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  1. #1
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    Rain Gear - Your Favorites, Please!

    I started commuting full-time last summer, so I'm currently enjoying the heat after having experienced my first Pacific Northwest winter of fully-submerged cycling - and while I certainly did survive with the gear I had, it wasn't as comfortable as I think it could have been. Now, in the height of summer, I'm already starting to dread the gathering storms of the coming fall. I want to head this off at the pass by making a good plan for the gear I'll need now so I can come into the rainy season feeling prepared, and possibly hit some off-season sale prices.

    I've got the bike set up reasonably well for the weather, with proper fenders and such; I ride a 90s steel road bike with a cheap-o Campy 9-speed group, but it performs well enough for my requirements in the off-season. I ride 21km each way, with a moderate amount of climbing (~100m) mostly in short sharp pitches. I tend to ride reasonably hard, so I tend to get fairly hot and sweaty; minimizing that effect with the rain gear would be ideal, but isn't a requirement. I do have facilities to shower and change upon arrival.

    I've already concluded that I want an exterior layer that only focuses on waterproofing, not insulation, that I can layer wool underneath - the temperature during the rainy season here can range anywhere from 18C down to 5C or even less, so I want to be able to adjust the insulation as required. If that's a bad choice, I'm interested in hearing opinions on it, but otherwise, I'd like your recommendations for specifically waterproof (not necessarily insulated) clothing of the following classes:

    Rain Jacket
    I wore a middle-of-range MEC rain jacket last season, which was completely uninsulated and still boiled me in my own juices. Seams also started to fail in the backpack-strap area by midseason. This year I've got a frame bag for the bike, so no backpack will be required, which should hopefully minimize wear; but it'd still be nice to wear something that might last more than one year. A secondary goal would be something that didn't end up like the inside of a sous-vide cooking bag (tepid, wet, odd-smelling) after forty-five minutes of use.

    Rain Pants
    Last season I had fairly cheap MEC rain pants, and the waterproofing in the saddle region wore away very quickly, followed shortly by deteriorating seams. I wore them the whole season, but got progressively moister as the winter wore on. This year I want something that won't leak at the seams, that'll hold up in the saddle area, and as a bonus it would be nice if they weren't the baggiest thing on God's green earth - the bike's heavy and slow enough as it is, feeling like I'm flying a spinnaker in the wind doesn't help.

    Waterproof Cycling Shoes
    This is the big one for me. I wore my very cheap SPD shoes under Pearl Izumi neoprene covers last season, and the result was execrable. First off, the covers were a nightmare to fit - it was a wrestling match every single time, despite having picked out the absolute largest size. Apparently, from reviews I've read, this too-small-fit issue is common with almost all shoe covers. I wear 42 shoes - what the heck do the really big-footed people do? Anyway, this year, with gritted teeth, I am prepared to spend what it takes to have dry feet, and have concluded from basic research that a fully-waterproofed SPD shoe or boot is probably the way to go. I've looked at offerings from Shimano and Mavic, which have reviewed reasonably well and seem to come in around the $150 mark; I'm deeply curious to hear your opinions on the subject.

    Gloves
    Last season I went through a number of glove choices, including ostensibly waterproof bike gloves, kayaking/paddling gloves, and gore-tex work gloves; none of them kept me dry, and none of them survived the daily grind of bar and shifter interaction. This year, I hope the cycle-commuting fairy will bring me a pair of gloves that are actually waterproof, and don't disintegrate into a wispy heap of neoprene flakes and formed rubber chips. Again, I'm very much interested in what you've used in the past that's worked well for you.

    For the purposes of unfettered brainstorming, let's pretend for the moment that money is no object. Given that I'm cycle commuting in lieu of driving and parking, and am thereby saving around a thousand or so dollars a year, I'm prepared to invest where it counts if it means I'll be happy to continue riding and not be tempted by that warm, dry-looking car.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!

  2. #2
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    My favorite it a rain cape. They don't get terribly hot and keep you reasonably dry. Campmor has a cheap one, there are several others ranging from $35- $300, pick your fashion. The Campmor works fine, but I used it enough to wear out the water repellant within 3 years. I washed it and retreated it but I'm thinking of investing in a Grunden's rain cape, they have a great reputation. For feet, I use Rivendell Splats which are convenient, effective and fit any shoes or pedals, they also have some gaiters for the lower legs which work well. All this revolves around keeping cool, I can't see the point in keeping rain off when you will be saturated with sweat.

