I commute about 10 miles a day in Portland, OR. Needless to say rain is a big part of many of my rides. My current rain pants leave me almost as sweaty as if I had just ridden without the rain gear. So I'm looking for pants with a hard shell/ gore-tex/ dwr front and soft shell sides and back. I figure that this combination has to exist out there and that it would help with my moisture transfer issues. Who makes my Holy grail of rain gear?
Which pants do you have right now? And did you enjoy that downpour yesterday? There wasn't a dry cyclist in the city, breathable pants or not. Some days we're just going to get wet.
Showers pass is made right here in portland, and I use them on all the nasty days, for me they work great http://www.rei.com/product/821425/showers-pass-roadie-event-bike-rain-pants-mens
Arc'teryx, even though I can't pronounce their name, make the top of the line holy grail rain gear. I was just looking at these for myself yesterday: http://www.rei.com/product/836409/arcteryx-micon-insulated-pants-mens
According to my experience, the gore-tex promise, i.e. breathable and dry is a myth*.
The combination you are looking for might become available if you're using so-called "rainlegs" http://www.kurbelix.com/products/Fahrradbekleidung/Rainlegs-Regenschutz-Sportlich-Grau.html?cat=165795&pa_option=871 in combination with whatever you consider "soft shell sides and back".
(*) According to my experience from rainy Germany, if you cycle during heavy rain, you always end up being soaked. The only difference you can make by using different gear is the initial source of being soaked, i.e. either (external) rain or (internal) sweat. After another half an hour, these initial conditions become irrelevant...
If you are "not worried about getting wet when it is super rainy" I would suggest to skip rain pants completely. Ride with good fenders in normal cycling clothes you would use at the same (or slightly lower) temperatures if it was dry. For me that often means tights with woolen, thin knee warmers. Change into civilian clothes at work.
I have yet to find one good pair of waterproof cycling pants. The better ones all look fine in the shop. But they either fail more or less completely to keep me dry in the first heavy downpour, or they are less comfortable than damp tights. After instead using them as a wind breaker during winter for one season they will definitely not be waterproof in the saddle area any longer...
I agree that Goretex will not keep you dry in a heavy rain unless your ride is rather short. However, with my rides of 8-10 miles though, I do not get completely soaked when wearing Goretex pants. I mostly don't wear them for the reason others have mentioned: sweat. I am an all weather cyclist and I do wear rain paints in freezing rain or, when it's less than about 20 degrees fahrenheit, to act as a wind breaker.
A problem with rain pants you may not have thought of is that water can drip down into your shoes. My solution (again this is in freezing rain, I live in Massachusetts) is extra long rain paints and boots.
When it is not freezing rain then quick dry pants or quick dry shorts. In most conditions I prefer the latter.
Rain capes kind act like sails but they can keep your upper half dry. (I made the mistake of buying a poncho instead of a cape made for biking. That really acted like a sail.) Even if you ride slowly, have fenders, and there is no wind, a rain cape will not keep your legs dry. Cars will splash on you.
Get a Rain Cape (basically a poncho) if you want to keep drier on the legs without overheating as much. The design diverts water away from your legs and has more ventilation than a standard jacket since it has the open bottom. If you've got fenders to keep the splashing to a minimum, a rain cape, and cheap water resistant pants (for days with heavy rain), then you'll stay pretty dry on your commute.
Gore-tex and equivalents don't make water disappear -- it has to run off someplace. I think pants like that would just result in the water running off and soaking the sides and back of the pants.
EDIT 12/18/2012: although someone on Quora just recommended these, which are like rain chaps, somewhat similar to what you're talking about: http://www.rainlegs.com/en/home
I use cheap water resistant nylon pants, then use Nikwax wash-in waterproofing to make them more waterproof.
They are still relatively breathable, and I stay dry beneath.
I have a pair of cycling rain pants that are completely waterproof, and though they claim to be breathable, they aren't. The nylon pants work just as well and are much more breathable.
