A lovely raincoat caught my eye a few months ago at a women-who-bike brunch, worn by fellow lady April. When I mentioned the coat, April was excited to tell me all about it. I was interested to hear that the raincoat is the clever and stylish creation of a bicycling woman in England, who started Cambridge Raincoat Company. Since I get so many questions about bike friendly raincoats, I asked April to review hers for LGRAB. She kindly agreed and the following review is written by April Galarza, who writes at www.ecocanary.com. Thanks, April!
“Cycling in the rain, cycling in the rain, what a glorious feeling, I’m happy again…”
Now just set that to music and imagine me in rain boots and a trench coat holding an umbrella and swinging around my bike as if she were a lamp post.
Ok Ok, that picture is a bit too Pollyannaish, even for me.
To tell you the truth, for a long time I avoided cycling in the rain. It figures that Chicago has been so very rainy this year! Even sunny days have included light showers! I never mind riding in a downpour on Saturdays when I am dressed for gardening; who cares if I am wet on top of dirty? But biking on work days had become at best a challenge and at worst downright failure to launch. I braved out a few rain storms, trying to pick days when the rain would be heaviest during my evening commute. I even covered my bike up with a tarp when I parked it outside my workplace to keep it dry, but honestly, those were miserable commutes—cold, wet and stressful.
Is it just me or do moderate, tolerant drivers turn into speeding-for-the-sake-of- speeding, squeeze-me-off-the-road and turn-in-front-of-me-even-though-I-am-lit-up-like-a-Christmas-tree-and-am-wearing-a-construction-worker’s-vest-over-my-raincoat jerks whenever it rains? My old rain jacket, a packable hiking windbreaker, the color of a starless night just didn’t cut it. Besides being dark colored, it is short. My legs were completely exposed, resulting in soaked work pants or skirt!
So instead of braving the weather, I turned to the radar game: “Spin the wheel and hope you get a sunny day,” says the host in his sparkly blue suit, slicked back hair and bright red tie as I put my hand on a wheel composed of 12 slices, 11 of which depict rain clouds and one a dull yellow sun mostly hidden behind a big gray cloud. I spin the wheel and the dial lands on torrential downpour. “Congratulations, April, you’ve won a trip to work on the train!”
Then I heard my fellow cyclists on Chainlink saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather for biking, only bad clothing.”
It was time to get some rain gear. First came new boots. They are made from post-consumer recycled rubber and Italian silk designed by a Canadian company called Kamik. They are super comfortable, really sturdy, totally water proof, flexible, eco-friendly (I can recycle them! Kamik has a take back program) and to top it all of stylish!
Now all I needed was a good raincoat. Let me tell you my wish list and then I’ll tell you about the jewel-of-a-find I ended up buying.
- Really bright color and maybe even reflective features built in (I hate wearing the vest. I feel about as cool as a crash dummy.)
- Long enough to cover my lap and knees. (I refuse to wear rain pants. I would like to maintain a modicum of dignity riding to work.)
- Made of a high quality fabric, something warm enough to cut the wind, but breathes well enough to wear on muggy summer days.
- Style: doesn’t make me look like a racer or a saran-wrapped sandwich. (I believe you should be able to integrate cycling into your daily life, wearing normal clothes and riding upright at moderate speed).
And now ladies (and gentlemen) may I present the Cambridge Raincoat!
The only raincoat that meets all of my demands and does it with style and flair!
I searched far and wide before I found the Cambridge Raincoat Company. The American market wanted to dress me like a racer or a hiker but never an upright Dutch-style biker (sorry I’m a writer I couldn’t resist the rhyme…). I enjoyed perusing traditional London macs and Dutch capes but nothing spoke to my needs. Most of that rain gear was rendered in dark colors or earth tones. Few (namely only the racing-style cyclist jackets) had reflective features and among those only the Cambridge Raincoat fit my taste and style and would coordinate with my outfits and make me feel Cycle Chic.
