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On Waterproofs For The Insouciant

Blog Date 27 February 2020

With the acquisition of a new jacket recently waterproofing has been on my mind.

This green and pleasant post industrial (post apocalyptic) island upon which I live can at times be a tad on the rainy side. It isn't actually as bad as some would have you believe but residents and visitors alike are well advised to be "prepared for rain". 

As a motorcyclist this isn't quite as simple as it could be, or perhaps I'm good at making things complicated. It's my special Ninja skill.

I could go out and spend around £1,000 (or more) on proper, real, genuinely guaranteed waterproof jacket and trousers. I could actually afford to do this and if I felt absolutely definitely certain I'd be kept totally dry no matter how heavy and persistent the rain is, and for a period of say, at LEAST 5 years then I can surely see the sense.

These outfits tend to suit the kind of person who is punctilious, careful and considerate. They will wipe the material often. They carefully wash the garments in the correct detergent and then the recommended water repellent. They will ensure they keep away from sharp objects. They will hang the suit when not in use. 

Please do not think I am mocking these people, in fact I envy their care and dedication. The thing is I'm a scruffy oik that's gotten old. It's not uncommon for me to wear the same jacket while fixing the bike as I wear when riding it. It gets slung under the shelf at home and over the back of a chair at work. Cleaning is not a thing and I just want to put it on, ride and take it off. I don't know if anyone's noticed but I'm not the punctilious type 

As such even if an over £1,000 outfit is going to keep me dry the likelihood is I would ruin it due to misuse or a lack of care. The fact is I don't deserve a decent bit of kit, it would be wasted on myself.

Cheaper waterproof bike kit tends not to be after a short amount of time. Sooner or later (usually sooner) the waterproof membrane will fail starting at the points of most movement. In a jacket this will be the elbows and in trousers this will be the crotch. 

My solution for many years now is to purchase affordable waterproof over jackets of the cagoule type and waterproof pants of the full-leg-zip type. I know and fully accept that these will fail within 1 to 2 years but at their acceptable price level I can replace them as required. 

Sharon outside a tent swaddled deep in waterproofs on a wet and windy day
Our gorgeous supermodel Sharon looks stunning in her wet weather outfit. 

My solution has 2 primary advantages and 2 primary disadvantages. 

On the good side this affordable solution means I can use whatever jacket and trousers I choose. I tend to come across old used kit and as long as it's sturdy I don't need to worry about it being waterproof.

There's another benefit a lot of rider's don't see. When touring if your riding gear gets wet (even if it is just on the outside) you then end up with wet kit inside the tent (or hotel etc). With overtrousers and jackets these can be removed and left with the bike or stuffed in a plastic bag. 

The main downside is the faff, the hassle. It can be a pain in the derriere to be riding then having to stop and "kit up" when the rain starts. Oversize jackets and the full leg zips on the pants make this easier but it is still something of a grind.  

My waterproof jacket tends to stay in situ all through the winter as well as most of the spring and autumn as it's not too hot. In summer a cagoule can be like a tortuous sweat shop though. Well remove it? Yes, OK, obviously - until the rain comes. It's 
rare we get warm rain in the UK but on those rare days it's still sweaty. Sometimes it's just easier and cooler to get wet.

We make our choices. I can see the sense in expensive, well made and thoroughly guaranteed riding gear. No more hopping around at the roadside just ride and enjoy. Counter to the ease of use come the demands of care and the initial outlay. No, I can see the sense but it's not the solution that would work for a scumbag such as I.

Ren in waterproof jacket and pants about to test ride a kawasaki
Stylish and on-trend as ever.

If you'd like to see your waterproofs reviewed on Bikes And Travels contact

Reader's Comments

ROD said :-
A very well written, and thought provoking article Ren.

