoes when it rains while you’re walking in the street. Think again! The catch here is that wearing waterproof overtrousers actually causes all the rain that your pants would normally soak up to run directly down your leg in the direction of (you guessed it!) your shoes!!!

With the waterproof overtrousers having the shearing effect of pushing water onto your trousers, your leg shoes therefore receive a heck of a lot more water than they normally would and quickly become soaked.

In terms of choosing waterproof overshoes for your bike commute, always go for at least one size bigger than your shoe size, ideally two sizes bigger. This is something else I’ve learnt from experience as waterproof overshoes are currently only made to fit cycling shoes.

These kinds of shoes, which usually have clips for attaching to pedals, are very small and streamlined – much more so than standard shoes. You can wear these overshoes while walking but note that they do wear down quite quickly if you often wear these overshoes when walking, say from your bike to your office.

As always, you should also look for reflective overshoes (the now reflective detail the better), and you might also want to get thermal overshoes to add a layer of warmth in the colder months if that suits your climate.

Just like all waterproof garments, overshoes are not entirely waterproof. They will allow some water to get through to your shoes and you might find that your shoes get a little wetter than you’d like!

One last point to note is that the kind of shoes that you wear can also determine how waterproof these overshoes will be for you on a rainy bike commute. For instance, light, breathable fabric shoes will often get damp when bike commuting in the rain with your overshoes on, this will also pass onto your socks if not careful!

Waterproof Socks (or Just a Spare Pair)

Let me start with a disclaimer: I don’t currently own or use any waterproof socks, let alone use them for my bike commute. That said, I recently bought a pair for my wife and she enjoys using them in on wetter rides!

You can find waterproof socks at relatively low cost but you might find that the material doesn’t suit you for an entire workday. 

What I actually do for socks on wet days

For the reason mentioned above, I’ve not actually bought a pair of waterproof socks. My usual routine is to actually leave a pair of socks in drawer at work instead! This is discreet enough for me and works well.

I keep things on a rota and simply change my socks quite quickly when I get to work.

Waterproof Bag Cover

Unless you have an extremely high-end bike bag or pannier bag, then you’ll likely need a waterproof cover for your commuter bag of choice for those wet days.

The best waterproof bag cover for bike commuting in the rain is one that is attached to your bag permanently as these are not something that you’re likely to lose.

The problem I find with waterproof bag covers for my bike commuting gear is that they’re so small and light when packed that it’s very easy to misplace them, especially as you will need to hang them out to dry every time they get wet.

Waterproof Seat Cover

This is something else I learnt the hard way! I used to just leave my bike locked up outside my work, which was fine for the first few years. However, after about 2 years, the leather on my bike seat cover tore and the seat became squelchy as the rain had got through to the foam layer and saturated it!

My wife then came up with a great, affordable solution to prevent the rain from ruining another bike seat: a plastic hair cover (for the shower)  from our local homeware store! I’ve been using these ever since and they do the job perfectly. They are also inexpensive enoug not to be a worry if someone takes it (lost one of mine recently after 2 years of use!).

Why I Don’t Recommend a Waterproof Bike Cover for Commuting

A waterproof bike cover might sound appealing for your time at work, but these covers are generally extremely hard to put on and will add 5-10 minutes to your journey each day. Added to the time factor is the point that you would need somewhere to store your bike cover at your work as they’re simply too large to be worth carrying every day.

Bike Shelter

Finally, you’ll ideally have a bike shelter to park your bike under when it’s raining. This is not a necessity, and not likely something you can control, but if you can find one at your work, leave your bike under there to save it from the elements.

To give you some context, I’ve recently changed jobs to somewhere that has a bike shelter, but for the previous 2 years I’ve been leaving my current bike outdoors exposed to the rain, with no visible signs of rust. That said, getting onto a wet bike every time it has rained is just a little annoying, especially if your bike seat collects rain water like mine does!

You could also get a waterproof bike cover, although these can be a bit cumbersome and take a little time to put and take off each time, so perhaps not ideal for bike commuters.

Related Question

How do I keep my legs dry while cycling? A good pair of waterproof pants that fit over your usual pants is the best for most cyclists. If riding in summer, look for cut-off versions just for your thighs to avoid getting sweaty. If using a road bike, get waterproof road cycling pants that fit snugly.

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