When it comes to cycling, trust the Dutch. When the cruel North Sea brings rain, they don’t wince at the thought of cycling and instead grab a poncho and carry on.
Before dismissing the idea altogether, read on to see the best ponchos and rain capes for cycling and learn how to properly go Dutch.
- Cleverhood Electric Houndstooth Rain Cape (Best Of The Best)
- The Peoples Poncho 3.0 (Best for Women)
- SaphiRose Cycling Rain Cape (Best Budget Poncho)
Top 5 Best Bike Ponchos Reviewed
1. Cleverhood Electric Houndstooth Rain Cape (Best Of The Best)
The Cleverhood Electric Houndstooth Rain Cape combines functionality and style to make a great quality cape. Let’s start with the looks – you will more than likely get compliments off the bike.
Beneath the great styling lies a very capable rain cape, with waterproof zippers, magnetic seals around the wrists, and trim tabs to stop if flapping in the wind and becoming a sail.
Most importantly, the polyester is waterproof.
- Stylish – just as good-looking off the bike. You might be mistaken for someone who cares about fashion!
- Integrated hood and elastic thumb loops – the thumb loops keep the poncho secure over the arms and stop it from riding up whilst cycling.
2. The Peoples Poncho 3.0 (best for women)
The Peoples Poncho 3.0 is great for those that something that keeps them dry on the bike and looks stylish off it.
The understated design and subtle colors are as hip as it gets in the cycling world where other ponchos take design cues from your basic garbage bag.
- Large front pocket – whilst the large pocket at the front of the poncho is not completely waterproof like the rest of the garment, it is a convenient and secure place to store essentials.
- Arm straps – well-placed arm straps that can be held whilst cycling to protect your legs from the rain.
3. SaphiRose Cycling Rain Cape (Best Budget Poncho)
Wearing a poncho on the bike is not for everyone, but if you want to test it out the SaphiRose Cycling Rain Cape is a great budget option to help answer that question.
This is a traditional rain cape with no separate armholes and instead attaches loosely to the handlebars using fastenings so that it is more like a tent than a jacket on the bike.
Most importantly the cape will keep you dry thanks to its pressure-rated fabric and sealed seams.
- Great value – for the price, this rain cape packs a lot of great features but most importantly will keep you dry on the bike.
- Bright colors – available in six different colors with some bold options to help you stay safe on the bike.
4. Vaude Valdipino Poncho Raincoat
There are plenty of reasons to like the Vaude Valdipino Poncho. It is lightweight, it keeps the water out, it is bold and functional but perhaps most importantly it is environmentally friendly since it is made from sustainable materials.
This is perhaps preaching to the converted since cyclists know the importance of ditching the car and getting in the saddle but it is always nice to know that even when choosing clothes you can do your bit for the environment.
The bold colors stand out a mile and it can be packed down into its own handy pocket when the rain stops.
- Style and eco-conscious – made from sustainable materials using fair working conditions don’t mean that this cape lacks style.
- Hand loops – stop the sleeves rolling up in the wind and offer much more protection from the rain.
5. Brooks Saddles Cambridge Rain Cape
Even when they turn their attention away from making top-end saddles, Brooks usually delivers great products that are built to last. This is also true of the Brooks Cambridge Rain Cape.
This is a stylish cape that is more suited to sedate pedaling through town as the magnetic strips that hold the cape to the handlebars are not designed to stay secure at high speeds.
That aside, the well-positioned elastic cords are easy to adjust to get just the right fit on the bike and the leather straps can be used to attach the cape to the saddle when not in use.
- Stylish – as you would expect from makers Brooks, this cape has an understated, stylish aesthetic that looks just as good off the bike.
- Compact – the cape rolls up and can be stored under the saddle using the integrated leather straps. Great for knowing that it is always there when you need it.
What Features Make A Good Rain Cape?
That your rain cape needs to be waterproof should go without saying but not all waterproof garments are created equally. Even some that claim to be 100% waterproof might not live up to that lofty claim out on the road.
Straps and Hoops
The main drawback to wearing a rain cape or poncho is the fact that it can act as a sail. Great when you have a tailwind perhaps but not so much fun in a headwind.
To help you cut through the air a little more efficiently, look for capes that have straps that can cinch in any loose material and pull the cape closer to the body.
Almost by definition, poncho’s turn heads but you can add to your safety out on the road by selecting bold colors. If you have to don a poncho on the bike then the chances are it is a dull, damp, and grey day and every little helps when it comes to being visible.
Look for rain capes that have plenty of reflective strips stitched to make yourself even more visible on dark commutes.
On the subject of visibility, some rain capes are designed to connect over your handlebars, and in this case, you need to check that it does not hang down too low and cover your front headlight.
Rain Cape Vs. Rain Jacket: Which Is Better?
A rain cape is designed to slip over the rider’s head and cover the body in its own personal tent. In theory, this one piece of extra clothing is all you need to stay dry when a storm rolls in just in time for your commute.
The open base lets in plenty of air to keep you cool underneath the cape. This extra ventilation helps to stop the dreaded greenhouse effect where you get drenched in sweat rather than rain.
Most rain capes drape over the handlebars to protect the arms and legs from the elements. More than that they also do a good job (combined with a decent set of fenders) of keeping the water of the delicate moving parts of your bike.
Less time in the garage getting your hands covered in oil is always a good thing.
The main downside to wearing a rain cape is the feeling that you have attached a giant sail to your sleek bike. Where there is rain there tends to be wind.
Not so bad if the wind is blowing you along but it can bring on an existential crisis if you find yourself fighting a headwind.
In days gone by, the standard advice for cycling in the rain was to toughen-up and embrace the sodden conditions. Up until recently, jacket technology justified this attitude; they were waterproof for all of five minutes, baggy, and left you drenched in sweat.
Thankfully, fabrics and design have evolved such that waterproof and breathable technical rain jackets for cycling are an essential part of most cyclists’ wardrobe.
Although they share some fabric technologies with hiking jackets, cycling rain jackets have been designed with the bike in mind. They are longer at the back to account for the hunched riding position and have more pockets for easy access whilst riding.
They are also designed to fit much more closely to the body to prevent and shorn of any excess material that would flap in the wind and slow you down.
Which Is Better?
Let’s be honest here, no road cyclist is going to look at a rain cape with envy.
But that is not to say that rain capes don’t have their place. Stand beside any Dutch bike lane on a rainy day (and there are plenty of those) and you will see that a rain cape is practically a uniform. Every type of rider wears one and for good reason.
Video: Count The Rain Capes
The objective is not to win any races, but to get to school or the office dry and ready for the day ahead. For commuting and cruising around town, a rain cape should be an essential purchase.
Drying Off: Conclusion
As the legendary Billy Connolly once said – there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.
With the right rain cape, cycling in the rain doesn’t have to be a miserable experience.
The Cleverhood Electric Houndstooth Rain Cape is the perfect marriage of functionality and style. It will keep you bone dry and comfortable on the bike as well as turn heads off it.
Wearing a poncho or rain cape on the bike is not for everyone but if you want to give it a chance, having exhausted every other way to stay dry, the budget-friendly SaphiRose Cycling Rain Cape is a great choice.