I have been reflecting on my motorcycle clothing over my years of riding.
The first few years I was soaked on many occasions, and my bike gear consisted of boots, jeans, leather jacket, and gloves. In the winter I would layer up with ladies tights, long johns, extra pair of jeans, jumpers ect. and would carry a pair of plastic over trousers which would split and leak after a few months.
The jacket was liberally covered with dubbin, a thick black grease which did not really work, and meant that my mates parents would make me stay outside or sit in the garage to prevent the said black grease from entering their house.
I progressed to a one piece quilt lined oversuit after a few years and this was a big improvement in warmth, but alas it was not waterproof. This was remedied by painting the whole suit in roof sealer, this did not look pretty, but kept me dry.
I would still wear leather jacket and jeans in good weather and by now carried a one piece unlined waterproof oversuit.
Notice at this point the only protective clothing I am wearing is the leather jacket.
Around 14 years ago I purchased my first textile jacket and trousers with protection, and I am still using them now. The jacket is a Frank Thomas, and the trousers are Cube.
The Frank Thomas jacket has never leaked in that time, but the Cube trousers leaked at the first sight of proper rain, so I have a pair of B&Q builders trousers to go over them.
I am still not totally happy with my kit, and here is the problem:-
Autumn is OK when I use the jacket and trousers without the linings, Winter is OK when I use the jacket and trousers with the linings, Spring I use the same set up as Autumn, but Summer is a problem. Sometimes it is cold in summer and the jacket and trousers are fine, but most of the time it is too warm to wear this clothing and I will ride without protective clothing. I have been looking at mesh jackets for a few years but have not found the solution that I am looking for yet (Do I go back to a leather jacket?).
There is also the problem when touring.
Again fine if the weather is constant, but with limited space on the bike how many outfits do you take with you for 30 degrees plus in that alpine valley, and -5 at the summit of the alpine pass.
So on reflection I think Ren, that you have a very good compromise position on wetweather clothing.
I look forward to more contributions on this thread.

05/03/2020 04:51:54 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Clothing, it's a bit like an oil thread, but here goes. 10w40 Motul.....
Sorry got carried away.
After trying various combinations over many years my preferred option is Leather Revit Trousers with CE armour and a Hein Gericke touring jacket in some self branded gortex type material. Again the jacket is CE protected.
I do have a pair of Hein Gericke gortexy trousers but they are either too hot, too cold, too big, too small and like the jacket will hold the water content of an Olympic swimming pool at the first splash of water.
I carry a pair of heavy duty rubberish pants to put over the leather troosers should the weather decide to turn inclement. These fold to bugger all.
Generally this works but of course you need sea weed and weather cones affixed to the bike to determine if the next shower will be 2 minutes or 2 hours long.
On the subject of CE armour I haven't found any textile garment that keeps the armour where it should be even when riding let alone when bouncing down the road on your head.
Now what about gloves, waterproof gloves? Now they're a mystery. If you dare to stop whilst it's raining or has been raining you can't get the blasted things back on. I find myself riding in rain in unlined leather Belstaffs because they're the only thing you can get back on.
But of course, you forget, summer is coming and it will be a perpetual 6 months of dryness......except in Lancashire.
05/03/2020 05:49:50 UTC
nab301 said :-
In recent years despite owning some very good waterproof goretex lined Hein gericke clothing I have started wearing an extra outer waterproof layer on wet days for all the reasons that Ren mentions , mainly, arriving at destination in a downpour , remove outer layer , shake dry ,place in rucksack , no damp cold outer layer of clothing to suck the heat out of you on the return journey , and no pools of water on the floor under your bike gear either at home or work . Also the outer layer keeps all the road dirt off your expensive / not so expensive textile gear meaning less washing required , reducing water usage , and emissions ...
05/03/2020 09:47:40 UTC
Borsuk said :-
I wear what is effectively armoured underwear so what I wear as my outer layer is immatreacle from an impact point of view. My old hill walking kit with a cheapo waterproof on top would do. As it is I do wear biking jacket and trousers or aramide jeans more for comfort than anything else. I got a cheap uber mesh jacket for 50 quid a year or so ago which is great for summer, if it rains its a quick pitstop to put on the water proof top jacket. Unless it is really heavy the remaining waterproof-ness of my trousers or jeans are enough to prevent total drowning.
Nigel. What is this washing of kit of which you speak. I know not what that strange word means.
05/03/2020 11:45:57 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I quote "A very well written, and thought provoking article Ren." What were you reading ROD?

Borsuk - What is your armoured underwear? Is this a kinky fetish of can you share with the readers? I think (if it's not a fetish thing) this could be of use.

I have a pair of "combat" style pants with the slide protection (aramid, kevlar?. I wear these on those rare hot summer days otherwise I have full leg zip cordura pants. As for knee pads it is an impossibility for me to get trousers with the pads in the right place - as one knee is higher than the other after my crash. As such I have used the motocross style pads with much success. They can be stupid expensive but shop around, I got my last pair for about £35.
06/03/2020 09:11:27 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Waterproof gloves? Even IF IF IF they were 100% totally waterproof you'd still get wet hands in a proper downpour. Rain runs down your sleeves and into the gloves, simples. Oh? What? You spend 15 minutes every time you put your gloves on to get the jacket cuffs OVER the gloves? I admire your patience but the rain then blows up your jacket/glove interface then you end up with wet gloves and wet wrists too. And if this doesn't happen then you're not riding in heavy enough rain at pace.