After emailing the owner and innovator extraordinaire Sally Guyer (Sally had the idea for the raincoats and collaborated with Savile Row graduate designer, Elizabeth Radcliffe to create them) who answered my every question and assured me she could ship to the U.S., I was sold! Now I only had to decide what color I wanted.
The beautiful raincoats are made in a trench-coat style, however they have a decidedly fitted feminine shape, which calls to mind something worn by a 50s silver-screen starlet. The collar is adjustable and can be worn in three ways, much like my beloved canvas navy-blue short trench coat that I wear everywhere. The fabric is specially engineered for outdoor activities, being waterproof, wind cutting, lightweight and breathable. Perhaps the best feature of all is the integrated reflective ribbons on the belt, the buttons and the cuffs. They are an ordinary gray color until light shines on them and then, look out! At the time I bought my coat, there were four bright colors to choose from: Aspen Gold, Poppy Red, Iris Orchid and Vibrant Green (now there are even more!). Each one is so chic and exciting that it took me over a week to decide on the one I wanted! Be sure to check out all of them on Cambridge Raincoat’s website! After much deliberation I settled on the Iris Orchid color, a perfect match for my Kamik rain boots.
After riding in many heavy rainstorms on my bike under the cover of my lovely and impervious iris colored raincoat, I officially gave the Cambridge Raincoat my stamp of approval. I carry it in my pannier if there is the slightest chance of rain. I am told that I have an elegant and retro look while wearing it. I love the bright cheerful color and the reflective fabric on the cuffs, buttons and belt accessory. Also, the silk polka-dot lining is darling. There is no better word to describe it.
Logistically it meets all my needs. It covers me from my neck all the way down past my knees. There is an extra hidden button located just below the knee in order to hold the coat closed over your lap while cycling. Each time I have biked during rainstorms I have arrived at my destination completely dry. I also feel that I am well seen by drivers. There is less buzzing and honking and more than a few friendly smiles and wave-throughs. The coat fits me well so there is none of that unsightly and annoying billowing up around me that I have noticed with other rain gear, such as ponchos. I did notice that the coat performs slightly better when I am sitting completely upright and pedaling at a steady pace. If I pedal too hard the coat tends to ride up a little and expose my knees.
Sally has told me that she intentionally designed the coat not to have a hood because it obstructs the periphery vision of a cyclist. I agree with her about not using a hood while biking, but I would like to see a detachable hood in future designs. I love my raincoat and also wear it when walking to close destinations such as the library and the grocery store or taking my dog, Lola, out to play in the puddles. On these occasions a hood would be very convenient because I could forgo an umbrella and thus have my hands free to carry groceries and hold the leash. Sally has assured me that she will be designing some matching hats soon and I look forward to seeing them!
In the hot muggy days of summer, the coat was a little less breathable than I would have liked but when the cold rains of fall and winter arrived, I was no longer complaining. It is just as impervious to cutting wind as it is to water. It turned out to be the perfect top layer for all my winter riding. Not only was I protected from the wind, I also felt safer during my commutes home during the dark days of winter due to its bright color and reflective features.
Of course the best part of the raincoat is that it is a stylish and fashionable item, unlike the majority of rain gear designed for bikers. I love the cut of it, how it flairs at the waist and complements the retro A-line skirts I like to wear. I love the three ways that I can wear the collar to adjust to weather conditions and my fashion preferences.
All in all, I am extremely pleased with my raincoat. As a daily cyclist who uses her bike as her primary form of transportation, the only time I ever dreaded and avoided riding was because of the rain. Now I embrace it. I love it. I find myself laughing out loud as I zoom through puddles and, yes folks, even singing a tune or two as I pedal.
A new line of raincoats has just arrived. There are additional colors and features. Check them out today! Please keep in mind that since this is a U.K. company, the sizing is different. Refer to this chart for size comparisons. My coat is a U.K. size 12.
This designed and made in England coat is not cheap. Readers of LGRAB can get a 30 pound (~$50) discount as long as supplies last by clicking the following link: www.cambridgeraincoats.co.uk/LGRAB