It’s been fairly rainy this fall. Usually, my go to bike rain gear has been the combination of a rain jacket, rain pants, and a helmet cover. However, I recently got a rain cape, and I’ve been using it over the last few weeks.
I got this particular example from a colleague that goes back and forth to China a fair bit. When I took it out of the package, I looked for wrist straps, or thumb loops that are common on higher end models, such as the one from Carradice. However, all I found was a little yellow clip that hooks over the handlebar as follows.
The cape is a rubberized nylon that is heavy enough that the fabric doesn’t flap very much while riding. The simple clip is surprisingly effective, and the rest of the front of the cape can be draped over your hands, and at the same time, bunched up a bit so that headlights are not covered.
I’ve been very happy with the cape. The ventilation is great, and underneath, I’m wearing my regular fall bike wear, which is a long sleeve wool jersey, my Outlier slim dungarees, and Strala Vinter rain boots. I get much less sweaty than with my jacket and rain pants. Of course, the cape only works in conjunction with full fenders. When it rains, the cape keeps me dry down to about mid calf. The hood is close fitting, and cut back at the sides so it doesn’t block vision when I turn my head. If it was warmer, I’d not wear the hood, and go back to the helmet cover.
- great ventilation
- covers the hands (although this would be less true for drop bars. For my albatross bars which are swept back, the central clip puts the cape right where I want it)
- single clip system is surprising effective
- cut short on the sides so hand signals are not a problem
- you have to remember that you are attached to the bike when you get off
- you can’t see the bike or your body while riding, and so it can be a bit awkward to get things in or out of pockets
- the cape can deaden the sound of a bell (although many bells are not very loud when they get wet)
- the drape of the cape between the bars and your arms makes a shape like a reverse spinnaker, but this is not really an issue at my city commuting speeds.
- looks dorky on the bike, but not as bad as this
- looks even more dorky off the bike
Don’t be put off by the fact that I’ve listed more cons than pros. I’ve been satisfied, and this is now my preferred rain setup, at least for the fall. I could see that if you were interested in speed (if you were a randonneur, for instance), then jacket and rain pants would definitely be more aero, although sweatier. For the city commute, where I am averaging about half an hour for 9 km into work, it is pretty much ideal.
I haven’t used it in high wind, but I get pretty wet in those sorts of conditions no matter what I’m wearing.
One other tip: on days where it might not rain on the way home, pack something like a wind vest to keep you as warm as the cape does. Otherwise, you are riding home with the cape in dry conditions, which is a bit odd looking.
I haven’t been able to find a local vendor for the type of cape that I have, but I see that there are lots of similar capes on e bay for less than $20. Some of them even show the same yellow clip.
As I’ve posted to the iBOB list: cheap, effective, and charmingly retro; what’s not to like?
Update: I’ve since acquired several other fancier raincapes. On each of these (save the Boncho which has different features), I’ve used velcro to do the same thing that the plastic clip mentioned above does. As a side benefit, it keeps the cape from covering a front headlight. Note also that IMPAC sells a rain cape with a window for a headlight, but I have no experience with it.