The solution? Eliminate the glove/jacket interface. This is achieved by making the jacket with the gloves as part of the sleeve, sort of a jacket glove combo. You will of course need your mummy to fasten your zips up because as soon as you put the jacket on you have your gloves on. You'll also need help to get the jacket off, get keys in and out of pockets and do anything else that you can't do with gloves on.

You'll note I've given this some thought. Perhaps too much.

Summer gloves in summer time are fine in the rain. They get wet but they're easy enough to remove/replace when wet unlike winter gloves. And it's not too cold so the pinkies can cope with being wet. Wet winter gloves are a bugger. Cold, take an age to dry out and impossible to remove without pulling the lining out, impossible to replace without tearing the lining.

My plan, thanks to Bogger's link, is to use summer gloves with waterproof overmitts. I DO NOT expect the overmitts to keep all the rain out due to the glove/jacket interface issue, but with the handguards and overmitts ingress should take a while. I shall report back with my results on a future date.

06/03/2020 09:43:19 UTC
Bill said :-
Ren, don't know how you would get on commuting but for trail riding I can't wear heavy waterproof gloves or overmits. So my solution is to wear nitrile gloves under summer/ motorx gloves.easy to carry a few pair in jacket pocket and change at coffee stops etc.
They also keep hands warm in winter as windproof and no loss of feeling or dexterity as with thicker gloves.
06/03/2020 12:44:13 UTC
Upt'North said :-
My present waterproof gloves are Weise Montana's. They are a medium weight made for 3 season forays.
They have a dual cuff, one goes under the coat and one goes over. It's a bit of a faff but works reasonably well in normal rain. The outer cuff can be pulled tight over the jacket.
The problem persists though that as soon as you stop for fuel etc, you have to do the forecourt dad dance to get them back on once your hands get damp from whatever you're doing.
06/03/2020 05:18:51 UTC
Borsuk said :-
I use Forcefield armoured undershirt and long johns.
They are my first or second layer of clothing so there are at least 2 other layers above it and drag on my clothing during a slide shouldn`t reach down to that level. My jacket and fleece should take up any friction induced movement. I got it after I came off at night due to crap on a bend in the road my pitiful headlights didn`t show and the armour in my jacket and trousers rode up exposing my knee and hip to thew tarmac resulting in me being unable to walk for three days and hirpling for a fortnight. I did a helicopter escape course 5 days after the spill with sufficient painkillers that I felt nothing, by the end of the day they were wearing off and I could barely stumble out of the test centre.
I use a Knox Metasys back protector and I have level 2 armour in the vest and long johns.
If any one wants sets of elbow, shoulder and knee pads for the cost of postage let me know as I have a drawer full of the ones from my outer jackets somewhere in the shed.
06/03/2020 05:41:20 UTC
Borsuk said :-
I did contemplate getting the wife to sew armour pouch points on a set of thermals but as she had spent the best part of a week fitting zips into the legs of a pair of Roadskins heavy duty aramid jeans and breaking several needles with lots of swearing, threats of divorce and worse I decided that keeping my gentleman parts attached was more important than cheap safety gear and forked out for the real thing.
06/03/2020 10:53:11 UTC
Keith m said :-
If your trying to get your gloves back on after filing up with wet hands use the gloves that forecourts provide. Put these on first and your hands will slide into your wet gloves.
08/03/2020 10:33:10 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Thanks Keith, I will try this the next time instead of the forecourt dad dance.
08/03/2020 10:38:30 UTC
Mark Noel said :-
There is a simple solution to all this worry about wet weather gear being sodden, too hot, too cumbersome or too expensive:

As soon as it threatens rain strip off and ride in the nude. Then once it stops you can put your nice dry warm clothing back on, rather than suffer riding on like a drowned rat in sodden gear.

I have yet to try this strategy but I await the results of tests from other B&T readers!

After all my dog never bothers with overtrousers and jacket in the rain, and always seems happy and comfortable.
08/03/2020 12:36:11 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Mark, yes we are waterproof although I don't think I can shake myself dry like a dog, BUT God no, please no. Most motorcyclists I know, including me, will look better covered up, wet or dry.
I've just had a shiver at the thought of it.
08/03/2020 01:00:39 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Great idea in theory Mark.

