“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Fell walking legend Alfred Wainwright was onto something when he coined the old adage and it’s just as applicable to cycling. Sure, riding in ice-cold, torrential rain can be a miserable experience - who wouldn’t prefer a blue sky? - but cycling in bad weather can be made all the more enjoyable with appropriate kit.
Fortunately, fabric technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with significant advancements both in the effectiveness of waterproof kit and, as we’ll come on to, its breathability. If you’re determined to ride whatever the weather, you’re in good hands.
Naturally, a waterproof jacket is the starting point for any wet-weather clothing ensemble - keep your core dry and you’ll take a significant step towards staying comfortable on the bike. However, rain-ready kit is available from head to toe. That’s where T3 comes in - we’re here to recommend the best waterproof cycling clothing to battle the elements.
Buying cycling gear for riding in the rain: what to look for
First up, let’s run though what you should look for when kitting yourself out for a ride in the rain.
Depending on the part of your body being clothed, you’ll be looking at kit that’s either waterproof or water resistant. When buying a jacket, you’ll have the option of both: genuinely waterproof jackets will be cut from a fabric with multiple layers - including a waterproof membrane - and will include features like taped seams and, in many cases, a waterproof zip.
Water resistant jackets (often referred to as windproof jackets) will be made from a less advanced fabric (with no waterproof membrane) - it will keep the chill at bay and shake off light showers, but persistent or heavy rain will eventually saturate the material. Naturally, a water resistant jacket will be cheaper than a genuinely waterproof option.
As we’ve already mentioned, the latest and greatest fabrics will aim to balance waterproof protection with breathability. That’s key - bike clothing is better than ever at keeping rain out, while still ensuring you’re not soaked through on the inside from sweating.
What other options do you have for staying dry beyond a jacket? Well, we’ve got product picks for jerseys, bib tights, gloves, caps, overshoes and socks.
Unlike a hardshell waterproof jacket, many of these pieces are best described as water resistant, rather than waterproof. Creating a genuinely waterproof product for a piece of clothing that sits next to the skin (for example, bib tights) is significantly more difficult, particularly when you need to incorporate the flexible, figure-hugging fit demanded by lycra-clad cyclists, multiple seams and, once again, enough breathability to handle the heat build-up generated from riding.
Ultimately, our picks represent the best products for cycling in the rain, while still keeping you comfortable on the bike. There’s no use keeping rain out if the fit doesn’t work for riding or you catch a chill through over-sweating. Weather protection, breathability and comfort - that’s the winning trifecta required to earn T3’s seal of approval.
Best waterproof jacket
Ask any cyclist to name a waterproof fabric and there’s a good chance Gore-Tex will be their reply. Gore-Tex has been synonymous with wet-weather clothing since 1969, when Robert W Gore invented a fabric capable of deflecting rain, while still allowing internal moisture and body heat to escape. Gore-Tex remains extremely popular today but there is a limit to its effectiveness - work hard enough and you’ll generate more sweat than the fabric is capable of shifting.
Enter, Gore-Tex Shakedry - the fabric that has, well, shaken up the world of waterproof jackets since it was introduced in 2015. Whereas most waterproof fabrics have three layers, with an inner lining, membrane and outer face fabric, Shakedry removes that external layer, essentially leaving the waterproof membrane exposed. The result is a significant improvement in breathability and a fabric so good at keeping rain out, you can quite literally shake it dry. Water simply beads up on the surface, regardless of how hard it’s raining or how long you’re out there for - nothing’s getting through here.
Shakedry is a licensed fabric, so you’ll find an increasing number of cycle clothing brands (including Castelli, 7mesh and Mavic) calling upon Gore’s expertise and incorporating the material into their own jackets. Gore Wear is the fabric company’s own clothing marque and the latest C5 Gore-Tex Shakedry 1985 Insulated Jacket steps things up again by incorporating a lightweight layer of Polartec Alpha insulation to the party piece.
It’s a relatively thin layer of insulation, but surprisingly warm - if you want just one jacket for winter riding, this is it. On the other hand, if you want the versatility of a featherweight, packable waterproof jacket for year-round riding, worn on top of thermal layers in winter or stowed in a jersey pocket in case of a summer storm, this isn’t it. Instead, Gore still offers the regular C5 Gore-Tex Shakedry 1985 Jacket, with no insulation.
Either way, this is cutting-edge clothing technology that comes at a cost. You’ll need seriously deep pockets for the brilliant protection provided.
Best water resistant jersey
The Castelli Gabba short-sleeve water resistant jersey changed the way cyclists think about wet-weather clothing. First introduced back in 2010, the Gabba strikes an ideal balance between weather protection and breathability, for riders who want to remain warm and comfortable, inside and out.
Castelli has since introduced the Perfetto as a long-sleeve version of the Gabba. The Perfetto isn’t designed to be completely waterproof but it does a mighty good job in the kind of cool, changeable conditions common in many climates. It’s primarily made from Gore Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric with a water-repellent finish, so will shake off showers and road spray, plus the material has a fair amount of breathability built in - not as much as a standard polyester jersey but more than a typical waterproof jacket, meaning you get that weather protection without turning into a sweaty mess.
If things do start to get toasty, there’s a full-length zip at the front and vents on the flanks, while a lighter fabric is used under the arms. Other neat touches include a generously dropped tail, drainage holes for the well-sized rear pockets, and a wide range of colour options, from stealthy black to fluorescent yellow.
If you want the last word in wet-weather protection, you’ll need a hardshell waterproof jacket, but if you’re not quite sure what the weather’s up to - and let’s be honest, that’s a lot of the time - the Perfetto Long Sleeve is a really versatile piece that can be worn across a range of conditions. The key here is that it will keep a lot of rain out, while still keeping you comfortable.
