Top tips plus the go-to gear for wet weather riding as chosen by the BikeRadar test team
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These are the best tips and top kit choices for cycling in the rain as rated by our expert testers.
Choosing the best kit for wet weather road riding and mountain biking is best done with a bit of trial and error — there’s a lot of poorly executed, badly designed or just plain rubbish gear out there, and separating the wheat from the chaff can take a not inconsiderable investment of both time and money.
Luckily, the brave folks on the BikeRadar test team have decades of experience riding in the rain, damp, snow, hail and every other form of precipitous weather under their belts.
In that time, most have settled on a number of go-to items that they won’t leave the house without when the going gets moist.
Here, we also highlight a number of tips and tricks that the team have picked up along the way that help them cope in the rain.
Tips for wet weather cycling — Jack Luke’s advice for riding in the rain
Having grown up in the Scottish Highlands, I know a thing or two about riding in wet weather — even if the persistent dreich my native country is known for is absent, it’s almost a given that the ground will be wet, forcing me to try every trick in the book.
So, here are a number of tips I’ve picked up over the years.
1. Plastic bags before socks
It may feel and look horrendous, but putting a plastic bag on between socks or against skin is the best way to keep your tootsies toasty.Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Strange as it may sound, I’ve found that sliding my trotters into a plastic freezer bag before putting my socks on is the best way to make sure they stay warm.
There’s no denying that it feels super gross but the bag acts as a vapour barrier and keeps (inevitably) saturated socks away from your skin, which will suck away any warmth.
I originally stole this tip from a UK Climbing article by Andy Kirkpatrick — which I must have referenced a dozen times on site by now — who knows a thing or two about keeping warm in cold environments, so you can be sure this one works
Trust me with this one and give it a try — throw away the tinfoil and give this a whirl the next time it’s raining, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
2. Mudguards are not a crime
Velo Orange’s alloy mudguards/fenders offer durable practicality at a price that’s easy to swallow.Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Ignore the protestations of Warren below – mudguards are not a crime!
A set of high-quality, full-cover mudguards (or fenders, for the American-types among you) are an invaluable addition to your bike through the wet months and, if well-fitted, will provide years of rattle-free service.
I’m of the opinion that, if you choose the right set and fit them well, mudguards can even complement the look of the bike.
If you want to ensure you stay dry on the bike, then don’t be ashamed to fit a set of suitably dorky mudflaps too for their spray-deflecting qualities.
It’s pleasing to see water instantly repel from its waxy-looking surface, and it’s true to say that this jacket has kept me smiling through numerous torrential downpours.
It also has an incredible knack of keeping my body temperature just right for anything between a few degrees above zero (Celsius) right up to about 15 degrees — that’s basically 99 per cent of the time for us in the UK. For a clothing item that’s repeatedly sweated in, it sure doesn’t smell bad either.
In truth, the One is a real revelation for me. In the past, I’ve really struggled with finding breathable waterproof garments and that’s despite having tried jackets from most major names at a whole range of price points.
When it’s not being worn, it packs down to a size that easily stows away within a jersey pocket or into my backpack where its weight is entirely negligible. I’m also glad of its reflective accents and a little zipped pocket. If these were cheaper then everyone would have them.
$300 / £250, international pricing TBC
Tom Marvin’s favourite wet weather gear
Dirtlej Classic edition
This waterproof onesie is not a crime.BikeRadar
The Dirtlej is aesthetically challenging, has some issues with the cut and doesn’t use the best technical fabrics on offer. This may make it sound like an item that doesn’t deserve a place in BikeRadar’s favourite wet weather gear roundup, but the Dirtlej Dirtsuit changed my riding game last winter.
While it didn’t always stand up to the heaviest rain, for those mucky, splashy days on the hill the all-in-one onesie from Germany meant I waved goodbye to soggy baselayers and dirt encroaching up my back.
With bags of ventilation on offer it was surprisingly un-sweaty too – though it’s worth noting that if you buy pricier versions you’ll get more breathable fabrics.
So, will I be donning my onesie this winter? Absolutely. In fact, I’ll be donning a number, as more and more brands jump on the one-piece bandwagon.