But unfortunately I am now searching for brain floss to remove the picture that has been burned into my brain.

08/03/2020 07:56:11 UTC
Bill said :-
Must have stopped raining
08/03/2020 10:57:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Bill - I've used the latex/nitrile gloves and they do help but I can't help pretending I'm a doctor when I put them on. This is OK save for the pending lawsuits...

Keith m - Good call on the "diesel" gloves as I call them. Free, readily available and the do make getting gloves off and on so much easier. Of course getting the plastic gloves off is another thing.

I've not seen that kit before Borsuk, worth bearing in mind. Mrs Borsuk does sound quite fearsome though, I'd suggest keeping on her good side.

Mark Noel - I had a lot of respect for you after your trips on the GN125. Your sage words, your quality writing, your adventurous outlook and so much more. And then you plant this BOMBSHELL into all our heads. How am I to ever see you in any other way than riding a GN125 with luggage through the Baltic region butt naked in the rain? Thanks for that, Borsuk, pass the brain floss.
09/03/2020 09:18:31 UTC
nab301 said :-
@ Borsuk Quote " What is this washing of kit of which you speak. I know not what that strange word means."
I may be one of the great unwashed but I still manage to wash my gear/ self at least once a year whether it's needed or not....
09/03/2020 07:16:29 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Look I've banned the use of rude words so stop mentioning the "w" word! We'll not be having any of this namby pamby clean nonsense on this butch and rugged blog. Once a year nab301? Sounds like a bad case of OCD to me. I bet you fold your t-shirts too don't you.
10/03/2020 08:56:13 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I have an old Bering textile jacket and trousers which I reproof occasionally with Nikwax. They'll keep out all but the heaviest rain for about an hour. I also have a pair of lobster claw over gloves (thanks to Ian Soady of this parish) which are 100% waterproof and are brilliant. I also wear black rigger boots liberally treated with liquid dubbin which are as waterproof as any bike boots I've ever had.

In the summer, I tend to wear the textile jacket with the lining removed, hood jeans (bought very cheap when they discontinued some older types) and carry with me some DryBika PU Nylon over trousers which I've had for nearly 40 years and which are still 100% waterproof. Job done!
10/03/2020 09:02:37 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
"About an hour". So what do you do if you are riding all day in a downpour?
11/03/2020 09:16:00 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Get wet!

To be honest, I try not to ride on really nasty days, and if I do, it'll only be to visit my daughter and grandkids about 15 miles away. Having said that, when I said they keep all but the heaviest rain out for an hour, I didn't mean that they become completely un-waterproof after an hour, merely that you might get some dampness seeping through gradually.

My personal experience having tried many different combinations of waterproofs over the last 38 years, is that no combination is 100% waterproof in a prolonged heavy downpour as the rain will work it's way in somewhere, usually at the interfaces between gloves, boots, jacket and trousers.

The bike is my only means of transport, but I only work two days a week and I go on the train to work, so generally speaking, I can pick and choose when I ride. :-)
11/03/2020 01:23:43 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Your bike isn't your only means of transport then - you have a train too! No nowt's 100% waterproof there's always a gap and a crevice that causes some kind of ingress. Heck even cars leak given enough rain, hopefully the leak isn't onto you though.

So what do you do for 2 days a week? I really need to reduce my day count at work.
11/03/2020 02:04:00 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I've spent my working life in I.T. for my sins. 8 years as a field service engineer, followed by 33 years in application development. I went round the 'Secret Bunker' museum in Nantwich the other day, and was disturbed to find that a lot of the I.T. equipment on show was very similar to stuff I used to repair back in the day...
11/03/2020 04:13:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I.T. Huh. Me too. Must be doing it wrong though I ain't rich like I thought I'd be.
12/03/2020 10:04:29 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Me neither - off shoring saw to that. I'm only able to work part time cos my parents left me enough to pay off the mortgage when they passed away. I figured it's best to enjoy life whilst you can, and having had cancer last year, I don't regret the decision to go part time ASAP. I only wish I could afford to pack it in completely...
12/03/2020 11:09:05 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I can thoroughly recommend packing it in completely.......
13/03/2020 09:58:28 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Here, here old chap.
13/03/2020 01:20:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I was quite happily working a 3 day week for several years. Then this company said "5 days or 0 days". I took the 5 days option but I've regretted it since. If anyone is looking for a part time C# programmer who's also handy at general IT support...........

As for Ian and Upt' - Pfffffft!
13/03/2020 02:52:56 UTC

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