Best Waterproof Ponchos for Cycling [Top 5 Rain Capes]
We live in a country where it rains around 50% of the time. Love it or hate it, if we only cycled in fair weather, we’d be limited to cycling for around 195 days of the year.
And they do say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. An old cliché, but true. There‘s no reason why we can’t cycle for work and pleasure, all year round, just because of the Gulf Stream.
But the problem with rain is that there’s always the issue of what to wear. Rain doesn’t always equal cold. And even when it is cold, you’re likely to heat up as you ride. With the wrong clothing, you can end up feeling like a ‘boil in the bag’. Not a good look (or feeling).
So, imagine wearing something light, breathable, totally rainproof and suitable for cold and warm weather alike. That’s where the waterproof poncho comes in. Also known as a rain cape, this is a loose-fitting piece of waterproof fabric with a hood that protects most of your body from the rain.
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and the cons of this unique item. We’ll also look at the best ones to keep you dry and comfortable on those rainy journeys.
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Is a Poncho Good for Cycling?
If it’s a poncho that’s made for cycling, and providing your journey is fairly moderate, then yes it is. Some ponchos will offer more comfort with extra features, but they generally give greater protection from the rain. However, in extreme conditions with high winds, this is not always the case.
Ponchos offer more ventilation simply by their loose design, and if it is cold, they can go over any layers you’re wearing without restricting your movements.
There are a huge number of excellent waterproof cycling jackets out there, but it’s worth considering the poncho for its sheer flexibility.
Waterproof Ponchos: Pros + Cons
Opting for a poncho definitely has many advantages. But of course, depending on the kind of cycling you’re doing, it may not always be the right garment for you.
Whether you’re looking to stay dry while commuting, or simply don’t want your leisure ride ruined by the rain, we’ve listed the pros and cons to help you decide whether the poncho is a good investment for you.
Waterproof Poncho Pros
- They’re easy to put on. Simply slip them over your head in a matter of seconds. Ideal if you’re caught in a sudden shower.
- More rain protection. The poncho covers your thighs, keeping (most of) your legs dry. If you opt for a longer one that covers your handlebars, your hands and arms will stay dry too (providing there’s a way of attaching it to you or the bike).
- Lightweight and easy to pack away. Weighing less than many rain jackets, they’re much less cumbersome to carry.
- Good ventilation. The loose fit lets the air flow and prevents overheating.
- Cheap. An effective poncho will often be cheaper than an effective rain jacket (though not always).
- They’re versatile. Ponchos can double as a sheet to sit on, a very small tent…or almost anything you want, if you’re creative.
Waterproof Poncho Cons
- They’re not great for extreme weather. The baggy fit means they flap in the wind. Apart from being irritating, if it’s very windy it’s likely that rain will be blown underneath and you’ll be soaked. You might also feel like you’re going to take off.
- Not good for covering backpacks. More specifically, the poncho will cover the backpack but allow lots of rain in. You’ll get very wet, and probably very angry.
- Inappropriate for off-road cycling. The loose-fitting material can catch on branches or any other obstacles you encounter.
- You won’t win any fashion awards. Although with some pretty stylish options out there (some of which we’ve listed below), you might well argue with this.
Poncho vs Rain Jacket
|Loose fit means more ventilation||Closer fit means less ventilation|
|Usually lighter in weight||Usually heavier in weight|
|More limited in size (often one-size)||Range of different sizes|
|More likely to get torn||Made with stronger, more durable material|
|Rain protection includes lower half of body||No rain protection for the legs|
|Easy to fold away and carry||More cumbersome to carry|
|More wind resistance||Less wind resistance|
|Not effective in extreme weather conditions||More effective in extreme weather conditions|
|Less pockets and personal storage space||More pockets and personal storage space|
|Better for shorter trips/lower speed/urban cycling||Suitable for all types of cycling|
What Size Poncho Do I Need?
Essentially, you need a size that fits you. If you go for a ‘one-size’ poncho, choose something with adjustable fitting features. If you have a particularly small or large frame, you might be better off choosing a brand with different size options.
What you need to avoid is a poncho so huge (on you) that it catches in your spokes, or so small (on you) that it doesn’t even keep your bum dry.
Best Cycling Rain Capes [Top 5]
- The People’s Poncho 3.0 [REVIEW]
- Cleverhood Classic Rain Cape [REVIEW]
- Freiesoldaten Waterproof Cycling Rain Poncho [REVIEW]
- VAUDE Poncho Covero II [REVIEW]
- SaphiRose PONCHO [REVIEW]
A high spec poncho with a range of features
- Dimensions: B 130 x 97 cm L (without hood)
- One size
- Water-resistant front pouch with zip
- Adjustable hood with peak, and stretch panel for head movement
- Elasticated neck and back toggles for custom fit
- Poppers on both sides to create sleeves
- Handlebar straps to keep legs covered
- Waistband to prevent flapping
- Bag with carry strap for ease of transport
Available in one size, this poncho comes with a number of useful features to ensure flexibility and a more comfortable ride.
There are five colours to choose from, including ‘camouflage’ and ‘fisherman’s yellow’, giving you that all-important high visibility option.
The three-layered design consists of a TPU coating, durable polyester and Tricot Knit, making it fully waterproof, robust and breathable. It weighs 460 g and offers a custom fit (which is useful given the one-size option).
The reflective strips on the front and back, along with reflective piping round the edges, increase visibility (and safety).
