Nine bits of cycling kit that just don’t work in the rain

Some kit isn't cut out for summer showers

Image: Sunada

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

There comes a time in every British summer when days of uninterrupted, wall-to-wall sunshine suddenly give way to falling rivers and puddles that could rival the water volume in your local lido.

Summer rain, at least, is warm rain - but it's just as wet and thus in most respects has exactly the same impact on your kit as downpour does in the winter months, just without the additional risk of hypothermia.

>>> How to cycle in the rain

The difference is that in winter, cyclists tend to prepare with the expectation of rain: waterproof shoe covers, caps and mudguards.

Summer rain, comparatively, tends to highlight the failures of certain kit inventions...

Helmet vents

Geraint Thomas riding for Wales at the Commonwealth road race. Photo Andy Jones
(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Aerodynamics and breathability are two important sides of the venting discussion that we look at in helmet reviews.

More vents usually means less aerodynamics, and more movement of air, whilst less vents make for greater speed weaponry and less breathability.

Of course, if cool air can't get in, neither can water - so actually aero lids can be handy in the wet, too. If you've got an airy, well ventilated lid - prepare to feel the pitter patter.

Carbon rims


Carbon is constantly evolving, but braking in the wet isn't its speciality

As a rule, carbon rims are lighter, stiffer and more compliant than aluminium, so some of the best bike wheels use the wonder material. The one thing that can let the material down (though there are exceptions) is its ability to be snagged by the brake pad when wet.

That's one of the beauties of disc brakes - they allow for carbon rims without a care in the world.

Cut outs

Cut outs: not always ideal in the wet
(Image credit: chris catchpole)

Not everyone likes a saddle with a cut out, though the vast majority of women's bike saddles use them as do many men's versions, the idea being that the groove provides pressure relief and allows for normal blood flow to some of those delicate areas.

If you're riding without mudguards, then the cut out is also going to do an excellent job of providing a window for all the grit and spray to cover your shorts.

Wrap around lenses (and visors)

Even pros like Ben Alexander O'Connor (Dimension Data) give up on glasses when it really pours. Image: Sunada
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Wrap around lenses provide distraction free vision, giving a rider a crystal clear view of the road ahead. Unless they steam up.

Glasses' fog is something brands are working exceptionally hard to fix - but in heavy rain, it's neigh on impossible to prevent - and sometimes even the best of the best have to accept that they just can't see anymore with the specs on.

Your best race tyres

Ultremo ZXL Racestar tyre

Most race tyres favour a supple, grippy compound over puncture protection.

This does mean that when paired with sensible pressure (eg 10-2opsi less in the rain), race tyres do hold traction well on wet corners. But they don't put up much of a fight against the bits of grit and flint that get washed up from the side of the road.

Squishy bar tape

Sagan's World Champion bike from 2015 (Image: Sunada)
(Image credit: Sunada)

There are certain bar tape options that work excellently in the wet - anything grippy like the stuff from Lizard Skins should serve you well.

Anything with a gel like squish can start to feel a bit like a mushy bog on your handlebars.

White shoes

At lease Koen Bouwman paired his white shoes with black socks for this wet Giro stage (Photo: Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Oh, we do love white cycling shoes. So clean and crisp and pristine.

Until they get wet - after which they'll never be the same again.

Extra marks for inconvenience if you pair your white shoes with white socks - because there's a certain degree of grit and grime that will just never wash off.

... or anything else white...

Miguel Ángel López racing Under 23 World Champs in 2014. Image: Sunada
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Enough said.

Touch screens

Dedicated cycling computers usually work well (with a few exceptions) - and you can get some great phone cases.

But if you're using a device that hasn't quite nailed touch screen capability, and doesn't know the difference between rain drops and finger tips, be prepared for oncoming frustration.

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