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There are a couple of reasons why you might want a good quality rain jacket for your bike commute:
1. Because your bespoke single-breasted wool suit (handcrafted in Saville Row, London) and finest Italian silk tie just don’t respond well to a sudden downpour and/or
2. Even if you’re in spandex or a Walmart button-down, it’s so much more pleasant to have the rain rolling off your jacket and down to the ground, rather than through every layer of clothing you’re wearing to your skin
There are lots of cycling rain jackets to choose from though and you need to be careful to choose one that’s got the features you need.
Some might be only water-resistant (as opposed to actually waterproof). Some might be more suited to hiking rather than cycling.
However, there are plenty of great rain jackets that are perfect for bike commuting. I’ve got a list of my recommended jackets below and a handy reference guide below that as to the features that it’s worth looking out for when you’re choosing the one that’s right for you.
The clouds are looking a little ominous, so let’s dive in quickly and take a look.
How to choose a rain jacket for cycling
Clearly the most obvious feature to look out for with wet weather gear is how waterproof it is. Besides that there are a number of other elements that it’s useful to look for when you’re hunting down the best rain jacket for your commute to work. Let’s take a look.
Whilst some unscrupulous jacket manufacturers market their rain jackets as waterproof, when in fact they are really water-resistant or shower-proof, the best jackets are those which are actually waterproof with full taping on the seams to ensure there’s no leakage anywhere.
Look for jackets that have at least a 10,000mm waterproof rating. It’s also worth looking for those little attentions-to-detail that show you the manufacturers that really care about the quality of their product – one example to watch out for is storm-proof zips.
With old-school waterproof jackets there used to be a real issue with sweat and condensation to build up on the inside of the jacket. This could often leave you more soaked through than if you hadn’t been wearing the rain jacket in the first place. Thankfully, this has now changed with fabrics that are waterproof and also have high levels of breathability.
Aside from fabric choice, manufacturers can also improve jacket breathability by adding features such as ventilated panels or pit zips to allow even better transfer of moisture.
The fit: slim or baggy
The choice is between slim and form-fitting or loose and baggy.
If you’re looking for a speedier commute with minimum wind resistance, and won’t be wearing your 3-piece suit underneath, then a slim road racing style jacket is perfect. If you’ll be cycling into work at a more gentle pace, wearing your work clothes rather than tight spandex, then it makes more sense to go with a looser more roomy jacket.
The size that a jacket packs down to is only of concern if you’ll be stowing it in a pocket or backpack for emergency downpours. If you’re wearing it throughout the journey then this doesn’t really matter.
Generally speaking the more waterproof a jacket the less packable it is. This is particularly the case at the lower end of the price spectrum.
Again, this is more of an issue for cyclists looking to set a personal best time. Lighter jackets (especially cheaper ones) may have sacrificed waterproofness in order to cut weight. So decide how important weight is for you vs rain proofing.
Other important features
Jackets that are designed for cycling typically have features which you won’t necessarily find on non-cycling jackets. The most common is a longer length at the back as this keeps your butt covered and dry as you bend over the handlebars.
You might also find more snug-fitting collars (to stop rain dripping down your neck) and tighter cuffs.
One aspect which is especially important to look out for is either a bright fabric and/or reflective detailing. Rainy weather often brings reduced visibility and it’s worth doing everything you can to make sure that other road users can easily see you as they’re driving along.
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