Motorcycle Waterproofs: Your Ultimate Buying Guide

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In 2007, the England football team took to the pitch at Wembley against Croatia to qualify for Euro 2008. 

It was tragic.

Scott Carson’s game (at the tender age of 22 and a mere five days into his international career) went downhill only eight minutes into the match.

Sol Campbell spent most of his time sliding around on a sodden pitch as Ivica Olić ran rings around him down the left.

And the entire thing came to a head when Mladen Petric lined up the winning shot on his favoured left side – and once again left Scott Carson picking the ball up from the back of the net.

Fifteen years later, we’ve gotten over the embarrassment of 2007 and the 3-2 defeat to Croatia. But the one thing still ridiculed the world over is Steve McClaren – and his umbrella on the sidelines.

motorcycle waterproofs guide - wembley stadium

The Wally with the Brolly

As the rain came down that day in northwest London, McClaren took to the sidelines – with his umbrella.

On the contrary, Croatian manager Slaven Bilic paraded along the touchline like a ‘real man.’ There was no umbrella – just a beanie hat and the remnants of the cigarette he’d been smoking in the changing room.

“That might not look great, boss”, said assistant manager Terry Venables when he saw McClaren’s umbrella.

Undeterred, McClaren forged ahead.

The day after the match with Croatia, McClaren was fired as England’s manager – because of his performance (not the umbrella.) But to this day, guess what he’s still remembered for?!

silhouette with umbrella

Thank God We’re Bikers & Not Footballers!

Thankfully, bikers aren’t teased for wearing waterproofs when it rains.

As a touring rider, you’ll find yourself riding in the rain, and even snow and ice.

Not only do watreproofs keep you dry, but they act as a layer for warmth. When the elements turn against you, waterproofs make it possible to carry on through the misery.

Furthermore, they’re cheap. And combined with some waterproof motorcycle gloves, you’re onto a winner.

Any biker worth their salt will unashamedly carry waterproofs in their top box for such conditions. But with so many options to choose from, where do you start?

In this post, we go through what you need to look for when buying a set of waterproofs for your next trip.

motorcycle waterproofs guide - bikers in rain

Motorcycle Waterproofs Guide: 1-Piece vs 2-Piece

Perhaps the biggest decision you’ll need to make is whether you go for a 1-piece or 2-piece waterproofs.

If you’re unsure what I mean by this, 1-piece waterproofs are a bit like a waterproof onesie. 2-piece waterproofs consist of an individual waterproof riding jacket and pants.

1-piece waterproofs (arguably) have better waterproofing as there are fewer gaps for rain to get through. They’re usually warmer, too, for the same reason.

That said, 2-piece waterproofs also have their positives. For a start, you can mix and match because they’re separate – meaning you can choose to wear only the pants or the jacket as the conditions dictate.

2-piece waterproofs also make things (like going to the toilet) easier and are generally less conspicuous than 1-piece options.

Personally, I prefer 2-piece waterproofs. But I’ve had a 1-piece in the past and understand the merits. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer – it comes down to whatever you prefer.

If you’re interested in the pros and cons of 1-piece and 2-piece suits, we go through some recommendations in this post: Don’t Rely On The Weather: Consider A Motorcycle Rain Suit.

Ventilation & Breathability

Breathability isn’t as important with waterproofs as with your main riding jacket. That’s why you can pick them up so cheaply.

The job of waterproofs is to keep you dry. The end. And if that’s all you need, then a cheap set will do just fine.

The problem with cheap waterproofs is that they lack ventilation. And that means you’ll get hot. Which means you’ll sweat. And that means you’ll get wet from the inside out.

If you tour extensively and often keep your waterproofs on all day, consider going up the pay scale and investing in breathable waterproofs.

These keep you dry but also allow you to modulate the temperature inside them – thanks to adjustable vents or flaps.

oxford rainseal riding gear

Motorcycle Waterproofs Guide: Fit

There are a few things to consider regarding how your waterproofs fit.