Lobster style gloves are great for cold and wet riding.Giro
These lobster-claw gloves aren’t going to win any awards for dexterity, but when it’s cold — down to around -6°C or so — these come out of the kit drawer.
The split-finger design and the outer waterproof membrane work well and the suede-effect palm made from Clarino synthetic leather is grippy. The Thinsulate insulation and soft fleece lining also do their job well.
These don’t get that much use but I’m very, very glad to have them even though they are now a few years old.
The newest version has Touchscreen Technology for the index/middle-finger so you can use mobile devices, and a zippered pocket for hand warmers.
£69.99, international pricing TBC
George Scott’s favourite wet weather gear
Bontrager Flare RT lights
The Flare RT is one of our favourite daytime running lights.Trek
Selecting a light as my recommendation for riding in the rain may be a left-field choice but bear with me. With my colleagues covering the waterproof essentials for wet-weather cycling — jackets, overshoes, gloves and, ahem, a onesie — I’m going to make the case for Bontrager’s excellent Flare RT rear light.
The original Flare R was one of the first rear lights to be designed — or marketed, depending on your point of view — for daytime use and the tiny Flare RT is its successor.
It’s incredibly bright, with a maximum output of 90 lumens and a disruptive flash pattern intended for riding during the day. There’s a range of other settings to choose from, too.
But why a bike light among all the Gore-Tex? Anyone who’s ridden through winter will know how quickly visibility can drop when dark clouds roll in and the heavens open, even in the middle of the day. Add tree cover or the gathering gloom of dusk and things can get downright sketchy.
We like to leave these lights on our bike year-round.Trek
The Flare RT is pretty smart as bike lights go, with an integrated light sensor to auto-adjust brightness, a battery-save mode that provides 30 minutes of runtime when power reaches five per cent, and Ant+ connectivity so it can be controlled by your Garmin.
We’ll save the argument for daytime lights — the rider’s responsibility to illuminate themselves versus the responsibility of motorists to, well, look where they’re going — for another day, but having a lamp such as the Flare RT strapped to your seatpost gives you the option to light up when the weather turns against you.
These overshoes are, in my eyes, unbeatable.Jack Luke / Immediate Media
These are the best overshoes I have ever owned.
The simplicity of their construction is what sets them apart from every other overshoe I have used. They have no zips or other fussy fastenings, which makes them super hardwearing. Any winter-hardened rider will tell you that this is where overshoes fail first.
To put the overshoes on, you pull them on before your shoes and the tight ankle holds them in place. A thick Velcro strap is then cinched around the arch of the shoe to stop the overshoe from rolling back over your shoe.
The overshoe is made from 4mm thick neoprene and has held up to tonnes of abuse, as has the durable portion around the toe and base of the overshoe.
£45.95 / €54.95 / US and AU pricing N/A
Paramo Velez light jacket
I adore my Paramo Velez.Reuben Bakker-Dyos / Immediate Media
I cannot speak highly enough of my Paramo Velez light smock.
I’ve done all manner of stupid rides and adventures in the jacket since I first got it around two years ago. Highlights include the Jeroboam 300k, the first edition of Grinduro Scotland, a tour around South Wales in foul weather, lots of winter riding and even a little bit of winter mountaineering back home in Scotland.
Paramo constructs its jackets out of its Nikwax Analogy waterproof fabric. This is a unique three layer “directional” (i.e. breathable) system which quickly wicks away sweat and condensation to the outer, breathable waterproof shell.
In practice, I’ve found the Analogy system does exactly what it claims. It’s supremely comfortable in most conditions and the soft lining doesn’t get clammy. I’ve even gone as far as wearing just a baselayer beneath the jacket.
If things get really warm, the jacket has two enormous vents down each side. It also has a generous chest zip.
The hood is cavernous enough to accommodate even large enduro lids and has plenty of fit adjustment. The big marsupial-style pouch on the front of the jacket is also perfect for stashing phones and maps.
I’ve found that it is vital that you keep on top of cleaning and reproofing the jacket, but I’m more than happy to live with a bit of extra hassle for the sake of such high performance.
£245, international pricing TBC
Velo Orange hammered alloy mudguards
On the right bike, I think the mudguards can even complement the look of a bike.Jack Luke / Immediate Media
I’m now onto my second set of alloy Velo Orange mudguards — the latest set having been fitted to my All-City Mr Pink test bike — and I can’t see myself ever wanting to use anything else.
