Product reviews: Cycling Capes

Traditional cycling capes have had a noticeable revival in recent years, as new designers address the challenge of how everyday cyclists can keep warm and dry. Capes are handy for throwing on for short journeys or those of us who wear skirts or smart clothes and don’t want to carry around a change of clothes and wear waterproof trousers. 

The price of cycling capes ranges from less than £10 for lightweight pack-a-macs (decathlon.co.uk) to over £200 for a cape with reflective tweed detailing (brooksengland.com). 

We’ve tested 3  mid-price range capes which are designed or produced in Britain and are suitable for autumn and winter showers.

 

CARRADICE Duxback Rain Poncho
£75 
www.carradice.co.uk

Designed in the 1930s and made by Carradice in Lancashire since then, the Duxback is the classic British cycle touring rain cape. Carradice is best known for its traditional cotton duck saddlebags, which have been used by tourers for more than 70 years. And due to the trend in retro cycling style the saddlebags have experienced a resurgence in popularity and are now sold worldwide to cyclists re-creating classic British cycle touring chic.

Carridice’s Duxback poncho doesn’t cut quite the same dash as the saddlebags, but the green wax cotton does look more classic than many of the cheaper lightweight capes. It is also a warmer, more sturdy, breathable and environmentally-friendly solution. The cut of the Duxback is loose to ensure it's large enough to fit over any helmet and to reach the handlebars of any size bike, to keep legs dry. The disadvantage of the adaptable fit is that the loose hood impedes vision and it feels like wearing a tent, but if speed is your priority, it's unlikely you would ever consider wearing a cape (research shows it reduces aero-dynamics by 69%). 

Another well documented disadvantage of capes is that by hooking over the handlebars, they restrict your arms and make it difficult to indicate quickly. With this cape, your options are to stick your arms out from underneath the cape or take time unhooking from the handlebars and getting wet. While this might seem like an untenable choice for commuting city cyclists who need to indicate frequently, it's much less of an issue for cyclists who are touring on country roads, and crucially, it keeps you very warm and dry on long journeys.

Stockists include: www.velorution.com

 

BOBBIN Waxed Cotton Cape 
£125 
www.bobbinbikes.co.uk 

Hand-made in London from medium weight British waxed cotton, the Bobbin cape combines the classic look and feel of old fashioned cycling ponchos, with a more contemporary and elegant fit. Despite it being the usual unisex 'one size fits all', the Bobbin cape is straight cut at the sides which prevents it looking like a tent and from becoming like a parachute on a windy day. 

Internal straps and side poppers create arm-holes, which create a trimmer silhouette and makes regular signalling easy. Also the drawstring hood makes road vision easier than the large hoods of a standard cape. The only disadvantage of the cut of the Bobbin cape is that your arms don’t get full coverage unless you hook the front of the cape to the handlebars – and even then they will still briefly get wet when signalling. 

This doesn’t seem to be a problem for light showers and short journeys. For a long journey in heavy rain we chose to wear a lightweight waterproof jacket underneath the cape, which we still preferred to other options we'd tried.

Stockists include: www.cyclechic.co.uk

 

OTTO London Urban Poncho
£88 
www.ottolondon.com 

While London-based designers Otto Lauterbach and Eleonora Perez’s inspiration came from traditional native South American ponchos, the London Urban Poncho is a very contemporary European design. In fact, Otto has managed to achieve the ultimate modern minimalism with this sleek cape. The Otto looks as good off the bike as any stylish jacket (we received several compliments from passers-by while testing it), but we were sceptical that such a short cut cape would keep us warm and dry. 

There is no denying the Otto is a little more draughty around the legs than the longer capes – and we don’t know how it would fair on a long wet and windy ride – but while cycling and signalling in the city the Otto did miraculously provide full coverage. During light showers it remained waterproof and the cotton lining provides warmth with breathability. Also the hood fits snugly, which kept out the chill and enabled good vision while looking over your shoulder. 

The Otto is available in several bright colours and has reflective piping for night visibility. A useful additional feature is the two waterproof zips which provides easy access to a secure inner pocket that keeps your phone and wallet safe and dry.

Stockists include: tokyobike.co.uk

Reviews: Lu Everett

 

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