How to dress for wet weather cycling (video)

Keeping extremities cosy and is the key to comfortable winter miles

It is no excuse not to head out on your bike when the heavens have opened outside. However, neither is it the time to leave the house dressed in your standard cycling kit.

You may think that dressing to ride in the rain is purely for comfort, but it can also have a large effect on your performance.

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Former pro rider and now cycling coach Dave Lloyd gave us his take on riding in inclement weather: “When I first started riding a bike, rain was a psychological thing. But I had some very good advice the first time I ever complained — ‘You don’t leak do you? Get out there and get it done!”’

Riding in the rain is inevitable for most of us

The type of layering you decide to put on can be dictated by what season it is when you are riding in the rain, with the rain potentially playing havoc with your core temperature.

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“In the winter, [rain] is made worse by the cold and even more by wind chill,” says Lloyd. “The most important parts to keep warm are your head, hands, feet, knees and chest.”

The essentials

  • Mudguards are a must
  • Head, chest, knees, feet and hands are vulnerable
  • Disposable clothing can be just as effective as expensive garments

The significance of keeping your body temperature at an optimal level can have a direct effect on your bike-handling skills; past research has found that the influence of cold air and water on the body can cause shivering.

This leads to muscle tension and a loss of performance in the upper extremities when compared to a ‘thermoneutral’ temperature of 27°C.

Lloyd has a set clothing protocol he follows, with some methods suggesting that you don’t need the latest gear where alternatives can already be found in your home, “if it’s very cold I wear a beanie to cover my ears — and cut up a plastic bag to put inside my helmet to stop the wind getting to my head — as well as a snood to keep my neck warm.

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“In very wet weather I would use a rain jacket, or just a gilet if the rain is showery, but I would never wear woollen gloves because if they get wet, the wind chill will freeze your hands. I personally use ski gloves, which are waterproof and can be used to rub your front and rear tyres free from rubbish washed onto the road.

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“Your feet are going to get cold if it’s raining in the winter so I would use thermal socks and then a plastic bag over my shoes and neoprene overshoes, or waterproof overshoes on top of the lot. I do my long Sunday 100-mile rides in the winter rain dressed exactly like this and never
get cold.”

Get your clothing choices right

Key points

Dressing for the rain doesn’t mean your performance has to suffer. A tight fitting rain jacket can make sure you are still aero on the bike rather than a baggy jacket that can produce a parachute effect.

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In wet conditions, wearing glasses with clear or yellow lenses can help stop water from spraying into your eyes. You can also prevent spray going into your eyes by wearing a peaked cycling cap underneath your helmet to keep the rain off of your face.

Fitting mudguards to your bike will contribute to keeping you dry as well as making your training more comfortable and enjoyable. Clip-on options are available and can be easily attached and removed in-between rides.

Find a ‘cross bike

Experiment with what types of clothing work best for you. Some riders may feel fewer layers are needed if they are generally a warm person, others may feel the cold a bit more easily. Listen to your body and adapt to the situation.

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Don’t automatically pile copious numbers of layers on. It might be raining, but it could still be warm. Overheating can cause excess perspiration, which in turn can cause your body temperature to drop despite the extra clothing.

Take into the account the terrain you are training on, as rain can have a bigger effect on your core temperature when going up or downhill. Effects of wind chill will be far greater when descending, with overheating more likely when climbing.