As cycling becomes more than a hobby, more options are open to cyclists when it comes to accessories. Thanks to Merino wool there are now tons of stylish clothes than are appropriate both on and off the bicycle and thanks to the popularity of bicycle culture, there are tons of bike accessories, vacations and tools to make the life of a cyclist easier.
So what about the one thing that can invariably ruin a planned outing on your beloved cycle: weather.
Cycling in wet clothes isn’t much fun, especially as they take a long time to dry when you reach the destination.
In this post we’re going to focus on a traditional solution to the problem:
Waterproof cycling capes and ponchos.
The question is are capes and ponchos right for you…or are they a little too Sherlock Holmes?
Why Bike Capes/Ponchos?
If you live in a place like London or the Pacific Northwest then rain is a part of life one must accept. You can either stay in when it rains (all the time) or find the perfect way to stay dry when its wet out.
The best thing about bike capes is that they are made especially for cycling. Typically these bike ponchos are equipped with an extra long tail that allows you to sit on it and avoid a wet seat. You can even use the long tail to cover the seat and prevent any future wetness.
In fact you get full coverage from your head to your thighs, and even if you find the right one you can even find one that covers your handlebars. These full-coverage “cycle slicks” are gaining popularity for cyclists living in a rain-soaked region.
Bike ponchos and capes also come in a variety of textures and colors, and most importantly come in one-size fits all for quick online ordering.
While cycling capes are pretty magnificent they are not infallible. In fact many people have forever forsaken these capes decades ago when these babies first debuted. There have been complaints that some capes make signaling close to impossible, which any London cyclists knows can be a dangerous thing.
Other disadvantages include the wind, specifically that they easily catch the wind, which can make a routine trip treacherous. Of course there are different designs to help combat this, but you are basically cycling around in a gigantic tent so catching the win on occasion is to be expected.
The two most common gripes in regards to cycling capes and ponchos are lack of ventilation and water sneaks in when you attempt to avoid turning into a human steam room. Overcoming these objections will require a willingness to do your research and often, a willingness to lay down some serious cash. Properly ventilated usually means higher end material, which often means a higher price tag.
Despite these drawbacks, living in a rainy place like London means some type of cycling cape or poncho is a cycling necessity.
What Your Cycle Poncho Must Have
A good bike cape should be sturdy, like heavy-duty, so that it can actually protect you from the rain. Some of the cycle cape/ponchos on the market are quite thin and will only keep you dry in a light drizzle and nothing more.
Rain doesn’t only fall in the day time so it is important that the poncho you choose has some type of reflective material to increase your visiblity. Much of the bicycle gear has this, but when you have to cover that gear up you want to make sure you’re still seen.
I’m sorry to say, in this instance, size does matter. You want a poncho that is going to cover you, no matter how much of you there is. Don’t simply look for “one-size fits all” or focus only on small, medium or large; you need check out the actual dimensions to make sure the poncho will fit over your rucksack, helmet and cover enough of your body to actually keep you dry. Otherwise…what’s the point?
Where can you find one of these handy cycle ponchos? Here are a few you might find cool enough to wear.
This brightly colored cycle cape will not only make sure you’re seen when visibility isn’t the best, but it’ll make sure you stay dry as well. The 3M schothlite reflective material is available in medium and large, as well as multiple colors if flourescent yellow isn’t your cup of tea. This poncho is large enough to fit over your helmet as well as any other carriers on your person, so you and your stuff reach your final destination untouched by rain.
If you’re worried that you won’t be able to find a stylish way to keep dry while you cycle, worry no more! Water Off A Duck’s Back produces some high quality–and suitably stylish–coats and capes to help you stay dry and safe while you cycle around the city.
The coat is a double-breasted trench with reflective material (cuffs, belts and collar) and tailored for cycling. This means you can wear a real coat without worrying about a tight fit about the arms and shoulder areas. It looks good enough to wear without the cycle but it’s perfectly suitable for those days when you just have to get out on two wheels. It is waterproof and perfectly breathable and it comes with a detachable hood.
Then there’s the cape which is also waterproof and breathable, despite the fact that you might still get a little overheated, you are after all engaging in physical exercise. But what’s more is that these capes have reflective piping on the back and collar so you can be seen on the road and it is long enough to cover your backside as you lean over to cycle. This brand is amazing because it allows dual-purpose clothing that active cyclists will find attractive.
This is a great budget-friendly cycle cape that is waterproof and large enough to keep most of you dry during a wet spell. It also comes with a detachable hood if that’s the part you loathe most about cycling capes. Get to where you’re going dry as the desert and then fold it up and put it away until it’s time to head out again.
Of course some of these capes are quite pricey and you can pop down to your local army surplus and get one cheaper…if you desire. Just make sure you give it a good look to make sure it’ll get the job done, or you’ll still have to shell out more for one that does get the job done. The Cycle Chic cape, for example, is just £35 but if you want the cheapest you can find your best bet is army surplus or Argos where £15 or less will keep you mostly dry.
Before you brush off the idea of a bicycle cape as utterly ridiculous take a moment and ask yourself what are the chances you’ll stay indoors when it rains? If you’re like me, chances are slim you will and these capes–stylish they are not–gives cyclists a way to get around in the rain without getting wet.
Surely that’s good enough to forgo being cool for a few minutes…isn’t it?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.