LAST week, while sitting awkwardly in a warm puddle during a meeting at Oxford University Press, I realised I had to do something about it. After 20 years’ prevarication, the time really had come to get some waterproof trousers.

I had misjudged the clouds. At the back of the house the sun was shining. In the short time it takes to walk around the side of the house with the bike, an apocalyptic rain cloud had appeared and malingered overhead.

I was late and it’s only a three-minute race down the hill from my home to Charlbury Station, so I pedalled. One minute into the journey, the sky turned black and the air became a power shower set to volume 11.

For the next two minutes, I pedalled as if riding down to the deep end of a never-ending swimming pool. My jeans turned into Spandex – even my underpants got wet. By the time I got to OUP, I was a walking advert for driving.

Like any cyclist, I have a breathable waterproof jacket. Beyond this, I have never really bothered for my commuter cycle needs. If it’s raining so hard that my trousers will get soaked I simply don’t go – I wait for a lull.

There’s an understandable misconception among non-cyclists that on a rainy day, everyone on a bike gets drenched. In fact, as most cyclists know, rain stops and starts a lot more often than you’d think.

So, even during a week of leaden skies and heavy downpours, there are almost always 20-minute windows when the rain abates, allowing you to get to meetings and home again in the relative dry. But then there are the days when you get caught out.

Years ago, I had some thick plastic waterproof trousers which were useless because of the non-breathing boil-in-the-bag effect on your legs.

Plus I waddled like a North Sea fisherman. These days, there are really good lightweight alternatives for commuters, with zips up the back of the calf to allow you to take them on and off without removing your shoes as well.

Neoprene “overshoes” as worn by road cyclists in winter are effective too. They can keep out any weather on a shortish commute but they only make sense with waterproof leggings covering the ankle of the overshoes, otherwise rain is channelled into your shoes.

If you are thinking of adding overshoes to your wet-weather arsenal, be warned: they only seem to stretch over the slimmest-fitting cycling shoes.

I have a pair for winter long-distance off-road riding and had to buy size 12 overshoes to go over my size 9 trainers, and even then I struggle to tug them on.

Overshoes make me feel as agile as a 19th century diver. They’re bulky in luggage and, when wet, impossibly heavy. They hardly seem worth the faff for a three-minute ride either end of the train station, but for anything longer they’re a worthwhile investment.

At the other end of the fashion parade, the old-fashioned cape is making a slow comeback, and I can see that these would be quite good, allowing air to circulate and even protecting your rucksuck. And, if you work in smart clothes, waterproof gaiters with an elasticated fastening around the calf for easy removal at work are apparently the way to go. A very Oxford look.