Best water resistant bib tights
Cyclists have three main options for full-length legwear. Anyone who likes to ride fast will typically opt for bib tights, while mountain bikers or urban cyclists can turn to waterproof trousers. Some bike clothing brands also offer trousers designed to look like regular slacks, but with cycle-specific features built in, like the use of a stretchy fabric and subtle reflective details.
We’ll focus on bib tights here. Ultimately, keeping your legs dry when it’s raining heavily is a tough ask - a genuinely waterproof material just won’t have the stretch required to offer a close, supple fit. Some bib tights do add a level of water resistance to the mix though, with dhb’s Aeron Rain Defence tights among the best options.
Available through Wiggle, dhb’s clothing has a well-earned reputation for value and that’s the case here - they’re not cheap at £100 but hold their own against more expensive competition. The brand has teamed up with fabric specialists Schoeller to create a windproof, water resistant material that retains breathability and stretch.
There’s still a limit as to what these tights can handle but they’ll help keep you comfortable in light rain and showers. If you really want to stay dry, you’ll need a set of mudguards...
This one’s our wild card, deviating from the theme of clothing, but mudguards make a massive difference when riding in the rain. Mudguards come in all different configurations - make sure you buy ones compatible with your bike - but these SKS Raceblade Pro ‘guards are our pick of the bunch. They are designed to fit any road bike without mudguard eyelets and with tyres up to 25mm wide.
Mudguards always take a little perseverance to mount but these are easier than most and offer a good level of coverage. The quick-release design means you can whip them off once spring rolls around, while there’s also a Raceblade Pro XL version for bikes with wider tyres (up to 32mm). All things considered, a very smart investment for riding in the rain - and they’ll help keep your bike clean, too. Double win.
● Best waterproof gloves
Keeping your hands comfortable through winter is a perennial challenge for cyclists. Your extremities get a tough deal in cold weather, with warm blood diverted to the core in freezing conditions, and the hands are particularly prone, blasted by cold wind and rain on the handlebar.
It’s worth us saying, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a truly waterproof set of cycling gloves. The complex structure of our hands, and the number of seams found on gloves as a result, combined with the dexterity required for safely and comfortably handling a bike, mean water will creep into even the hardiest gloves at some point.
You can find gloves for all kinds of conditions but for riding in the rain, there are two main options: gloves with a waterproof membrane or those made from neoprene. For the former, we can recommend Gore Wear’s C5 Gore-Tex Gloves. As the name suggests, they feature a Gore-Tex membrane to keep water out unless it’s tipping down and there’s also a generous amount of insulation built into the low-bulk construction, with the gloves rated down to about five degrees. Breathability is good, thanks to the use of Gore-Tex, making these an all-round option for winter riding.
Neoprene is often preferred for riding in the rain thanks to the material’s natural insulating qualities - neoprene retains warmth, even when wet. In fact, it works like a wetsuit, trapping a thin layer of warm air between hand and glove. The downside is reduced breathability. That’s less of a concern for your hands when it’s raining, until you have to get going after a mid-ride cafe stop - it can take a while for your hands to warm up again and in turn generate the heat required for neoprene to do its job.
We’re fans of Sportful’s Neoprene Gloves, which offer a slimline fit, reinforced wrists, a generously extended cuff, and plenty of silicone grip on the palm and fingers.
Best waterproof cap
The humble cotton cap is a cycling staple but Sportful’s Fiandre NoRain Cap offers a fresh take on an established design. Sportful describes this as a 'fully waterproof cycling cap for extreme conditions' and it provides an additional line of defence when riding in cold, wet weather.
The fabric is billed as both waterproof and windproof. While it’s certainly the latter, water resistant is probably a more accurate description of its capabilities in the rain. The fabric will start to become saturated in a heavy, persistent downpour, but this is undoubtedly hardier than a typical cap. The seams are sealed, too, helping to keep your noggin dry.
The cap remains lightweight so fits easily under a helmet, while Sportful also offers a ‘Warm’ version of the hat with additional protection over the ears and neck.
Best waterproof overshoes
Completely waterproof overshoes, like gloves, are near-impossible to find - if it’s biblical out there, water will find a way of working its way in through the cleat holes and vents on your shoes, or by running down your legs into the top of the overshoes. Some are much better than others though, and the Shimano S-Phyre Insulated Shoe Covers are right up there with the best. In fact, they topped our round-up of the best overshoes.
The overshoes, part of Shimano’s flagship S-Phyre clothing range, are made from a coated neoprene, providing excellent protection against the elements - water beads up on the surface of the material and runs off, even if it’s raining cats and dogs. Insulation is also spot on, thanks to the neoprene construction, and the snug yet flexible fit provides a good seal around your shoes. Still not convinced? Combine these with waterproof socks and you’re ready to face anything.
Best waterproof socks
While overshoes are designed to keep rain at bay from the outside, these Sealskinz socks aim to keep your feet dry even if your shoes are sopping wet. How so? Sealskinz has implemented a dual defence made up of a waterproof membrane and the firm’s Hydrostop technology.
The socks are made from a fabric dubbed Stretchdry that does what it says on the tin - the material incorporates a membrane to keep water out, while still ensuring there’s the stretch expected from a regular pair of socks. Hydrostop, on the other hand, provides a more watertight seal around the calf, helping to prevent ingress, but as with most things billed as waterproof, rain can still get in if conditions are bad enough.
The construction results in a slightly bulkier sock but your feet should still fit comfortably into your cycling shoes without restricting blood flow. These socks are a smart shout for mountain bikers with a habit of taking on huge puddles head on, or road cyclists who want to add a final line of defence beneath a set of overshoes.