The mudguards are supremely well made, with high-quality hardware throughout, and offer a level of coverage that most conventional plastic mudguards can’t match.
Sure, they take a fair bit of time to set up well, but the joy of having a dry bum/bike/feet is unbeatable in the winter months.
£50 / $67 / AU and EUR pricing TBC
Alex Evans’s favourite wet weather gear
Ninja Ice work gloves
Don’t get ripped off — these £5 work gloves do the job just as well as cycling gloves that cost many times more.Ice Ninja
Fed up of spending unnecessarily large amounts of money on gloves only for them to wear out instantly? Yeah, me too.
A pair of branded top of the range winter finger-protectors can set you back in excess of £60, but these Ninja Ice waterproof and exceptionally warm black beauties perform an identical job for a fraction of the cost.
Retailing for around £5, you can ride with a smug aura, confident in the knowledge that your hands will stay warm and dry whatever elements Mother Nature can throw at you, and be happy that you’ve not been ‘done over’ by a greedy corporation selling over-priced gloves.
As a person who likes to avoid spending money wherever possible, but also wants to be warm and cosy, it can be quite a challenge finding that balance between coin and comfort.
Keeping the rain off your head is key to keeping warm when Mother Nature isn’t playing nice. There are a few ways to do that — some more expensive than others. For example, Rapha’s new Gore-Tex rain coat has an in-built under-lid hood. Cheapish hats can be installed, but in my opinion, nothing beats the humble Buff.
The innocuous neck roll seems to satisfy my low-spend, high-performance ratio well, especially as exactly the type of thing you’re likely to have been given free with a copy of MBUK magazine or Cycling Plus, in a goody bag at an event or when purchasing more expensive items (God forbid).
With multiple uses, the beauty is in the neck tube’s simplicity, not its aesthetic. For those with a chilly neck and ears, simply slide it over your head, down your neck and position the soft fabric just above your ears under your helmet.
If, maybe, like me, you don’t have a huge amount of follicle matter remaining on your noggin and want your head to remain toasty on wet and cold rides, simply slide the buff upwards from your neck to cover your head, finishing just above your forehead. This works in the same way as an under-lid cap but also gives your neck coverage.
Once you’ve used a neck roll, I can almost guarantee you won’t go back.
£15.95 / $19.14 / €17.54
Ed Thomsett’s favourite wet weather gear
Rockguardz PG350 mudguard
Mountain bike mudguards are great for sloppy riding.RockGuardz
Some mudguards are massive and ugly, some are small and ineffective and some have such slim tyre clearance that they clog up constantly. The Rockguardz PG350 is none of those things.
Although it resembles a classic boil-in-the bag stuffable, the Idro is in a different league. It’s genuinely waterproof but it doesn’t cook you like a sous-vide steak when you up the wattage, because it’s properly breathable.
The cost and relative fragility of these jackets means they’re best kept for road use only, but they perform so well that the price doesn’t seem totally unjustified.
£260 / $299.99 / AU$449.99
SealSkinz waterproof socks
Waterproof socks are the key to comfortable winter riding.Sealskinz
Waterproof socks seem like an absurd indulgence up until the point when you’re smugly riding in heavy rain with completely dry feet.
SealSkinz (and a number of very similar-looking socks from other manufacturers such a DexShell) have a waterproof membrane layered inside their fabric and, as a result, they don’t lose their waterproofness with repeated machine washing the way DWR coated fabrics do.
For really effective waterproofing, they are best matched with a pair of water-resistant tights and you can go fully extreme by adding overshoes as well.
If you wear the tights over the overshoes (this is easiest with tights that have ankle zips), rain runs down the outside and can’t find its way inside your socks.
SealSkinz socks are quite thick, so they won’t work if your shoes are already on the tight side and they do take a little bit of getting used to.
All the same, I wouldn’t ride in the winter without them these days.
From £25 / $35
Warren Rossiter’s favourite wet weather gear
Fizik Artica R5
Winter-specific boots are a good option if you’re dedicated to winter riding.Fizik
Wet weather is something I can’t avoid because testing bikes and bits takes up pretty much four out of my five-day working week — come rain or shine I need to be out riding.
