Soon I discovered the cape, I had never tried one nor seen one. I was however quite curious and a lot of what I read about them made a hell of a lot of sense. The other alternative was to get rainlegs which I would combine with my jacket and some waterproof booties that I use in cold weather as well on club rides during the winter.
|The caped crusader!|
There are many capes on the market if you look, I had to order mine directly from the UK as no one really sells anything like a cape here. In Australia it's all about rain jackets which are fitted (and meant more for racing bikes). Many cycling critics cite rainy weather as why cycling will never work as transport, sure less people cycle when it rains but less people also walk, this doesn't mean walking is a failure does it? Part of me also suspects this attitude is prevalent in countries like Australia where maybe 5% of bikes have mudguards and most bikes have exposed derailleur drivetrains. Compare this to mainland europe where most bikes have mudguards and fully enclosed chaincases, rain capes are a common site there too. All these little things make riding in the rain not so bad, rather it's quite doable.
The cape works best on a more upright bike as it is less cumbersome, I've ridden with it on a drop bar bike and it is fine but it just feels a bit weird with the hunched over position. The Duxback cape has many little features that aren't on cheaper capes, a large reflective stripe on the back as well as a waist strap to stop it flying up in a gust and wrist loops at the front so the cape stays attached to your arms. I have ridden it in some moderate 30-40km/h winds and it isn't too bad but if you are intending to ride in very windy conditions it might not be a great idea. The cape forms a bit of a parachute which forms from your wrists to your shoulders, this part tends to catch the wind the most moving forward. It's also where rain tends to deposit and you have to flick it off every now and then.
|There is a collar at the top as well as a hood with a drawstring|
|Oh dear, I forgot to wear clothes under my cape again. Just don't tell anyone! You can see the waist strap here as well as the wrist loops on the underside of the cape|
A lot of Australian cyclists get obsessed with commuting speeds, every commute turns into a training ride. One day it was raining moderately and I was wearing my cape riding my twenty, at the lights a guy on a roadie in lycra with no mudguards (I secretly was pitying his wet patch on his bum) pulls up and says to me "that must be a bit of effort to push" I just replied "no it wouldn't be as fast as my roadie" in an attempt to unpidgeonhole myself as a retrogrouch tragic that also happens to like racing bikes. Still it made me think, what is faster? Racing from traffic light to traffic light on an uber lightweight bike with no mudguards, maybe getting home about 2 minutes earlier only to spend 15 minutes having a shower because you got soaked and cleaning your dirty clothes and your bike because your bike and it's drivetrain has no mudguards or chaincase.
Or you can just go a bit slower wearing a daggy cape and get there 5 minutes later to take off your cape and continue what you would normally do when you get home without having to dry off or change.
Compared to the rain jacket the ventilation is a lot better, you can lift up the cape to get a bit of a breeze going, however since it's waxed cotton and it sits flat on your back, I find that you do get a little bit of back sweat.
|The spats also have a 3M reflective strip on the sides|
Onto the spats, they use an elastic loop that goes around the front of your foot with a zipper along the back of your calf with velcro loops that secure it. They reach up above your knee, so in concert with the cape it almost gives you a strange feeling of invulnerability when the weather turns for the worse. The only downside is that the spats are fiddly to put on, if you don't have something to sit on you have to balance on one foot and try to zip it up which isn't easy. Sometimes I don't put them on because they take too long. However this brings me on to another point on why I love my cape, it is very fast to put on or take off. You can put it on straight over whatever you're wearing and it'll keep you dry. This is something that is unmatched by a rain jacket and rain pants. Heck, I even took it bushwalking once when the weather looked a bit suspect, and man was it useful. The waxed green cotton has an army surplus kind of look to it and the lining they use for the hood means it passes as an ordinary piece of clothing. Carradice also makes a cape in bright hi-viz yellow which looks a bit ridiculous in my opinion.
|No it's not a splayed out skunk, it's one of the spats splayed out.|
Update December 2012
I've written about reproofing the wax on the cape at The caped Crusader Part II