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  3. #3
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    I'm in the Seattle area, and also started commuting 8 mi at the beginning of last fall (albeit only one way until a few months ago, before that it was 2 mi in the morning to the bus stop). I can't help with jacket or pants. The North Face softshell I used was great for a few months and then started absorbing water. For pants I just used tights, which were great going only one way and would dry out overnight.

    For shoes, once I made the switch to SPD (Shimano Click'r) I bought PI Elite Barrier Shoe Covers. They worked very well, with the exception of water coming in from the bottom of the shoe (through the cleat) or watere eventually running down through my socks (which is why I need rain pants for next winter). But, for my 40 minute commute, if I kept my tights (PI select) on the outside of the covers, it rarely got in. The one time my socks got completely soaked was after ~2 hours of riding in heavy rain (not during a commute). Size is definitely a problem though, but 42 should be fine. I have size 46 shoes, and the XXL barely fit. Durability-wise, they do have a rip on the bottom, but I do need to stop relatively often. On the other hand, I just picked up another pair for $30 at Amazon, so if you wait for a good deal, they can be pretty cheap.

    For gloves, I ended up going with the PI Pro Barrier WxB Gloves. There's also the 3x1 gloves that are the same as the previous ones + a liner inside. I just use a separate liner when it's cold (Smartwool liner gloves). The PI gloves don't let through much, if any, water (I think my hands are wet mostly because they're sweaty) and they're very comfortable. They still look as good as new. That being said, if you want perfectly dry hands, I think it's impossible. But with these gloves, my hands never got that wet (except for the aforementioned 3 hour ride, but I think they were the last to fail).

  4. #4
    LET'S ROLL 1nterceptor's Avatar
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    -Jacket:
    Pearl Izumi unlined wind breaker. This is for rain around 60F and above or short rides.
    Not waterproof and I do get soaked. But since it blocks the wind, I stay warm. I use
    this instead of a waterproof jacket so I don't get too clammy.

    Illuminite unlined waterproof jacket. For rain below 60F. Also my winter shell, I use
    layers depending on the temps.

    -Rainpants:
    Novara baggy shorts for temps 60F and above.

    Novara Stratos pants for temps 60F and below. This is also my winterpants with pant bibs
    underneath.

    -Shoes
    For 60F or above I just let my clipless shoes get soaked, SIDI and Scott Tour.

    Lake MXZ302 clipless boots for 60F and under rain. This is also my winter shoes.

    -Gloves:
    65F and above, nothing.
    65F-55F, I might wear dishwashing gloves.
    60F or under, some generic winter gloves I got from Costco.
    I also use this as my winter gloves.

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  5. #5
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    I just bought a sugoi hydrolite rain jacket. Hoping it fits snug as I used a Sugoi running jacket last year and it worked fine but it's too baggy. I think your plan for a thin waterproof shell with layers underneath is good. Assume you're going to get wet not matter what in the winter if it's raining; just try and stay warm. I don't use rain pants. In the winter I mostly just use a pair of tights over bibs. They get a little wet but I hang them at work and they're usually dry by the time I go home. Don't recall getting cold legs last year down to about -5C. Not interested in slowing down with baggy pants.

    I use two pairs of gloves and keep a dry pair at work. I just use some cheap dept store ski gloves if it's cold. In the fall I use a pair of Garneau cross country ski gloves. They breathe and are very comfortable. Waterproof gloves are a lot like waterproof jackets if you ride for a reasonable distance, they'll get wet one way or the other.

    I've had a pair of Carnac neopreme booties which I've used for the last 5-6 yrs. They've been quite durable but this year I bought a lighter set of Pearl Izumi covers for warmer rainy days. The zipper on them is horrible so I don't have a good solution yet. Thinking of getting some Northwave waterproof shoes this year.

  6. #6
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    I use a North Face raincoat on cold days. On warm days i simply get wet and it helps keep me cool.