I often wondered why there was so little on the net about rain pants. Seems from this thread that a lot of people don't believe in them, or could not find good ones. Personally they are a must have for me, but I did battle to find good ones too, ie breathable and waterproof. However I finally found a good post on this matter, and I am going to try one of the pants mentioned in it, probably the no. 1 or no. 2 pick. I am posting the link because it has a lot of useful info: https://averagejoecyclist.com/6-of-the-best-waterproof-cycling-pants-how-to-choose-the-best-cycling-pants/
The article was written Jan 2017, and reviews Water proof cycling pants. From my (andy256) quick reading, it doesn't explain how these were chosen. The article includes
... a table comparing 6 of the best waterproof cycling pants. Then the 6 best pants are listed, with details about what makes them a good buy. Finally, for those who want to know everything there is to know about the subject, there is information about how to choose the best cycling pants, covering the technology behind making pants that are both waterproof and breathable.
And ranks 6 products:
- Gore Bike Wear Element Gore-Tex Active Pants
- Showers Pass Transit Cycling Pants
- Pearl Izumi – Ride Men’s Select Barrier WxB Pants
- Showers Pass Club Visible Cycling Pants
- Showers Pass Refuge Cycling Pants
- Castelli Meccanico Rain Pants
Wear rain pants - that's my opinion. I lived in Seattle and had my car stolen. For a fall/winter/spring I commuted to work from Capitol Hill to Bellevue - a nice downhill and uphill both ways with a short bus ride across the 520 bridge (no bike lane, so had to take the bus for that part). So I experienced lots of rain, lots of uphill huffing and puffing and sweating. When it rained, which it did A LOT, I wore a rain jacket, rain pants and booties. Sitting on the bus got me sweaty as all get out, so it was nice to take off my cap and jacket to breath a bit. But I would keep the rain pants on and I wore my work pants (just jeans) underneath. When I got to work I had a small towel I used to wipe down quick before I took off all my rain gear and pack away. I'd change my tshirt, but my jeans were dry (very very slightly damp from the heat/condensation of exercise) and I was ready to go to work without needing to go someplace private and change into different clothes altogether. So, just saying, rain pants help.
I never found anything useful, so I made my own. $5 of fabric, $30 cheap overtrousers as a base, several hours, and access to a (vintage) sewing machine and misc sewing tools.
Started with some generic overpants, and replaced the thigh and shin panels with non-breathing plastic/cloth with a fabric backing. High-vis yellow of course. The thigh panel gets wettest in my experience, the knee area and shin are not quite as bad, but you need the freedom of movement around the knee so I haven't seen a need (kneed?) to resurface that bit yet.
I used the surplus pieces to extend the pant legs by an extra 200mm (8") and shaped the leg so it was close around the ankle and shin. You want the crotch to be close-fitting / high fitting, so the pants are long enough when pressed upward by your bike saddle.
There was already a zip (zipper) at the cuff, to make getting them on and off easier.
So now I can ride with these pants, and my shoe covers go on first so the pant cuff covers them and water runs down the outside. You still need normal trousers underneath, for warmth and friction.
Downside - they're not particularly breathable so its best to take it easy, and not go for PRs or KOMs in the rain. (Unless its a pounding tail wind!)
I gave up on rain pants for bike commuting, after getting wet from sweat if I wasn't getting wet from rain. My ideal rain pants for cycling now are quick-drying synthetic pants, ideally with a DWR finish to repel water during light rain. Depending on the situation, either just keep wearing the pants at work to let the light rain dry off, or I pack spare pants in a dry bag.
Currently I prefer the "Patagonia Men's Guidewater II Pant". They are not stretchy, but repel water, dry quickly and pass for normal enough pants at work. Previously, some microfiber polyester dress pants from JCPenney were a favorite.
When I was going to school in Corvallis I had the same issue. Rain pants are too sweaty plus they're a lot of extra stuff to carry and they're hard to put on and take off for frequent trips across campus. My solution was to make a pair of rain chaps. Imagine the Rain Legs with leg gaiters sewn on at the knees. The Rain Legs are a good start but I found there was a lot of water splashing up around my feet, even with fenders.
They were quick to put on (a zipper on the back of the calf and two velcro straps), they were loose enough for air flow, and they rolled up fairly small to fit in my school bag. I don't have any photos but I could make a sketch if anyone's interested.
Now I live in the desert so rain is scarce and usually accompanied by strong wind and lightning; I rarely ride in the rain anymore.
Showers Pass easily have the best cycling rain pants hands down. They do a whole write up on how to pick the best cycling jacket, cycling pants, etc and they are based out of Portland too!