Cycling cape?

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LittleGreyCat
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Cycling cape?

Postby LittleGreyCat » 6 Jun 2019, 11:13am

The weather has been "interesting" over the last few days with a lot of rain, and also massive thunderstorms over mainland Europe.

I just looked up the weather statistics for the Netherlands for July and August and (allegedly) there can be between 16 and 17 "rain days" in these months.

This made me think about cycling capes, which might be useful when touring because some days you have to ride regardless of the weather. If you are on a week's tour and it rains every day then you don't have much choice.

Additionally it could be used as a bike cover, perhaps.

My experience of bicycle capes goes back to the early '60s when they were heavy non-breathable plastic.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a modern light weight breathable cape, perhaps with enough spread to cover handlebars and rear rack?

Amazon and eBay have loads on offer but of what quality?

pwa
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby pwa » 6 Jun 2019, 11:18am

I've not used them, but I know Carradice market capes.https://www.carradice.co.uk/products/rainwear

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mjr
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby mjr » 6 Jun 2019, 1:35pm

LittleGreyCat wrote:Does anyone have a recommendation for a modern light weight breathable cape, perhaps with enough spread to cover handlebars and rear rack?

Amazon and eBay have loads on offer but of what quality?

Here's my current thoughts: I use a large "horn hill" walking cape (I'm 1m80ish on a large bike), which I clip around the brake cables and then I sit on the back, although it can take a few goes standing up and sitting back down to get it right (not so long it flaps much but not so short it feels tight when looking around). The stuff on the rear rack has its own rain covers and clipping the cape to it would make dismounting/detaching too difficult for me, possibly turning a thoughtless attempt to swing a leg over the rear rack into a zero mph crash.

Quality has been fine and it's very waterproof. It's not boil-in-the-bag like a waterproof jacket which means I don't often need to put other layers on or off. I sometimes wear it to do stuff outside during heavy rain. I have sat down wearing it during a concert in a rainstorm and stayed nicely dry. I think it's polyester. It might be usable as a bike cover but then the inside would probably get bike dirt on it and not be the easiest thing to clean off.

The design is basically a big square with poppers at the side and a hood on the top. It's OK but I still wonder if the more shaped cycling-specific closed-side ones flap about less in the wind - it would also keep my sleeves dry (but I tend to keep mine for summer use when I'm wearing T-shirts or can roll sleeves up - all takes extra time to put it on, though, and it's already too slow to use on group rides IMO because everyone else stands around in the rain waiting for me) but it would be more difficult to signal, or to pick big things up without my sides getting wet.

Oh yes, flapping in the wind: my cape is the second-least aerodynamic thing I've cycled in in the last decade. I try to avoid using it on the open fens because it makes pedalling so much harder work in any headwind at all, but it's better than nothing if I've not got my smaller waterproof and rainlegs with me, or I want to lessen how damp my shins/calves and feet get. It's great around town because my speed is mostly limited by junctions and traffic, not available power, although if it's raining hard when I arrive then I do feel like I get funny looks if I walk into offices or shops wearing it instead of a regular raincoat.

I avoided vinyl/PVC capes because I remember getting lightheaded from the fumes cycling in those when I was younger. Vinyl has other drawbacks, too. There are also a lot of listings claiming improbable materials like "Oxford cloth" (which is usually what shirts are made from). Other tricks specific to this sort of listing include having the model wear a backpack to lift the cape off the back tyre.

I think https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Bike-Cycling ... 2906266546 is a current listing for what I have (in bright blue) but it's more expensive than when I bought mine. https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/TOMSHOO-Ligh ... 3213866177 is probably the same thing under another brand. It comes with a storage pouch, which I've dropped once and collected from the hedge on a return journey. I think that's probably better than the ones that pack into a front pocket because I had a cagoul that packed up that way and a puddle always formed in the now-empty pocket while cycling, from water forced up under the rain flap by the breeze caused by cycling forwards.

