Don't get caught out by sudden spring downpours. Here's what you need to keep comfortable and dry.
Compared to winter, the UK's most persistently wet season, April is a patchy encore. Its sudden squalls probably loom larger in our imagination because rising temperatures and occasional blue-sky days make any downpours seem unseasonal. Don't be lulled by the first signs of spring. Invest in quality waterproof kit if you haven't already, and take it to work in your commuter bag even if the day starts out dry.
Warmer temperatures mean that it's easier to overheat in spring rain than winter's. Your waterproof jacket and overtrousers are extra layers that will trap heat, however breathable they are. (Breathable fabrics work best in cold, windy and dry conditions rather than mild, still, wet conditions.) You can produce sweat faster than any breathable layer can expel the vapour. Keep cool by leaving off a mid-layer or base-layer, by avoiding carrying anything on your back, and by slowing down.
Here's a selection of wet-weather gear that could make up part (or all) of your Cyclescheme package.
SKS Longboard Mudguards
Mudguards are the most useful accessory for wet conditions. They prevent a jet-wash of grimy road water from spraying up your back, in your face, and over your feet. These mudguards offer more wrap-around coverage than others because, as their name says, they're longer. If you switch from other mudguards to these, you'll immediately notice that your feet and your bike's bottom bracket stay clean and dry. Longboards are available in 700C diameter only in two widths: 35mm for narrower road tyres and 45mm for touring or hybrid tyres.
Cyclescheme Price: £23.79
Sealskinz Waterproof Cycling Cap
Like traditional cycling caps, this one keeps rain or sun out of your eyes thanks to its short, stiff peak. Unlike cotton caps, it won't soak up water and leave your head feeling clammy and chilled in heavy rain because it's waterproof. Not water resistant: waterproof. It's windproof as well, and the fabric is breathable. You can wear it on its own or under a helmet. Incidentally, if you don't have one of these and need a quick-fix for a rainy commute, one solution is to wrap clingfilm over the top of a cycle helmet!
Cyclescheme Price: £17
Endura Deluge Gloves
If your gloves get soaked through, your hands quickly chill. There's no danger of that with Endura's appropriately-named Deluge gloves. They incorporate a breathable waterproof membrane that's seam-sealed; you can hold your hands in a bowl of water and they'll stay dry. The long, stretch cuffs prevent water running down your arms into them. The inner material is fleece, while the glove outer is a mix of durable Cordura and stretchy Supplex. There are gel pads for palm comfort, silicone prints for grip, and reflective details for nighttime visibility.
Cyclescheme Price: £24.47
Altura Night Vision Evo Jacket
Buying a bike and omitting a waterproof jacket is like buying an open-top car: fine in California, nonsense in Britain. Altura's Night Vision Evo is deservedly popular among commuters. As well as being waterproof, it's breathable rather than boil-in-the-bag – and there are vents for added airiness. It's cut loose enough to wear comfortably over normal clothes. It's plastered with reflective stripes and details. The fabric feels soft to the touch, unlike the plasticky nylon of budget jackets, so you can wear it over short sleeves without feeling clammy. Note that there is another option to keep your upper body dry: the unfashionable but effective cape (e.g. Carradice Pro-route Cape, carradice.co.uk). But jackets rule the roost among UK commuters, and this is a good one. It's available in men's and women's designs in various colours.
Cyclescheme Price: £74.79
dhb Flashlight Waterproof Overtrouser
As well as being rained on directly, your legs get wet on a bike because water runs off your waterproof jacket onto your lap. In showers, Rainlegs (rainlegs.com) are a good solution because the chaps-style coverage prevents overheating. In proper rain, you need something more substantial. The dhb Flashlight overtrousers are waterproof, with taped seams, and they're available in a good range of sizes and leg lengths. They're printed with abundant Scotchlite too.
Cyclescheme Price: £40.80
BBB Waterflex Overshoes
Just as water runs off jackets and onto legs, so it runs down overtrousers and into socks. Waterproof socks work fine, but a better solution is to keep your shoes dry in the first place with a pair of overshoes. BBB's Waterflex overshoes are well suited to short-distance commuting, going on and off easily thanks to the stretchy fabric, and fitting a wide range of footwear. They're available in black or yellow in sizes from 37 to 48. If you plan to commute in a cape, incidentally, you'll want gaiters (e.g. VauDe Bike Gaiter, vaude.co.uk) that cover the feet and lower legs, as a cape only really keeps you dry from the knees up.
Cyclescheme Price: £19.01
Ortlieb Front Roller City
Waterproof panniers don't just keep their contents dry, they help keep you dry as you'll sweat less with the load on the bike instead of your back. Ortlieb's seam-sealed, roll-top closure bags are completely waterproof. Unlike rain covers, they prevent water ingress from any direction. Despite the name, the Front Roller City bags work great on a rear rack too. The 25 litres-per-pair capacity is ample and enables you to stash your bike gear in one bag and your work stuff in the other. You can remove the panniers one-handed because the security hooks retract when you lift the handle, saving you valuable seconds if you're running late.
Cyclescheme Price: £44.19
GT85 Spray Lubricant and Water Displacer
Stock up on a spray lubricant that functions as a water displacer. A quick spray after each rainy ride will stop your chain going rusty. GT85 is widely available and contains no CFC.
Cyclescheme Price: £3.39
Below you can see the savings a lower rate tax payer would make if purchasing all these items via Cyclescheme: