Is anything really waterproof when cycling

I love the sun. Even when it’s freezing cold, the sun always makes me smile and makes things seem alright. Living here on the South coast of England is particularly good as we get a lot of sun compared to the rest of the UK. But it has rained a lot recently. In fact it has rained so much I felt like I was back home in Ireland (in the summer, mind you, not the winter). And I wondered ss anything really waterproof when cycling.

Normally, I avoid riding in the rain because no matter what I wear I always end up drenched. So, I have this bloody awful looking glow-in-the-dark jacket, its label purported it to be breathable and waterproof. And I suppose it might be – under correct conditions (a lab would be my guess). However, when I’m cycling in a deluge, my hair gets soaking wet because cycle helmets have ruddy big vents in them. To make matters worse, I wear my hair in a plait so that I can see where I’m going and this creates a path for the rain to flow straight down the front the jacket and down my boobs or else down my back rendering this hoodless jacket utterly useless. In turn, the heat generated by my physical exertion causes me to sweat and this creates additional moisture that cannot escape through the vile gluminous coat. Gluminous is not a spelling mistake. I made up the word as it’s worse than luminous – it’s a combination of glowing and luminous.

21 mile route netley to titchfield along the solentRoute taken in the pouring rain (21 miles).

Anyway, there’s no escape. For the past two Sundays, I’ve saddled up and faced the downpours. I need pedalling practice for another trip to Morocco – we both do as we’ve been spending a lot of time working on the allotment and not so much on the bikes. This time we’re going to the High Atlas mountains and I’m determined to ride more than I push.

Last Sunday felt pleasantly warm, the air mild and murky.There was time to marvel at nature’s kaleidoscope of autumnal colours between showers and we managed 30 miles though we did stop for lunch and ended up coming home in the dark.


On Sunday past, the rain fell in torrents and I knew it was going to be much worse than the previous week. Dan’s new Madison jacket has a hood that fits over the top of his helmet and he looked as if he would be dry, but I had a cunning plan. I decided to pull an old Sou’wester (a traditional seafaring hat) out of a drawer and attach it to my helmet. It looked naff to be fair and I ignored the look on Dan’s face when he realised I was serious about wearing it. I had to agree that I looked ridiculous and a bit like Paddington Bear’s granny as I wheeled my bike to the front of the house.

Paddington Bear riding along the HambleI also added a temporary mud guard to partially protect my eyes from the spray off the front wheel. Last week I cycled with my eyes and mouth squeezed shut.

Hamble river pathSurface water covered the cycle paths, gaping holes appeared along sections of the Solent Way damaged by flooding and a Spring Tide. Puddles were unavoidable. Water ran down my Regatta trouser legs and into the top of my socks.

‘Has someone died?’ Dan asked.
‘Why would you think that?’
‘Your trousers are at half mast!’

According to the comprehensive bike measurement procedure I endured, I have longer arms and legs than the average female of my height of 160cm.

We crunched through the gravel beach along the Solent Way, the shingle too deep to ride.

Solent Way shore pathThe lanes of Brownwich Farm estate were flooded. We ploughed on, seeking refuge in the Abbey Garden Centre cafe near Titchfield Abbey where we tucked into pasties, cake and a big pot of tea. My ‘waterproof’ Sealskinz gloves were sodden inside and out – a complete waste of time.

Is anything really waterproof when cycling Brownich farm estate

brownwich farmI have complete sympathy for anyone who commutes regularly in wet weather as cars have total disregard for the poor cyclist. They expect we should ride in the deepest puddles as they zoom past spraying gallons of water in an attempt to drown us. I shouted. ‘Can’t you see my gluminous jacket AND flashing lights you mean Bastard?’

There was a plus side to riding in the rain – hardly any dogs or walkers on the paths and a proper test of waterproof gear.

Eventually we hit the quiet lanes and cycle paths. Our way was blocked by a fallen tree at Whiteley Walks, it had been blocked the week before too, but this time we had daylight on our side.

Path at Whitely walk blocked by treeWe arrived home, hosed each other down with a garden hose and stripped off at the door. Dan and I poured water out of our shoes and squeezed our socks out. All my clothes were damp. I took off my helmet and grinned. We’d covered 21 miles and my hair was bone dry.

The only thing waterproof is our skin, Dan’s Madison Storm Jacket and an old fashioned sou’wester. I’m going to try hiking gaiters over trousers and shoes next. Merino wool layers including knickers and socks (I ditched the padded shorts, they go soggy) kept me warm even when wet.

Apologies for photo quality. Just had the phone with me due to conditions.

Meraid Griffin

Freelance writer, adventurer and public speaker. Descibed in the Sunday Times as a ‘modest explorer’. Nothing modest about me.


  1. Hi. An interesting read about waterproof when cycling.
    I understand the words ‘waterproof’ and ‘cycling’ are not too well matched, although slightly better than the sales pitch myth of ‘breathable and waterproof’.
    I notice your bikes do not have mudguards, these make a considerable difference and reduce wheel spray – well worth considering. If the front one has an extra long tail then it also minimises debris spraying onto the chain (and the front mech from rear wheel spray) – of which increases the lifetime of the running gear…unless you’ve got a belt drive Rohloff! Happy cycling, mark.

    • Meraid Griffin

      I’ve heard a few people singing the praises of belt drive Rohloffs Mark. I’m leaning that way too. Mudguards are great when doing long long tours, but I can’t be bothered with them and hide away from the rain when I can. 🙂

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