Whether you commute by bicycle and don’t want to be held up by a rainy day, or would rather ride through light rain than put your bike on an indoor trainer, the right gear can make the difference between a relatively dry ride or a miserable experience. You needn’t cut armholes in a garbage bag or don a poncho to stay dry on your bike. Cycling clothing manufacturers make waterproof versions of everything you need to comfortably get from point A to point B.
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Protecting your eyes and maintaining clear vision is critical to your safety on the road during inclement weather. Cycling-specific eyewear have wrap frames that don’t block your peripheral vision and offer more coverage for your eye area. Yellow or orange lenses make it easier to see on gray, cloudy days. Look for lenses that have been treated to repel water. Also look for glasses that fit your face closely; frames that don't fit snugly tend to fog up more easily.
Cycling gear manufacturers produce two types of wet-weather clothing — water resistant and waterproof. Water resistant fabrics have been treated to withstand mist or light drizzle. Waterproof garments are made from waterproof fabric and have sealed, waterproofed seams. If you plan to ride in heavy rain or in light drizzle for extended periods, choose a waterproof cycling jacket constructed with underarm vents for breathability. Gore-Tex is an example of a laminated fabric that wicks sweat with its inner layer while repelling rain with its outer layer. Other features to seek out include adjustable cuffs, covered zippers and reflective piping.
At one time, slipping into a pair of waterproof pants meant wearing bulky PVC or poly-vinyl pants over your bike shorts or pants. You can still opt for waterproof pants that fit over your clothes if they fit your needs, but be sure to secure the right pant leg with an adjustable Velcro strap to prevent it from getting caught in the chain. Otherwise, you can wear a pair of waterproof cycling tights, with or without a chamois insert to pad your tailbone. Some waterproof tights are lined with fleece for colder climates. A back fender also goes a long way in keeping your backside free of the dirty water sprayed up by your rear tire.
For the majority of riders, a pair of waterproof shoe covers, also known as booties, suffice for wet weather riding. Booties are made to fit over various types of cycling shoes, not street shoes, so if you ride with regular shoes on platform pedals, you’ll need to seek out waterproof shoe covers for the type of shoe you use. The majority of booties have neoprene liners with waterproof shells.
Rainy rides in cooler temperatures can lead to cold fingers, especially if they’re unprotected. Waterproof gloves insulate your fingers against wetness, which is key to comfort as well as safety — cold, wet fingers don’t shift or brake as quickly. Look for full-fingered gloves with removable fleece liners and extended wrist cuffs you can tuck into your jacket. Gloves with rubberized palms and fingers help you maintain your grip on wet handlebars.