    The big issue is that the water ends up in my lap, so i'm in the process of finding something to alleviate that.

    On the new bike i have not ridden much in the wet, because all most every rain is from a nasty thunderstorm, the kind you stop and take shelter till it passes & even in a car it gets questionable with visibility and wind pushing it about. Here's hoping to a nice gentle summer downpour that i can ride across town in.

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    I can't wait for the next pint of good chocolate milk after a long ride.

  7. #7
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    All of us in Metro Van (an educated guess) have been though this also.

    I used to ride about 25 km from Burquitlam to Richmond in the winter. I would ride hard and sweat no matter what.

    Here is what I found worked best. I had a place to hang everything at work so it would dry.

    I gave up on water proof jackets and pants. They kept the rain out but the sweat in, which would make me overheat. I preferred to be a bit cool than overheating. I may consider the rain jacket below 5 deg C and if it was cool enough to have some potential to freeze I would not ride.

    Top layer: I use layered combinations of wool, compression shirts and thin fleece dependent on weather and laundry completion the night before. I would wear it under a high vis long sleeve top layer. The waterproof jacket only came out for the exceptionally cold and wet days.

    Bottom layer: I had a pair of some MEC rain pants. They were not waterproof, but resistant. They lasted years and I just replaced them this year, but I could not find a decent equivalent. They could get hot, but not too bad and they kept me fairly dry from rain. I think the closest equivalent were the Adanac tights, but I found those this year fit poor and were too hot. I ended with the MEC Vuelta tights. They offer mild water resistance and worked well this winter, but I did not start using them until maybe Feb. When it got colder I would layer my spandex tights underneath. Dependent on the forecast I would just wear the spandex and start cool and warm up. The biggest problem I found in the rain was that my spandex wicked rain down the leg to my sock and into my shoe. The tights did not do this. The new MEC Flyer tights look nice and sound similar to my original ones.

    Feet: I used my standard Shimano SPD mountain shoes. I put a piece of duct tape over the cleat holes inside and that made a world of difference. I wear either Wooleators, Woolie boolies or if it is really cold my mernio hiking socks get squeezed in. I then use MEC drencher shoe covers. I found they worked well. My feet were not dry, but they also were not soaked and it was an easy setup to put on. If the shoes were unusually wet when I got to work in the morning I would take out the insoles (normally did that to aid in drying anyway) and I stuffed the shoes with wadded up newspaper. Dry enough to not be miserable by quitting time. The temptation for the whole waterproof setup is nice. But I have done it so long like this and it is suitable to me frugality keeps winning.

    Gloves: Year round I tend to wear the MEC Humboldt paddling gloves, I had good dexterity to do repairs, they are durable, add nice cushion and will warm up when damp/wet (not soaking). When it gets to be heavy cold rain I have a pair of Black Diamond ski gloves that work great. Rarely my hands were cold, but they would be wet, not soaking and mostly from sweat I think. But the gloves were lined so that I could pull out the liner and they would dry. I also ran them through the washer and dryer to minimize funk and they have held up pretty well. I remember going through many gloves at MEC thanks to their great return policy. I think the only truly rain impermeable option is dish gloves.

    I also wear clear safety glasses (UVEX genesis) and a headband ear covers I just use dry bags in my standard MEC panniers.

    I also found road selection made a difference. I used to ride Marine Drive from Burnaby into Vancouver and I would get extra wet from vehicle spray on that stretch.

  8. #8
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    When I commuted in the summer the only thing that worked for me was a rain cape. Yes, it catches the wind a bit, but in the kind of heavy rain when I was glad I had the cape, visibility was bad enough that I wasn't going fast anyway. For summer rain I just went bare legged (shorts) and let the rest of me get wet. In lighter rain and slower urban speeds the cape had a bit of an "awning" effect and that wasn't too bad. In cooler weather I used rain pants that sort of worked (but the cape again meant that only my calves were exposed). Along with the cape I might try spats or long wool socks if I was to do this again. Shoes? I had waterproof hiking boots in cooler months and some funky shower cap like shoe covers I used in the warmer months. These days in warmer weather I might just wear sandals or water shoes and let the water run out.

