Cycling in the rain is rarely a favorite pastime for racers. But whether you’re doing it because the rain has suddenly started, or because the training program says you have to, we’ve all found ourselves in a downpour at some point. While domestic trips aren’t usually what we expect, there are things we can do to make them more enjoyable – and minimize any negative effects they may have out.
- 1. Cycling in the rain – Learn how to ride
- 2. Keep your vision clear while cycling in the rain
- 3. Dress in layers
- 4. Wear overshoes and gloves
- 5. Keep splash off with mudguards
- 6. Use chain degreaser
- 7. Avoid standing water
- 8. Look out for oil patches, debris, and other slippery obstacles on the road
- 9. Check your tires and reduce the pressure
- 10. Utilize plastic bags
- 11. Use lights
- 12. Stay hydrated
- 13. Avoid cycling in the first rain after a long dry spell
- 14. If there is lightning, find shelter
- 15. Just get on the turbo or rollers
- In conclusion
1. Cycling in the rain – Learn how to ride
If you cycle frequently enough, you will eventually become caught in the rain. When the roads and trails are wet, your bike does not handle as well as when everything is dry. The reason is obvious: wet surfaces are slick. To stay safe, learn how to ride in wet conditions so that you can stay safe if you get caught in a storm.
For example, when the road is wet, your braking distance increases because your tires don’t have as much traction to grip the road. The friction between your tires and the road is reduced by water. You should begin breaking earlier and more gently. This is especially important when descending a slick hill.
When it’s wet, rim brakes, in particular, don’t work well. Before your brakes begin to slow you down, the wheels must complete a full revolution in order for the brake pads to squeeze the water off the rims.
Cornering becomes a little more difficult in the rain as well. You can’t lean as far without risking losing control of your wheels. When turning a corner, try to maintain as much uprightness as possible. If possible, shift your weight to the outside pedal. This will allow you to maintain a reasonable speed while preventing your tires from sliding. Avoid sharp turns.
If you aren’t used to riding in wet weather, test your traction in a safe location before riding on a busy road. You can, for example, test your brakes on an empty section of a bike path to see how quickly you can stop. You will be better prepared in an emergency if you do this.
A significant advantage of learning to ride in wet conditions is increased confidence as a result of learning how to handle low traction conditions properly. When you come across a wet patch, ice, loose gravel, a spill, or anything else in the future, you’ll be better prepared to ride through it safely and confidently.
2. Keep your vision clear while cycling in the rain
Your vision is especially important when cycling in the rain. Drivers cannot see you as well as they can on a clear day, so you must keep a close eye on traffic. You should also keep an eye out for puddles and any debris that may have washed into the road, as well as slippery spots.
The issue is that rain in your face can obstruct your vision. You have two options for keeping your field of view clear:
- Wear glasses or goggles – These enable you to keep your eyes open at all times, even in heavy rain. When shopping for rain glasses or goggles, look for a pair that is clear or tinted yellow. On dark rainy days, these make it easier to see. The issue with glasses is that they quickly become spotted with raindrops and fogged up, obstructing your vision. One solution is to apply an anti-fog treatment like Optix 55 Anti-Fog Spray. This way, rain rolls off and your glasses stay clear.
- Wear a brimmed cap under your helmet – You could also upgrade your helmet with an extended visor. This should keep the majority of the rain out of your eyes. Especially if you have a forward-leaning riding position on your bike.
For severe storms, you should probably wear both goggles and a visor. The rain may still obscure your view slightly, but you will be much better off.
3. Dress in layers
Cycling in the rain requires you to dress in a way that keeps you warm and dry. Your clothing should also allow for ventilation so that sweat can evaporate. If your clothes do not allow you to breathe, your sweat will make you as wet as the rain.
The best solution is to layer your clothing. This way, you can adjust your body temperature by adding and removing clothing as needed. Cycling in wet weather necessitates the use of clothing made of breathable and quick-drying materials.