A stylish, all-weather rain cape with all-over reflectivity
- Recycled polyester fabric
- Highly waterproof and breathable
- Scotchlite reflective threading woven throughout the fabric
- Waterproof YKK Uretek zippers
- Magnetic closures for the armholes
- Elastic thumb loops to keep the cape secure when riding
- Inner belt loop
- Velcro trim tabs on the sides to brace the cape in the wind
- Hood designed to fit under a helmet and to give optimal peripheral vision
- Fully seam-sealed
Cleverhood was actually one of the first ever products Discerning Cyclist reviewed (way back in 2012!), but it remains one of the best rain capes around for cyclists.
Available in three sizes, short, regular and tall, the Cleverhood Classic is a high visibility rain cape that you can be sure will fit. It’s also fairly lightweight at 410 g.
There are three to choose from – Classic Electric Houndstooth, Classic Electric Gingham and Classic Electric Glen. All are made from sustainable fabric – a perfect complement to your eco-friendly choice of travel.
Each has a stylish pattern with interwoven reflective thread, creating a bright high-viz grid that will ensure you are seen in dark and wet conditions.
This really is a superior garment, which is reflected in the price. Not only does it offer exceptional quality, but you’ll look great, too.
A durable rain poncho at a great price
- High quality, durable waterproof fabric, lightweight, breathable and easy clean
- Clear panel at the front that allows for full visibility
- Snap fastener on the back to adjust the size
- Adjustable drawstring under the neck
- Easy to fold, with carry bag included
- Two long reflector strips on the front and back
- Waterproof fabric at stitching port to prevent water entry
- Hidden cuff to prevent rain entering whether your hand is in or out
Highly affordable, this poncho boasts a number of clever and useful features along with a two-tone design – blue and grey or yellow and grey, with reflective strips on the front and back offering greater visibility.
Made of lightweight, easy clean and breathable material and with a convenient front zipped pocket, this is an excellent option for commuters who want a quality poncho that ‘does the job’ without breaking the bank.
Coming in one size, it does have adjustment options. And with thoughtful features such as the clear panel for visibility and hidden cuff, this poncho certainly has a lot going for it.
- Made of high quality waterproof material, lightweight, breathable,durable and easy clean
- Designed with a clear panel on the front of the cape that allows for full visibilty when riding or walking
- One size fit all. A snap fastener on the back that adjust the size of the rain coat, adjustable drawstring under neck provide maximal rain protection in bad weather
An eco-friendly, lightweight poncho with a classic style
- Length (medium) 96 cm
- Two side arm slots
- Inner elasticated stomach strap
- Material: Water repellent Eco Finish without harmful PFCs
- Front pocket for storage
- Reflective elements on the front and back
- Hand loops to hook around your handlebars
- Adjustable, tailored hood
With five sizes to choose from, ranging from small to XX large, there’s no doubt about this poncho being the right fit. It’s also super-light, weighing a mere 295 g.
Available in three colours, including ‘Indian red’ and the (very visible) ‘lemon’, there’s also no doubt that you’ll be seen in murky conditions.
VAUDE value their ethical commitment and are transparent about where the garments are made. They use environmentally-friendly, sustainable materials that are made in fair-production facilities.
Handy features such as an inner elastic stomach strap and adjustable hood with clear panels on either side, only add to the appeal.
- 2 arm slots on the sides.
- 1 front pocket which can be used for storage.
- Elasticated waist on the inside.
An affordable multi-function poncho
- Material: polyester (breathable, durable and highly waterproof)
- Large front pocket with zipper
- Adjustable hood with drawstring
- Sleeves with button to reduce flapping
- Matching carry pouch for easy storage
The SaphiRose boasts itself as a ‘3-in-1 multi-function’ poncho. Not only is it a waterproof cloak, but it can also be used as an awning cloth or a tent ground sheet mat. Ideal for those wet camping trips.
It’s available in an impressive ten colours, the brightest being ‘orange’. And the ‘universe’ colour option cannot be ignored – unique, strange and frankly, inspired.
The cheapest of our picks, this one-size poncho measures 22.2 x 14.6 x 6.4 cm. With its simple, solid design and multi uses, it offers good value for money. At a lightweight 340 g, it does the job, and much more besides…
- 【3-in-1 multi-function】 This raincoat has three functions. 1. is a waterproof cloak; 2. can be used as awning cloth; 3. is also a tent ground sheet mat. Perfect for outdoor activities.
- 【Convenient to carry】 Comes with a matching pouch that is foldable for easy storage and carrying, suitable for everyday wear/walking/camping/hiking/trekking/tourism/water park activities.
- 【Front pocket with zipper】 Chic pocket design. You can put a key, a mobile phone or other small items in the front pocket. Because this pocket is zippered, you don't have to worry about items...
All of these ponchos offer reflectivity (in varying degrees), and this is an absolute no-brainer. Most rain jackets will be reflective or have reflective parts, and why shouldn’t we ask the same of a poncho? After all, if it’s raining, even in the daylight, conditions are likely to be darker.
Ponchos are undeniably useful in terms of ease and weight, but they’re certainly not the only way you can keep dry. Even with the adjustments and straps on offer, there is going to be some flapping around.
And if, ultimately, you just can’t bear the billowy design of a rain cape, there are plenty of lightweight jackets on the market, along with a range of good waterproof cycling trousers. The choice is yours.
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