  9. #9
    Senior Member ratell's Avatar
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    Rain Jacket- I love my showers pass. Everyone in Portland is wearing one. Mine is 5 years old and still going strong.
    Rain pants. I have showers pass pants and Novara rain paints. The showers pass is a little better because of the venting at the knee, but if you want to save some money get the Novara pants.
    Shoe covers- I've been happiest with the Pearl Izumi barrier elites though I can't enthusiastically endorse them.

    Gloves- this is the hardest issue. For most of the Portland winter I use cheap wool gloves with a liner underneath to block the wind. I have two pairs. I keep one pair in the office and switch for the ride home.

    I also have the showers pass gloves which work well when it's really cold. If it's not fully cold my hands sweat in them.

    You didn't mention it, but I love my smartwool wool beanie for under the helmet and when it's raining hard I have the eVent cap for under the helmet.
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  10. #10
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    I commute year round in Portland. In the winter, it rains all the time, and in spring and fall, it rains most of the time. It also gets chilly, with a typical winter commute in blowing rain at 35 F.

    Jacket is an old Burley. Great jacket, I even have a spare tucked away. But Burley no longer makes apparel, so I'd buy the Showers Pass jackets which started out as copies of the Burley. The key is completely waterproof fabric (breathability is secondary), huge zippered underarm vents plus a wide back vent, and a rain-proof front zipper. Buy a larger size so that the jacket is loose enough for airflow and layering.

    Rain pants are Castillo. These have held up for me, two years and counting. The legs are slim which prevents fabric from getting caught in the chainring. They don't vent, which is disappointing.

    Booties are some cheap neoprene ones, the whole rear opens up w/ Velcro fastening, so they fit easily over my size 10.5 shoes. Neoprene is not fully waterproof, though, and water also gets in through the cleat slots in the bottom of the SPD shoe. Right now my shoes get a little wet during the worst days, while the rest of me stays dry. Next winter I will try some Showers Pass booties, which look more waterproof and have full soles. I will try to cut a tight-fitting hole around the cleat.

    I mostly wear gloves to stay warm, because I am not bothered by wet hands. Last year I used some Castelli neoprene gloves which gave me damp but fairly warm hands. When it is particularly cold, I wear ski gloves.

    A cycling cap under my helmet keeps my head dry enough. When it is cold, I may wear a thin balaclava too.

    Dressed like this, I can stand in the shower and stay dry, other than some wetness in my shoes.
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  11. #11
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I leave a spare set of clothes at work so I can change if I arrived soaked. Enough time in the rain on a bike, and you will get wet.

    When it's not cold, I prefer to wear as little as possible, because my body dries faster than clothing. To this end, I prefer a short sleeve shirt, shorts, and sandals. If I must wear socks and shoes, wool socks are best. In fact, synthetic socks are fine; cotton socks are the worst.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    I prefer to wear as little as possible, because my body dries faster than clothing.
    Yeah someone else who understands minimal clothing is sometimes better in wet conditions.

  13. #13
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    Re Shoes/Shoe Covers:

    I don't like the idea of waterproof shoes in this case. Water will still run down your leg, soak your sock and get into your shoe that way. I also question breathability so I don't know if I would want to wear them regularly and don't want to switch shoes for weather. Instead I prefer shoe covers, but NOT neoprene. I don't understand neoprene shoe covers, neoprene is designed to keep you warm when wet, like wetsuit, not for waterproof. Get a set of REAL waterproof shoe covers, not neoprene. I got the Endura Luminite II overshoe - Endura products - Luminite II Overshoe - E0107

    I have a size 45 or 46 and I think I have an XL that fits great. As a bonus, the reflective material on them is great in the dark. I highly recommend these. The other brand I would look at for waterproof is Gore bike wear.

  14. #14
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by mstraus View Post
    Re Shoes/Shoe Covers:

    I don't like the idea of waterproof shoes in this case. Water will still run down your leg, soak your sock and get into your shoe that way. I also question breathability so I don't know if I would want to wear them regularly and don't want to switch shoes for weather. Instead I prefer shoe covers, but NOT neoprene. I don't understand neoprene shoe covers, neoprene is designed to keep you warm when wet, like wetsuit, not for waterproof. Get a set of REAL waterproof shoe covers, not neoprene. I got the Endura Luminite II overshoe - Endura products - Luminite II Overshoe - E0107

    I have a size 45 or 46 and I think I have an XL that fits great. As a bonus, the reflective material on them is great in the dark. I highly recommend these. The other brand I would look at for waterproof is Gore bike wear.
    Ditto. I like the look of those.