After years of getting through two or three pairs of overshoes every winter I realised it had become a false economy, so over the last few seasons, I’ve made the switch to dedicated winter road boats.
Last winter, and coming into the wetter autumn months, the RW5s are still getting used but they’ve been usurped by Fizik’s R5 Artica boots.
These are a bit more costly (£189 / €225 / $256 / AU$360), but they’re a pretty sorted pair of boots. The outer ‘skin’ is like a stretchy rubber, which seals brilliantly thanks to the Velcro-lined ankle cuff and the full storm zip up the front.
Under this bonded-over waterproof booty is basically an R5 shoe with a carbon-reinforced nylon sole (tougher than carbon for when you have to walk). With no vent holes they won’t let water in either.
The upper has a laced cord with a tensioning slider. At first, this is a bit fiddly, but once you get used to it it’s as easy to tension as a standard shoe (though the length of the lace is on the generous side). Size-wise, they come up bigger than standard Fiziks, but you’ll probably be wearing thicker socks anyway.
I’ve used these in sub-zero temperatures and storm conditions and ridden through deeply flooded lanes, and they’re impressive.
Like any shoe they’re never going to be impervious — water will run down your legs and get past the cuff, it’s pretty much inevitable unless you ride in a wetsuit.
The cool insoles are foil-lined for that extra bit of survival chic and they do feel warm and supremely comfortable thanks to their fleece-lined tops.
The 433g weight all-in per boot (size 45) isn’t that heavy for the level of protection they give and the sole is amply stiff enough, though not race-shoe rigid, so you can still wiggle your feet around when it gets seriously chilly out.
£189 / €225 / $256 / AU$360
Tacx clip-on mudguard
This clip-on mudguard from Tacx is the best of its type.Tacx
Now before the haters start, I’m not a big fan of full-length guards — yes I have them on my Sven cycles custom steel e-bike commuter, but on road bikes, the rattly ill-fitting and tyre rubbing just irritates. To be honest, I’d rather just get wet.
Before anyone starts on about ‘what about riding with others’, remember that most of my riding takes place during the week in office hours and on my own. If I do venture out at weekends with friends then I’ll fit a set of race blades out of politeness.
However, what I do like is a short rear guard to prevent excess spray, leading to what I’d term as ‘trench butt’.
The veritable Ass Saver does this job really well, but Ass Savers don’t tend to last that long, especially if you’re switching them between test bikes a lot.
Tacx’s imaginatively named ‘mudguard’ is a perfect midway solution. Its neat saddle rail attachment, which is offered with a neat saddle pack to fit along with the guards, gives an Ass Saver-like length, but made from rigid plastic. It’s simple, well made and works well.
It’s well priced at £17.99 and is available in both race (road) and MTB widths.
£17.99, international pricing TBC
Matt Orton’s favourite wet weather gear
Keep your adventure gear dry!Matt Orton / Immediate Media
Don’t let the wet weather dampen your adventures (or your sleeping bag!).
This cavernous handlebar roll will keep all your goodies high and dry. It’s seen me through some soggy trips without fail.
£84.99, international pricing TBC
Shimano XM9 Gore-Tex SPD boots
These boots have survived years of hike-a-bike abuse.Matt Orton / Immediate Media
As comfortable off the bike as on, Shimano’s XM9 boots have kept out the worst of the rain and puddles during years of use, and have even stood up to lots of obligatory bikepacking hike-a-bike miles. These are probably the most faithfully waterproof boots I own.
£199.99 / $289 / AU$393.99 / €240.49
More recommended wet weather gear
If you’re looking for more wet weather cycling gear reviews, be sure to check our roundup of the best waterproof jackets for cyclists and our guide to the best winter gloves.
Jack has been riding and fettling bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork, fixie-botherer, tandem-evangelist, hill-climbing try hard, and thinks nothing of taking on a daft challenge for the BikeRadar YouTube channel. With a near encyclopaedic knowledge of cycling tech — from the most esoteric niche nonsense to the most cutting edge modern kit — Jack takes pride in his ability to seek out tech and stories that would otherwise go unreported. Jack has been at BikeRadar for three years now and is regularly testing an esoteric mix of weird and wonderful bikes.