Today started out slightly damp and finished with a light drizzle. Yes, Manchester has an unfair reputation for being a rainy city (it’s just “grey, not rainy“), but when the weather forecast says chance of rain, I tend to expect it.
This affects my riding too. My commute to work is barely two miles and usually takes 15 minutes. Now, a 15 minute walk in the rain isn’t pleasant at best of times so a 15 minute ride at an average speed of 11 mph doesn’t sound like a particularly enjoyable thing to do without being covered in waterproof clothing.
However, I don’t like having to wear bulky waterproofs: they’re not comfortable and I need to find somewhere to put them in the office to dry out a bit. And 15 minutes in a bit of rain isn’t usually that bad, especially if your bike has mudguards (otherwise you really are asking for a wet back).
So it was lucky that I went along to Bike Fabulous – a cycling fashion and style event organised by the GM Love Your Bike campaign at Manchester’s Arndale Centre.
At the event, I was interested to learn that Levi’s were launching a new Commuter range of clothing. Tapping into the growth of cycling and the demand for a more casual style, Levi’s Commuter is part of a new range of clothing that aims fulfil that need. By combining “ordinary”clothing with particular materials, manufacturing techniques and accessories, Levi’s are making a range of stylish clothing that are ideal for cycling.
Now our friends on the continent (and indeed, our grandparents) have been using bikes for getting around for years before any of this all came along, so I was naturally a little sceptical. But I needed some new jeans anyway, so picked up a pair of Levi’s 511 commuter jeans – slim fit and reasonably dark.
They were pricey, don’t get me wrong, but I have to admit I’m now a convert. The jeans fit really comfortably – like normal jeans but with added stretch in the waistband and a softer but more tightly-woven denim. Most importantly though, they’re pre-treated with a hydrophobic coating, so in the rain, the drops appear to slide right off!
This doesn’t last forever – in a persistent shower, your jeans do begin to get wetter, but the material seems to dry a lot quicker. And the effect does fade too, but can be easily reapplied by using something like Nikwax wash-in waterproofer every few months – less often in the summer. I find that for my short daily commute to and from work, it’s perfectly fine for most of the Manchester drizzle.
As you’d expect, Levi’s also offer a wide range of sizes and styles to meet varying taste, including some that are less slim and some that are exceptionally skinny. Most of them include a handy lock loop to shove a small lock in the back and reflective turn-ups that help improve visibility at night. Check out the full range on Amazon now.
That’s the bottom half sorted then, but what about a top?
My dress code at work is pretty relaxed so I usually pair the Levi’s with my trusty Surface Snugflex hoody.
It’s basically like a normal hoody, but made with a soft, showerproof fabric that’s ideal for unexpected downpours during a commute. It’s also cut with a lower back to hide any embarrassing ride-ups when you’re cycling and also various other technical features like vents and so on.
I’ve had a Snugflex for about four years now and I’m itching to get a new one when the stock comes in. The great thing about it is that’s so versatile – I wear it in the summer and winter and it doesn’t look out of place in the pub. Which is why I’ll often wear it off the bike too. I’ve also used Nikwax to enhance the showerproof properties.
Surface do a bunch of other jackets and accessories too. The wool jacket is rather nice looking, but demands you can tolerate a skinnier fit which I can’t really pull off.
So those are my preferred options that I can vouch for through direct experience. It’s great that existing and new firms have responded to the demand for stylish and functional cycling wear. To be honest, you don’t need anything special to get on a bike, but personally, I’ve found the Levi’s jeans and the Surface hoody to be invaluable – I basically live in them!
What do you wear when out riding on your bike in inclement weather? Do you have any suggestions for women on bikes? Drop me a comment below and share your suggestion with other readers.