    I use the MEC Drencher Shoe Covers (Unisex) - Mountain Equipment Co-op. Free Shipping Available not anywhere near as glamorous. But effective.

  15. #15
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    Oh, and gloves - same thing. Neoprene is not waterproof, but is designed to keep you warm when wet. I got a pair of Gore wind-stopper gloves, can't remember the model but the least insulated pair I think. They are fiarly waterproof, but not 100%. I love them. If you want 100% get a pair of gore gore-tex gloves. Personally I would get the "road" ones as they are not insulated as heavily as the others and will give you better feel.

  16. #16
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    Wow, that's a tonne of useful advice, thanks everybody! I think @jyl and @joeyduck got closest to the stuff I had in mind - a lot of people seem to be comfortable riding with minimal rain protection, but I just don't see how I'd be happy after an hour on the bike without something to keep the cold rainwater off. Since I tend to be riding relatively quickly and in traffic, the rain cape thing makes me a bit nervous...

    edna+mode.jpg

    ...but I can understand how they could work for folks with a different commute profile. The biggest thing for me is not so much how wet I'm gonna get riding in as whether the kit can be dried out before I need to suit up to head home. The prospect of squelching into wet shoes - a reality many days in the last year - doesn't exactly start the ride off right. Plus the stank that arises from shoes that stay wet for several riding days in a row - oh my. I'm definitely interested in one of the Lake or Northwave goretex boots as a hopeful solution to that problem.

    Thanks again for all the great suggestions!

  17. #17
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Heavy downpours as Winter Ocean storm fronts come ashore the cape was Perfect. I live with water on 3 sides oftown..

    and as I have a single grip shift I dont have to see which gear is next, they are sequenced in the IGH.

    no gloves are water-proof and breathable , covering my hands with the cape draped over the bars worked
    to not worry about needing the perfect glove. very light rainpants when its windy

    Hub dynamo lights mounted low so the cape doesn't drape over them
    Last edited by fietsbob; 08-01-14 at 05:14 PM.

  18. #18
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    Basic showers pass rain coat from REI $ 100.00. Rei waterproof pants. Waterproof hiking boots work well for me, insulated in the winter. GLOVES, best ever. Go to the big box store, buy those $7.99 gloves that are dipped in rubber. 100 % waterproof, layer a thin polypro underneath, and they grip the wet bars. Or go with goretex gloves. Shoe covers? Fit the rain pants to go over the hiking shoes, put a leg band reflector to go around the ankle so the water does not drain into your shoe, easy. J&G helmet cover as well.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeyduck View Post
    Yeah someone else who understands minimal clothing is sometimes better in wet conditions.
    +1. Why add overheated to wet? For me only summer consistently qualifies for that. Fall, there are plenty of days when I need a layer on if it's wet.

  20. #20
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    Wet from the inside or outside...Take your pick.....I like rain water better myself....
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  21. #21
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    cheap clear motel style shower cap for over the helmet
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  22. #22
    Wheel Builder Dream Cyclery's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
    I just bought a sugoi hydrolite rain jacket.......
    Be careful with Hydrolite, it rips like plastic wraps. My co-worker ripped his from a branch that stuck out in the park trail.
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  23. #23
    Wheel Builder Dream Cyclery's Avatar
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    My favourite rain gear is SKS Longboard fenders. It's not just water that splash you from the tires.

    I don't mind getting wet from rain in the summer. I rather enjoy it.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dream Cyclery View Post
    Be careful with Hydrolite, it rips like plastic wraps. My co-worker ripped his from a branch that stuck out in the park trail.
    Good to know! I tore my sugoi gore-tex running jacket mountain biking in the woods. The Hydrolite will only be used on the road though so hopefully it will stay intact.

  25. #25
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    Definitely fenders.

    Try doing a long ride in 35F hard rain without them...

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