Only a few things can ruin the perfect bike ride as quickly as rain. Whether you’re a regular bike commuter and showing up for work presentable is a must or a recreational cyclist and you just don’t enjoy riding soaking wet, rain shouldn’t be an excuse for skipping your beloved activity.
As I was riding to work the other day a truck passed me by and splashed all the water from a huge puddle on me. I was wearing my work clothes with waterproof cycling pants over it, and it completely saved my work clothes and my day. My pants were covered in water and mud, but my clothes underneath remained dry.
If you want a solid option for waterproof pants for cycling I recommend the Showers Pass Transit Pant (available on Amazon here). It is a great choice for commuters as well as recreational cyclists. You can wear it and ride your bike for hours without a single drop passing through the fabric. Even if you ride in your work clothes, you can be confident that no spare pants will be needed when you get to the office. Your office pants will remain bone dry. An added benefit of these pants is that they’re very easy to put on even with your shoes on, so if you carry it with you and you’re caught in a rainstorm, you will be able to put them on without having to take off your shoes.
What to look for in a rainproof cycling pants:
When buying waterproof cycling pants, these are some considerations you should keep in mind, especially if you ride in rain a lot:
- Truly waterproof and it doesn’t let water seep through its seams
- Comfortable when riding
- Easy to put on
- Easy to store and transport
A good waterproof fabric withstands rain and dirt for a long time without letting any moisture pass through. Some lesser quality materials are waterproof only as long as they don’t come in contact with anything else, but as soon as you sit on a wet saddle, for example, they let water pass through.
Boot straps or cinch straps seal the bottom of the pants so they don’t let water in from below. When you’re riding, water from the sky is only part of what you need protection against. The other part, and arguably the nastier part, is water splashing up from the ground. In heavy rain, even with good fenders, some water will splash on your legs. If you want to protect your work pants completely, you need some straps that keep the water away from them.
You need good breathable fabric, especially if your commute is longer than 10 minutes. Since you generate heat and sweat when cycling, you need to let moisture and some of your extra body temperature to escape, otherwise you will end up roasting and wet from within, which is quite uncomfortable and can lead to other issues such as itches, rashes or chafing. Breathability is such an important feature for me that I prefer getting wet from the rain than being wet from my own sweat on my legs due to lack of breathability.
Your pants should allow for easy movement. Anything too tight-fitting that doesn’t allow for easy movement makes cycling harder and more uncomfortable. This is even more important for overpants, because they are a second layer on top of something else that you’re already wearing.
Zips at the bottom make getting dressed easier, since they allow you to put on the pants even with your shoes on (great for unpredictable weather), and it ensures that the fit is not too loose at the bottom, and it doesn’t get caught by the chain.
Easy to keep clean. Your pants should look decent even when drying after a wet commute. Some materials need washing after mud has dried on them. If you don’t want to wash your pants every time you use them in the rain, look for something that can be easily cleaned with baby wipes.
Articulated knees that allow you for a full range of motion of the knees when you pedal. This means that the bottom of the leg doesn’t want to creep up even at the upper pedal stroke and it results in a much more comfortable riding experience.
Reflective details for better visibility. This is important, especially during heavy rain, given that visibility is usually very poor. Reflective details bounce back any light that shines on them, allowing you to stay safe while you’re riding.
It should fold small and should be easy to store in your pannier or backpack when it’s not raining in the morning but you don’t want to chance it.
The Shower Pass Transit Pant ticks all the above boxes. It isn’t just a generic waterproof pant, which happens to do well for cycling, but it’s designed with the cyclist in mind.
Tips for caring for your waterproof pants
- Wash them once a month. This will remove any grime or dirt that has built up on its surface. Pollution on your overpants will reduce its waterproof quality. Select a gentle program on your washing machine and wash them in cold water.
- Don’t expose them to excessive heat. Seam tapes can fall apart and multilayer fabrics can delaminate when placed in a dryer or under direct sunlight for an extended period of time.
- Never store waterproof garments damp. Always dry them completely before storage.
- If your pants get a bad stain, spot treat it using liquid detergent before washing.
- It is natural for the fabric’s waterproof quality to degrade with use over time. You can restore its water-repellency with a spray-on treatment or with a wash in treatment, like the Nikwax TX. Direct Wash-in.
Can I use my waterproof cycling pants in warm weather?
Wearing these pants in warm weather doesn’t affect its waterproofness as much as it affects your riding comfort. When you perform any athletic physical activity for any length of time there is natural perspiration. The warmer the temperature and the more layers you wear the more you will sweat.
Although breathable technology has come a long way, wearing an extra layer of waterproof clothing means that you’re trapping in some air and moisture that can’t completely escape.
Shower Pass recommends their overpants for temperatures under 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius).
At the end of the day it’s a balancing act between keeping the water out and being able to evaporate.
Lightweight, durable, breathable, waterproof, cheap: is it possible?
When choosing a waterproof fabric, the manufacturer needs to take these aspects into consideration, and come up with a solution that strikes the right balance at the right price point.
Generally speaking the lighter a material is, the harder it is to make it waterproof and breathable at the same time. For example, plastic can be made really thin, light and waterproof, but it completely traps any moisture inside as well, and isn’t very durable.
You have to beware of claims of anything waterproof that claims to be lightweight, durable, breathable, waterproof and cheap as well. The first qualities that usually suffer in the equation are breathability and durability.
Shower Pass has struck the right balance, and created something that is reasonably light, very durable, breathable and at a price point that is higher than average, but still worth the money if you think long-term.
How to choose the right size?
Shower Pass includes a useful size guide for buying your new pants. They design them with the cyclist in mind, which means that they allow for extra leg length so they’re not too uncomfortable when pedaling.
How to keep my shoes dry?
These pants will keep your work clothes dry. If you want to protect your shoes, you will need a pair of good waterproof shoe covers like the Shower Pass Club Shoe Covers. This shoe cover is the perfect complement to the Transit Pant, and when used together, you will arrive at the office completely dry from waist down even on rainy days.
I only want something cheap and cheerful
The Shower Pass Transit Pant is certainly not the cheapest waterproof cycling pants available on the market, but what you will love in them is the attention to detail, and how they were designed with the cyclist in mind. In fact, if you are looking for a generic waterproof pants then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere, because the anatomy of these pants is designed to meet the cyclists’ needs.
If you want the next best thing at a cheaper price point, take a look at the Columbia Rebel Roamer Pant (also available on Amazon). This is another very popular model, which offers complete waterproofing and is very breathable.
It’s a generic waterproof pant which happens to be a popular choice among cyclists and bike commuters. Since it is not designed specifically for cycling, it doesn’t have the articulated knees, which means that if you have longish legs, they may slip up, exposing the bottom of your foot.
Another thing I would prefer to see on this model is some reflective details to make it safer. Everything that draws attention to me when I’m cycling is a plus in my books.
If you can live with these shortcomings, you can save yourself some money by buying the Columbia Rebel Roamer Pant.
As a serious die-hard cyclist or bike commuter, sooner or later you will have to ride in the rain. If it is important for you to keep your legs dry on wet days, look for something that will serve you for years to come and doesn’t let you down. The last thing you want to do is to look like someone who has incontinence difficulties in front of your colleagues, just because you failed to put a little effort and spend a little extra on proper rain gear.
In the rainy season you can keep your pants in your backpack or pannier knowing that it’s got your back in case you need it.