If you want a closed-side cape, I've found Laxzo stuff usually works, so you could consider https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Rain-Coat-Co ... 2572409072 if you don't mind pink or waiting for new stock (maybe email?). Similar listings for other colours look longer to me.

Other than that, Carradice and Brooks are probably the Ortleibs of capes. I've no experience because I don't trust myself not to damage or lose them :) Oxford Products are maybe the Topeak.

Any questions?
Last edited by mjr on 6 Jun 2019, 2:02pm, edited 2 times in total.
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HobbesOnTour
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby HobbesOnTour » 6 Jun 2019, 1:53pm

LittleGreyCat wrote:The weather has been "interesting" over the last few days with a lot of rain, and also massive thunderstorms over mainland Europe.

I just looked up the weather statistics for the Netherlands for July and August and (allegedly) there can be between 16 and 17 "rain days" in these months.

This made me think about cycling capes, which might be useful when touring because some days you have to ride regardless of the weather. If you are on a week's tour and it rains every day then you don't have much choice.

Additionally it could be used as a bike cover, perhaps.

My experience of bicycle capes goes back to the early '60s when they were heavy non-breathable plastic.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a modern light weight breathable cape, perhaps with enough spread to cover handlebars and rear rack?

Amazon and eBay have loads on offer but of what quality?


Can't comment on the cape as I've never used one on a bike but I can comment on the rain in NL in July/August. At that time of the year, rain tends to be heavy for a short period of time. Usually accompanied by a thunderstorm. Very predictable and easy to avoid.
It is very unusual to experience rainfall of several hours at a time, although when it does occur being warm is more important to me than being dry.

The only thing you need to cover on your bike is possibly the (leather) saddle.

mercalia
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby mercalia » 6 Jun 2019, 6:39pm

Isnt Holland a bit windy? A cape might not be the best thing to use?

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mjr
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby mjr » 6 Jun 2019, 7:37pm

mercalia wrote:Isnt Holland a bit windy? A cape might not be the best thing to use?

Not much different to here; it depends what your goal is.
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JakobW
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby JakobW » 6 Jun 2019, 8:38pm

mjr wrote:
mercalia wrote:Isnt Holland a bit windy? A cape might not be the best thing to use?

Not much different to here; it depends what your goal is.


Ah, but for those who aren't fenlanders and have never encountered a Dutch Alp the impact can be a bit of a shock.

I have two capes - a Carradice waxed cotton number and a Lidl yellow plastic hiking one. Both work well enough; the Carradice is rather heavy, but has hand loops and a waist tie that means it's a slightly better fit for the bike. I think mine needs re-waxing, as there's some seepage on top of my shoulders where the cape sits (on the other hand, I run hot, so it's possible it's just perspiration from where the not very breathable fabric is). Both work better in a sit-up-and-beg position rather than on drop bars, but they're still perfectly useable. I prefer them to normal waterproofs for touring/commuting purposes, as I don't tend to overheat as much in them, but they're not ideal in wind, and if it's really chucking it down I find I want spats or something to cover my lower legs (but then I'm 6'5", so less gangly types may find they get enough protection from a standard cape).

I'm not convinced breathability makes that much difference to a cape; most of the benefit comes from the airflow underneath, and if it's really chucking it down then it's going to wet out fairly quickly. I think my 8.99 Lidl special is just coated nylon (at that price I'd be surprised if it was anything else), but I believe the people's poncho (
https://www.thepeoplesponcho.co.uk/ ) has a breathable membrane. OTOH it's 60 quid...

nsew
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby nsew » 6 Jun 2019, 10:21pm

I summon a bus shelter and get the feast on.

tatanab
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby tatanab » 7 Jun 2019, 7:11am

LittleGreyCat wrote:Does anyone have a recommendation for a modern light weight breathable cape, perhaps with enough spread to cover handlebars and rear rack?
Lightweight is not good in a cape. Those who remember the Pakit capes of about 1980 will know that they crack like a sail in a storm, billow all over the place whereas an old style "heavy" cape sits around you. A proper cape will cover your handlebars, held to your hands by thumb loops, and cover you saddle bag (not carrier) on a dead calm day but you would almost certainly want to sit on it to stop it billowing upwards on a windy day. By heavy I mean a cape weighing something like 1kg. There are many threads on here about capes, perhaps look under Lillywhite & Lewis (long gone maker) or Rotrax (more recent, took over from L&L but also gone). These were PVC or PVC on cotton.