Firstly, waterproofs are usually big and baggy. They have to be because they go over your riding gear.

If you go too big, they flap about in the wind. Not only is this annoying, but you also become susceptible to drafts. Go too small, and you’ll feel restricted, uncomfortable, and hot.

Traditionally, it was advised that your waterproofs should be two sizes larger than your regular riding gear. So if you wore a medium jacket and pants, you should buy XL waterproofs – to ensure they fit over your kit.

But it’s worth noting that most manufacturers (these days), such as Oxford, purposefully oversize their waterproofs. So if you wear a medium jacket and pants, you also buy medium waterproofs.

It’s worth checking this in the item description before you buy!

Pay Attention To The Cuffs & Ankles

These are easy to overlook, but you must consider them – because the ease of getting your waterproofs on and off is imperative!

Getting waterproofs on over motorcycle boots whilst standing on one leg out in the rain is a pain in the arse. 

Ensure the pants have long zips and wide openings at the ankles, so you can get them over your boots. Once on, they need to fit snuggly around your waterproof motorcycle boots – usually with velcro – to avoid drafts and rain.

At the wrists, some waterproofs have velcro whilst others are elasticated. I prefer elastic at the wrists and velcro at the ankles – but you might be different.

motorcycle waterproofs guide - rain suit

Motorcycle Waterproofs Guide: Collar & Hood

The collar on your waterproofs can make a massive difference to their effectiveness.

If it’s too short, the rain will drive down the front of your neck – wetting you from the inside.

Pay attention to the material, too. When it gets wet, it can start to rub on your neck. Something like neoprene will repel the water and keep you comfortable.

A hood is also often neglected. Wear it underneath your helmet to prevent rain from dripping down the back of your neck. A hood also proves useful when off the bike and walking around.

Zips & Seams

When waterproofs leak, usually it’s down to zips and seams. To prevent this, ensure any zips are either waterproof or protected by a storm flap – ideally both.

For the same reason, taped or bonded seams are also a good idea – although these tend to be on the more expensive waterproofs.

Finally, avoid waterproofs with small, fiddly zips. Riding in these conditions, you’ll likely be wearing thick winter gloves. So the zips on your waterproofs should be big, chunky, and easily accessible with winter gloves.

dainese rain suit

Motorcycle Waterproofs Guide: Pockets

Pockets aren’t a deal breaker for me on waterproofs, although I see why they are for some people.

If you’re a touring rider, you may need access to a credit card for tolls. But don’t keep a phone or paper documents in there – despite the manufacturer’s waterproofing claims!

Colour & Visibility

If you wear 1-piece waterproofs in Day-Glo yellow, you’ll certainly be more visible than if you wore a black one.

However, like Steve McClaren and his umbrella, you might feel like a bit of a wally – especially if wearing it when it’s not raining.

If this is the case for you, consider a 2-piece option where you can choose a Day-Glo top, but black pants (or whatever.)

Either way, choose waterproofs with reflective detailing strategically placed around the front, back, arms, and legs.

You can also add your own if need be.

Whilst you might look and feel a bit conspicuous, put your ego to one side to be seen!

Storage

The problem with waterproofs is that you don’t need them all the time. And this means you need somewhere to store them out on the road.

2-piece waterproofs tend to fold down pretty flat, whereas 1-piece choices are usually bulky when folded.

If you can, buy a set with a dedicated storage pouch. These allow you to squeeze out the air and pack them flat. But they also mean you can stuff wet waterproofs in there without getting the rest of your kit wet.

motorcycle waterproofs guide - shad jacket case

Motorcycle Waterproofs Guide: Conclusion

As mentioned above, waterproofs are down to personal preference.

A 1-piece motorcycle waterproof suit is great if you only intend to wear it when it rains and you want to be sure it’ll work.

However, in my view, 2-piece waterproofs offer no discernable lack in waterproofing yet provide greater versatility.

The good thing is that both 1-piece and 2-piece waterproofs are cheap, so if you change your mind, it won’t break the bank to buy another set!

Top image: Cottonbro

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