All you need to know about waterproof cycling jackets
It’s a fact of cycling life that at some point you will ride in the rain. By choice or out of necessity, in poor conditions your steadfast protector is going to be a waterproof cycling jacket. Whether touring, nailing the work commute or enjoying an impromptu escapade with friends, this essential outlier can turn even the wettest ride into, if not exactly a singing in the rain experience, but at least a comfortable and pleasant one.
If you are looking to buy a waterproof cycling jacket, here are a few observations, myth dispelling facts and large helpings of sage advice to enlighten and titillate.
Word to the wise - ignore the jargon
Manufacturers love to list the scientifically proven waterproof level of their cycling jackets. Here’s the wake up call - ignore them. The reality is that any bike jacket labelled waterproof will be fit for any environment you care to cycle in. Ok, let’s attach a small but essential caveat to that: eventually any cycle jacket rated as waterproof given enough water, time and pressure will let moisture through, but by that point you will have long arrived at your destination. For tech heads out there, this level of waterproofness would be around 10,000mm, which means that you could cover a piece of the jacket with a 1” x 1” tube filled with water to a height of 10,000mm before it would let water through. That's nearly 33ft of water, are you swimming my friend?
Seams like a good jacket
If we state a cycling jacket is waterproof on a product description, you can be sure it sports sealed seams, sometimes referred to as ‘taped’. An inner seal usually heat applied to the jacket’s inside seams, this essential addition prevents water ingress at the stitch points. Just like how a group of touring cyclists are only as fast as the slowest rider, no matter how waterproof the fabric, a jacket is only as waterproof as its weakest points, so taping or sealing the seams is an essential process to guarantee waterproofness. No sealed seams? It’s not and should not be called waterproof.
The elephant in the room is drinking your post-ride tea
Let’s address an unspoken reality: the trade off to staying dry throughout your ride is a gradual heat build up caused by reduced breathability, which is the reason brands often enhance their bike jackets with pit zips and rear vents in an effort to expel heat build up. Of course, a build up of heat is much preferred over a damn good soaking, but at this point in time, no matter how advanced the fabric, waterproof materials do degrade breathability. On the up-side, pit zips (so called because they run across the arm pit area) and rear vents do actually work pretty well, just be sure to wear your jacket only in wet weather and you’ll be fine.
Do you need waterproof?
Questioning your apparel requirements is a healthy habit to practice. Did I need that cycling tutu? No, actually I did not, I already had two. Our roundabout point is that you should always make apparel decisions based on your ride regularity, preferred style & local conditions. Maybe you live in an area where it just doesn’t rain that much? In that case you would be best served with a water repellant cycling jacket - in other words, a shower resistant model perfectly suited to blustery, damp days. Or you could live in Amsterdam and never see the sun - ever. Actually scratch that, if you live in Amsterdam, you probably already commute out of necessity in a wetsuit…
Whetted your appetite for more? Check out our super duper line of waterproof cycling jackets in store now.