Carradice Duxback Rain Poncho

Over the years I have tried numerous items of rainwear whilst cycling. In that time I have merely learned that there is no such thing as a ‘breathable’ waterproof fabric. In my experience, rainwear offers a choice between getting soaked with rainwater or getting soaked with sweat; staying dry was never really on the cards.

Because of this, the idea of a rain cape had interested me for a while. Due to the bloody awful noise made when cycling in most waterproof fabrics, I had my eye on a waxed cotton one, but was put off by the price, general lack of information and the fact that the few places which sold it all used the same rather crappy picture from the Carradice website. Eventually I found a good review of the cape on the Smut Peddler blog which has some more useful pictures of the cape as well as more information than the manufacturer was providing.

The Duxback poncho is offered in two sizes and without the ability to try one on in a shop before buying, I decided that the larger option would deb the safest bet. Sadly, at the time the larger model was unavailable from all of the relatively small number of suppliers who stock the item, but I was able to find a second hand one on eBay. Apart from needing some re-proofing at the seams, the second-hand poncho was in very good condition. 
Thankfully, the same blog which had the review of the cape also had an overview of re-proofing the cape 18 months later. After shopping around, I could not find the Carradice re-proofing wax from any supplier who didn’t wish to charge me as much again for delivery, so I decided to buy a larger pot of Barbour Thornproof Dressing which included delivery, totalling about the same amount as the Carradice wax. So far I have not noticed any ill-effects due to going ‘off-brand’ and I have plenty left for re-proofing saddlebags etc.
Usage of rain capes seems to have died out in the UK around the time that the bicycle industry decided to re-designate mudguards from ‘bicycle components’ to ‘bicycle accessories,’ but it is still going strong in parts of the world where bicycles are a mainstream mode of transport. Having finally tried a rain cape for myself I have found it to be the least uncomfortable and most practical bit of rainwear I have used. What makes the rain cape bearable is that the whole bottom of the cape is open to the circulation of air, preventing the awful sauna-suit effect which jackets and over-trousers invariably result in. In combination with mudguards (obviously) it does a good job of keeping the water off of most of you, your saddle and your handlebars, in addition to keeping the windchill off your hands. Compared to riding a Brompton with a bag on the front, the extra drag from wind and air resistance is not that bad, although I have yet to try the cape in strong winds.
Unfortunately, the rain cape does make you look like a it of a tit. This is exacerbated somewhat when combined with a small-wheeled bike like the Brompton, so if being laughed at by groups of Year 7 pupils is not something you are able to stomach, this is probably not the product for you. However, if like me you can live with looking a bit odd and have never previously managed to find a satisfactory bit of rainwear, this might be the thing for you.

10 thoughts on “Carradice Duxback Rain Poncho

  1. The best cape is a woolen British police night cape. Ridden by bobbies on their Raleigh DL1 patrol bicycles, I wore one in an all day hike in the Lake District, where the rain was relentless as only it can be in Northern England. I was walking at a 45 degree angle due to the wind. When I got to my hostel I found the sweater underneath was slightly damp from perspiration. The cape itself was popped into the furnace room, and the next day was dry.

    The wool is thick and the design is simple. Clasp around the neck and three buttons. Also doubles as a blanket.

    • Sounds like a good bit of kit. I’m quite a fan of wool, although I tend to go for thin layers as I overheat quite easily. I expect I wouldn’t be able to cycle in something as insulating as the cape you describe unless the temperature was significantly below zero.

  2. Welcome to the Carradice rain cape club! I’ve owned one for two years and like it, though I do need to get around to reproofing it. I think when it works, it works. But it took me awhile before getting the Carradice cape to really know what “works”. While one doesn’t need a bike with upright handlebars (it does work better with them, though I’ve used the cape on my drop-bar LHT), one can’t have any lights mounted to handlebars, otherwise the cape will be in constant conflict. And not all upright handlebars work well either. My Crested Butte has quite swept back bars and the cape doesn’t always like “draping” over it.

    I just picked up the Duxback rain jacket off of Craigslist. Seems pretty good right now, but haven’t had much opportunity to test. Doesn’t look like Carradice makes those anymore.

    (And yep, the images on the Carradice site are crap. Guys, while I like you being “traditional” and all, you can enter the 21st Century when it comes to “teh interwebs”. ;-) )

    • I remember reading about it in one of your paper publications – I was looking for a link whilst writing this piece but unfortunately couldn’t find one. I agree with you assessment of handlebar suitability; the Brompton is fine but I suspect anything more leaned-forward would be less effective. With respect to the light issue, I am fortunate enough to have no more handlebar-mounted lights to cause trouble for me.

      What are the sleeve-linings like in the Duxback jacket? One of my major dislikes in jackets is the sleeve linings being a sweat-inducing material such as polyester, which means you can’t wear it comfortably with short sleeves. For many a year I have searched for a decent, lightweight jacket with decent (cotton or something) sleeve linings.

      Nice to hear from you :)

      • Hey Dr. C, good hearing from you too! :-D

        As for the Duxback rain jacket, there is no lining except for around the hood (same as it is on the cape) and around the collar. The rest is just “plain” waxed cotton. Don’t know if it would work for you.

        As for the cape, I think a little “lean-over” works in a riders favor, it’s when there’s too much “lean-back” there can be too many problems, unless the cape is big enough.

        And I think the piece of mine you refer to is here:
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanadventureleaguepdx/6739135649/in/set-72157628476822993

        • I’m not sure that an unlined jacket would be right for me as I often wear short sleeves even when it is very cold.

          I agree about the optimum position being a little less upright than a roadster; I noticed there was a tendency to form a pool between the hands when on the DL-1

        • I think it’s going to be hard to find a rain jacket with lined sleeves, as I think manufacturers assume you’re going to wear long sleeves underneath. But I haven’t done that extensive of a survey.

  3. Can you say something about the fit? Was your choice of the larger size correct?

    Re looking odd, I’m afraid that ship sailed long ago for me – in fact a cape might improve matters by concealing my pendulous middle region.

    • I’m afraid I can’t comment much about how the smaller size compares to the one I purchased without trying them both. However, I do think that the larger size was the right choice for me, as the front is long enough to cover my hands and the handlebar when riding a large upright bike, but there is not so much excess that I am confident the shorter version would reach.

      There are hand loops in the front of the cape and a tie at the back of the cape to hold it in place. The hand loops are in the right place for me but the tie at the back is a bit high to tie around my waist comfortably. However, it is just about long enough to tie and loop around my saddle nose to hole it all in place nicely without discomfort.

      The hood is the only part of the cape with a lining, probably to keep the waxed cotton smell away from your hair and face. The rest of the cape sits nicely on the shoulders when riding without being constraining. Your experiences may vary, but I’d say the larger size is probably the best choice for someone of my size (approx 1.8m). The smaller size is probably only the better choice for someone much smaller.

  4. Aaaah I used to have a cape when I started riding in the ’80s…nothing special just a yellow placcy affair which worked perfectly adequately until tremendous gales in aviemore on my end to end in july 1989!
    I used to like the wildlife pond I would develop in front above the handlebars.
    Nothing beats a cape, not sure about a hood though, would it not inhibit checking over your shoulder?
    Haven’t noticed anyone wearing a cape in chester….will watch out for you lol!

    PurpleSue

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