So much of the sport of cycling is about overcoming obstacles. Hills, opponents and our own innate physical weaknesses (it never gets easier, you just get faster). One of the most disheartening challenges, however, is rain. It weighs your down, disrupts your vision, and it cools your body and saps your strength. Even when the rain stops, your ride will be cold and wet as you plow thorough puddles. But, just as we invented derailleurs and cassettes for mountains, we’ve got a wealth of solutions to keep you warm and dry, so you can ride when you want, not “weather permitting”.
Your go-to, number one solution for wet weather is fenders. They’ll be your best friends when it comes to riding through mud, puddles, snow, salt (it happens) and anything else that you ride through. Without these, everything your tire touches gets flung at you, usually striking a line up your back, but oftentimes coating your face in whatever you just passed over. So, fenders cover the tire and prevent all that mess from getting on your bike or on you. Fenders typically come in bolt-on or clip-on varieties.
For the best coverage and protection, bolt-on fenders are the best. If your bike has the appropriate appointments, you can actually fix fenders directly to it via screw-on points on the frame. This will allow for a much larger, more effective fender that can wrap around the wheel. Take a look at Bike Smart’s Elmer fender set for a great example of one of these full-coverage fenders. They come in sizes for 700c and 26″ wheels.
The other type is a clip-on fender. Literally using straps and clips to attach themselves, these will work on just about any kind of bike out there (even for fatbikes, like the Portland Design Works Mudshovel). Their strongest point is their versatility: put ’em on when it rains and take ’em off when it’s dry. That versatility comes at the cost of coverage, as they won’t be able to wrap around wheels with anywhere near the sort of effectiveness bolt-on fenders can.
Jackets and pants:
So you’ve got fenders to protect you and your bike from below, but what about actively falling rain? For that, nothing beats a waterproof jacket and pant combo.
The basic models will give you essential water protection and a general, layered fit and are best used in emergency situations, like when you go out for a ride and get caught by the one rain cloud in the state. Usually these kinds of protective layers will get a few uses before their waterproofing wears off. Ultimately, they’re made to be replaced when needed, which means they’re inexpensive, too.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find equipment made to last. These jackets and pants often come with waterproofness ratings similar to snow and ski equipment. One example is the Endura Gridlock II pants, which come in rated at 10k for waterproofness. That means every square inch of fabric can take 10,000 millimeters of rain a day without leaking (that’s over 32 feet!). The Endura Gridlock II pants will keep riders dry through most rainy conditions.
Cycling-specific rain clothing will usually have flexible panels for active motion, better breathability because you’ll be sweating underneath, and a style cut for the riding position. Additionally, reflective material, embedded lights, and warming insulation will differentiate one jacket or pant from another. The Specialized Element series is a prime example of the ultimate in waterproof jackets and bibs.
Getting your biggest bits (torso and legs) covered will do a good job in keeping your extremities warm in the rain, but for longer rides you’ll want to keep your hands and feet covered too.
Being right out in front, your hands take the brunt of the foul weather, and a good pair of gloves will do wonders for your ride. Look for something with a bit of insulation and full-length fingers like the Specialized Deflect or Element series. An added benefit of going to something long-fingered is that it’ll help with gripping slick, wet handlebars.
For feet, there are slip-over options like the toe covers Specialized makes (their Deflect series), which can be put in the back of a jersey before a ride, or tucked back in once it dries up. Endura has their Luminite shoe covers that will provide water protection over your common road or mountain style cycling shoe. Like clip-on fenders, versatile options don’t work as well as the more permanent solutions: true waterproof cycling shoes and boots like the 45NRTH Japanthers.
For the gaps left between your core and your extremities, you can bring along thermal layers so you can keep warm, even when wet. The Specialized Therminal series comes in cuts for arms, legs and knees, and they can all be stashed neatly in a jersey pocket as well.
The key to cycling in inclement weather is to have the right equipment for the conditions you’re caught in. Whether it’s a surprise rain shower on an otherwise sunny day or a steady downpour, there are ways to stay warm and dry and Erik’s has you covered.
A special thanks to Andrew Stimpson, our Madison West Assistant Store Manager, for writing this article.