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Rain capes : an alternative to rain suits for effective bike rides in the rain; raincapes that attach to your bicycle handlebars and keep you dry and cool.

Bike Rain Capes vs. Bicycle Rain Suits

An alternative to rain suits

How they ride bicycles in the rain in England

There's no bad weather, only bad clothing !

I love riding my bike. I hate riding my bike when it's cold and raining. I hate, hate, hate riding my bike when my feet are squishy wet. What got me started on bicycle capes was this photo of Parisian gendarmes (click thumbnail for larger image in new window).

In my never-ending quest to avoid steep learning curves, (I don't climb them well, either) I've realized that in England they (1) ride bikes a lot and (2) get a lot of rain, so I thought I'd try to see how they handle bicycle riding in the rain in Jolly Old.

In England they use "rain capes", water-repellent quasi-ponchos. As the Center for Appropriate Transport photo on the right indicates, they're supposed to go over the handlebars and seat and provide a big waterproof tent with lots of ventilation beneath it. (What the photo also indicates is that in order to use a rain cape, you also must use a full set of fenders).

There are elastic loops built into the front of the rain cape that go over your wrists (sometimes the brake hoods), and in the back there's a waist loop (sometimes they're leg loops). The function of the internal straps is to keep the rain cape in place in windy conditions.

Click here for a Bike Forums discussion of rain capes.

The downside of the rain cape is that the garment resembles a sail in crosswinds. The great benefit of a rain cape vs. the traditional stateside rain suit is that the rain cape (with fenders) keeps you dry and cool, whereas in sustained extertion, GoreTex rainsuits tend to build up heat and sweat. When you ride a sustained distance in a GoreTex rainset you still get wet, it's just your own moisture.

 The highest-regarded manufacturer of rain capes is Carradice, of seat and pannier fame. They make a one-size-fits-all rain cape that's high-viz yellow, and a size-specific version raincape that's dark green. Here's a list of US Carradice rain cape suppliers.

This is the Carradice Pro Route Rain Cape, with spats and helmet cover. Lots of visibility but it only comes in "one size fits all". This is what I ended up with, but I didn't get the leggings.
These are the Carradice Duxback Rain outfits (pants, jacket, rain cape). Made in various sizes but it seems low-viz, almost camoflage.

This is a police rain cape available
in the UK from Niton.

I was unsure of which to try; I love the bright-yellow, but I may have needed the large size offered by the Duxback. Fortunately I was in England in 2005, and identified a bike shop that carries these rain capes, so I've purchased both the ProRoute and the Duxback.

I'm very pleased with the ProRoute, it's got two internal front loops that your forearms go through, and another internal back strap that goes around your waist. It's very high vis, and it fits me well.

If you're interested in a rain cape, you might try the blokes that took great care of me: email or website.

Spring 2006 REI Rain Gear Additions

SealSkinz Waterproof Socks (REI)   In anticipation of the 2006 TOSRV, I invested in a pair of SealSkinz waterproof socks, along with some polypro liners at REI. I've also got a black waterproof helmet cover.   Polypro Liners (REI)

Fall 2006 MEC Rain Gear

I've waited a year to get this, it's been out of stock on the MEC.ca website and the stores won't ship to a US address. This raincover includes a kepi-ish flap on the back to shield the space between the helmet cover and the collar of your jacket/cape. It's wonderful. It's also, without a doubt, the geekiest thing I've ever worn on a bicycle, and that's saying something.

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