From your description of what you have found I suspect you have found ponchos, with exposed arms and short dimensions. Not at all what an old English rider would recognise as a cape.

nsew
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby nsew » 7 Jun 2019, 7:21am

15 or so ‘days of rain’ doesn’t amount to a deluge. It means that on average rain will likely fall at some point during the day on 15 days of the month. That can be a 5 minute shower.

ANTONISH
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby ANTONISH » 7 Jun 2019, 8:48am

I used my Rotrax cape when I rode the Danube cycle path - I had a day of steady rain and it kept me dry - much better than the rain jacket and overtrousers that is the alternative - IMO that is real "boil in a bag". I don't see the need for breathability in a cape as its open to the air.
Another advantage I find is with the hands under the cape most of the time there is no need for waterproof gloves - my track mitts were slightly damp at the end of the day.
As "tatanab says a heavier cape performs much better than the lightweight alternatives.

I don't use a cape in the UK because of the problem of signalling in traffic - but in a cycle friendly country I definitely would.

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mjr
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby mjr » 7 Jun 2019, 9:35am

tatanab wrote:
LittleGreyCat wrote:Does anyone have a recommendation for a modern light weight breathable cape, perhaps with enough spread to cover handlebars and rear rack?
Lightweight is not good in a cape. Those who remember the Pakit capes of about 1980 will know that they crack like a sail in a storm, billow all over the place whereas an old style "heavy" cape sits around you.

A lightweight cape with open tied sides doesn't billow more and it means you're not carrying extra weight the whole trip and can signal properly. It does crack a bit in high winds sometimes but is that such a drawback?

A proper cape will cover your handlebars, held to your hands by thumb loops, and cover you saddle bag (not carrier) on a dead calm day but you would almost certainly want to sit on it to stop it billowing upwards on a windy day.

None of that is different for lightweight, although I much prefer it fixed to the bars than the thumbs because it shelters the feet more.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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tatanab
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby tatanab » 7 Jun 2019, 11:14am

mjr wrote: although I much prefer it fixed to the bars than the thumbs because it shelters the feet more.
Not necessary with a good old heavy cape because it covers the bar bag and drops far enough to reach the top of the mudguard. Without a bar bag it is necessary to fold the bib of the cape up a bit, but it still reaches to the brake stirrup. When standing upright, the bib of the cape reaches half way between knee and ankle.

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mjr
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby mjr » 7 Jun 2019, 12:46pm

tatanab wrote:
mjr wrote: although I much prefer it fixed to the bars than the thumbs because it shelters the feet more.
Not necessary with a good old heavy cape because it covers the bar bag and drops far enough to reach the top of the mudguard. [...]

Less necessary perhaps, because stronger winds are needed to lift it than a lightweight modern cape, but it can still happen. I rode under heavy traditional capes enough when I was young to know, so don't try to pull the wax over my eyes! ;)
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TrevA
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Re: Cycling cape?

Postby TrevA » 7 Jun 2019, 2:58pm

I bought a Carradice Pro Route cape to use on my commute. I used it twice and remembered why we gave up using capes years ago. The billowing in the wind, the puddle collecting in between your arms and the fact that it acts as a sail - great with a tailwind, not so great with a cross or head wind. I sold it to someone on here. If I were to have another, then I would go for the Duxback model, but for the time being I’m happy with my Goretex.