Cycling in….

…..a cape?

As the weather turns cooler – and wetter! – I can’t help but begin to consider just how efficient my outerwear really is. So as I ponder on whether my layers are really doing the job that I’m wearing them for, the observations are here for your perusal, and how best to begin but with my beloved cycle garment: the cape.

cape2 cape1
ASOS Premium Belted Cape in blue (2009/10 range) with belt replaced with Hi-Vis sash.
ASOS
Hooded Military Cape in khaki. Colour now only available in petite.

Given that both of these capes were purchased from the same store and to fulfill the same purpose, their wear-ability couldn’t differ more; as such, although they are essentially the same garment and should be considered as such, they have individual pros and cons.

The first thing that you need to know about a cape is something that you may already have learned if you’ve seen Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles: they are not the more aerodynamic of garments, and although you won’t necessarily get sucked into the engines of a plane like Syndrome/Incrediboy, it certainly won’t help you gain speed when cycling into a strong headwind.
Capes are, however, great for keeping warm without having to seal yourself in: if you invest in wool you’ll get the benefit of its warmth whilst retaining the circulation of air that the loose design lends to it. The great thing about the free falling design is that you can layer up underneath and not have to worry about not being able to fit into your coat because of all the knitwear!
It may seem obvious, but it’s worth pointing out: although your knees will stay dry, your forearms probably won’t. But then, it’s in the nature of the cape to expose your arms, isn’t it?

I bought the blue belted cape last winter after a long search for the perfect cycle-cape (and the tragedy of the sold out navy duffel cape), and of the two styles this one is definitely more suited to a ride in the rain. This is mostly due to the fact that it has concealed popper buttons from collar to hem, meaning that it remains shut and keeps your knees dry even when pedalling furiously into a torrent. The belted aspect is also a plus given that the awkward shape of a cape doesn’t lend itself to the wearing of Hi-Vis (or to the carrying of handbags, but that’s another matter altogether), but it was easy to adapt a reflective sash into a belt and replace the original black elastic one for one that would suit my cycle needs.
The only down side of this particular design links directly to the belt. The belt is visible at the back thanks to two slots through which is is threaded, then encircles the waist beneath the fabric, and exits through the arm holes to be fastened. This means that the arm holes are wider than on other designs and more cold air can flow through these.

The khaki cape was purchased with the memory of that same navy duffel cape still a fresh sting in my mind, a reminder to buy now before it sold out and would join the list of lost things that would forever haunt me. Much as I hate trends, it certainly ticks more ‘style’ boxes and as such is infinitely more wearable, not only due to the military style, but because khaki is simply easier to carry off on a day to day basis.
Unlike the first cape, this one has a hood, which is brilliant once you get off your bike and are walking about in the rain, but needs some preparation if you plan to cycle with your hood up. More on that in How to Stay as dry as Possible.
Also unlike the first cape the buttons only cover the top half of the cape so knee-coverage is a lot less, but on the pro side, it is much warmer.

CAPE

Warmth: 3/5

Long gloves or wrist warmers recommended.
Dryness: 4.5/5
Dealt with rain very well, plus dry knees. Wrists soaked through though!
Practicality: 4/5
Not the best on windy days but good for wearing layers on cold days.
And if you work out how to carry a shoulder bag in a cape, please let me know.
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