Biking in the rain can be most unpleasant. Still, many folks choose to do it. Maybe you rely on your bicycle for commuting, or perhaps you ride for fitness/pleasure and live in a city where rain is a reality for a good chunk of the year. Whatever the reason, reliable wet-weather cycling gear can make or break the experience.
I know firsthand. When I first moved to Seattle, Washington, almost a decade ago, I was comically unprepared to handle the seven to eight months of annual rain, both mentally and gear-wise. But I’ve adapted and now find myself peddling through precipitation like it’s a sunny day. What follows are the pieces of gear I’ve come to rely on to stay both dry and safe when the weather is at its worst.
Helmet: Lumos Ultra MIPS
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A good quality helmet is a wise investment for biking in any condition. The best models use MIPS safety technology, which can also be found in motorcycle and ski helmets. My favorite bike helmet for city riding is the Lumos Ultra MIPS because it’s comfortable and includes built-in, high-power front and rear lights.
At dusk, I set the Lumos Ultra lights to blink so that motorists can easily see me, but once the sun sets, I switch them on to a constant light stream. You can also signal turns via the helmet lights using a small Bluetooth remote that attaches to the handlebars. Admittedly, I don’t use this feature often, as I prefer to signal with my arms.
In terms of battery life, the Ultra lights stay on at full power for up to 4 hours — 10 hours in blinking mode. And it’s rechargeable via USB with a 3-hour charge time.
Gloves: Oakley Park B1B Gloves
This one may have its naysayers but I stand by my recommendation. My favorite gloves for wet-weather biking aren’t biking gloves at all; instead, they are the Oakley Park B1B Gloves. Intended for skiing and snowboarding in terrain parks, these gloves are ridiculously grippy and provide greater wrist coverage than most biking gloves. They also keep my hands warm in temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit and dry even in downpours. Beyond that, they are quite comfortable and fairly breathable.
For even colder biking conditions, you may want to consider the Pearl Izumi Am-FIB Lobster Gloves. While I personally have not used these, many of my fellow cold-weather cyclists swear by them. And come on, who among us has never dreamed of having lobster claws?
Outer layers: Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket & Marmot Men’s Precip Eco Pant
For outer layering during the wet months, I’ve had good luck with the Gore-Tex Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket and Marmot Precip Eco pants. The former weighs next to nothing, yet provides great water protection and more than enough stretch. I also like it because if the sun does come out —it won’t — I can take the jacket off and easily pack it away into my small bike frame bag.
When it comes to pants, I only rock the Marmots when the rain is particularly hard. Otherwise, I wear just my base layer pants (more on that below) and a pair of workout shorts. That said, when the Marmot Precips do make an appearance, they serve dutifully. Like the jacket, the pants are lightweight and very easy to move in. The bottoms also have a drawstring for sinching so that your pants don’t get caught in the bike chain.
Base layers: Smartwool Long Sleeve & Smartwool Bottoms
Full disclosure, I’m obsessed with my Smartwool base layers and wear my long sleeve and bottoms for everything from snowboarding to cycling, hiking to jogging. These garments, made from Merino Wool, are extremely warm, yet breathable and don’t retain moisture. They are also insanely comfortable to cruise around the house in.
Fenders: SKS X-Tra Dry Rear & SKS S-board Front Quick-release fenders
My SKS X-Tra Dry Rear Fender has served me well for 12-plus years — that’s some solid longevity for $20. As the name implies, it’s quick and easy to attach and detach from your seatpost. It also fits most bikes and more importantly, does a great job keeping mud, water and grime from splashing up onto your back.
For even more weather protection, consider adding the SKS S-board Front Quick-release Fender to your setup, especially if you’re like me and don’t like puddle water splashing up into your face.
Lights: Cygolite Metro Pro 1100 (front) & Cygolight Hotshot Pro 200C (rear)
Last but not least, we have bike lights. We briefly covered lights while discussing the Lumos Ultra above, but helmet lights alone are not enough to keep you safe during the darker months of winter. Instead, you’ll want to invest in a powerful pair of bike-mounted front and rear lamps with good water resistance and battery life.
Next to my fenders, my Cygolights Metro Pro and Hotshot Pro are my longest-serving pieces of bike gear. Used by many city cyclists, both models offer USB charging and quick-release mounting. On the subject, be sure to take your lights with you whenever locking up. For whatever reason, bike light theft seems to be at an all-time high.
There you have it, my top picks for staying dry and comfy while pumping the pedals all winter long. While these may not be the priciest or most technically advanced pieces of biking gear out there, they all have served me well for many seasons. And I have no doubt they will do the same for you.