Polyester and other synthetic fabrics work well. Another popular fabric is merino wool. Cotton should be avoided because it takes an eternity to dry. When wet, it also does not provide any insulation. Down should also be avoided for the same reasons.
A good rainy weather cycling layering system should include the following items:
- The base layer – This layer is worn directly against your skin. Merino wool is ideal because it provides insulation even when wet. Even if you get wet to the bone, you can still stay warm. It’s also odor-resistant, which is a plus. As a base layer, synthetic thermal long underwear works well.
- Mid layer – This layer adds to the insulation. When you get too hot, you’ll peel off this layer. A fleece or wool jacket is suitable.
- Rain shell – This is your rain jacket. Some rain jackets are insulated, while others are simply waterproof shells. Make certain that it has adequate ventilation. Zippers under the armpits are an excellent feature for allowing sweat to escape. Rain jackets that do not breathe properly trap sweat, which can cause your clothes to become wet.
If you’re cycling in a hot climate where it rains frequently, such as the tropics, you might be better off wearing thin, quick-drying clothing rather than trying to stay dry. It can be more comfortable and cooler to simply get wet rather than wear hot and clammy rain gear. After it stops raining, synthetic materials dry extremely quickly.
4. Wear overshoes and gloves
Your extremities are the first parts of your body to be sacrificed in order to maintain a core temperature, and getting wet and cold will make you feel uncomfortably uncomfortable.
Waterproof overshoes are worth their weight in gold, whereas gloves are a little more difficult to get right.
Cycling gloves should protect you without being too thick, as you still need to be able to feel the brakes and gears through all that material. Many brands, however, make neoprene gloves that keep the rain out while allowing you to maintain dexterity.
5. Keep splash off with mudguards
They may not be attractive, and they may rattle, but they are necessary, especially when cycling in the rain. Mudguards will keep filthy road water off your feet, lower legs, and back (where un-guarded wheels will spray the water with carefree abandon).
Even if the rain does not fall, the roads will remain wet. That (dirty) water is then thrown up by the wheels, leaving you wet and cold. A flap added to the front guard will provide you with even more protection.
6. Use chain degreaser
You should immediately shower and dry yourself after cycling in the rain. The same is true for your chain.
Cover it in degreaser (WD40 or GT85 are both widely available, though bike-specific degreasers like Muc Off are also available), then vigorously wipe it down with a rag until it’s dry. After that, a few drops of lube will protect it for the next ride. If you do this, the chain’s lifespan will be doubled.
Spray the other metallic moving parts, such as the front and rear gear mechanisms and brake calipers, as well. Avoid getting degreaser on the hubs, bottom bracket, wheel rims, or brake blocks. Ideally, your entire bike would be washed after a wet ride, but we all know that’s not always possible.
7. Avoid standing water
Stay away from it. Standing water not only gets you wet, but it can also be extremely dangerous because you never know what lurks beneath the surface. It could be a puddle, but it could also be a wheel-shattering pothole.
Check over your shoulder when you see standing water before moving safely out to ‘ride the lane’ (most standing water will gather near the kerb). Only ride through standing water if you can see what’s beneath it.
8. Look out for oil patches, debris, and other slippery obstacles on the road
Motor oil and other automotive fluids that build up on the roads over time combine with rainwater to create a slick mess. To avoid these, look for wet patches of road with a rainbow pattern of oil. These are most common in the middle of traffic lanes, intersections, and parking lots.
When wet, metal surfaces such as railroad tracks, road grates, access panels, and manhole covers become slippery. Painted and brick surfaces become extremely slick as well.
To avoid slipping, try to ride around these obstacles as much as possible. If you have to ride through an oil patch, slick metal, or a painted surface, try not to brake or turn sharply. When cornering, you’ll need to be extra cautious. Try not to lean too far forward. You should also leave plenty of room for breaking on these surfaces. After the first rain in a long time, the roads will be at their slickest.
Keep an eye out for debris as well. Heavy rain can wash tree branches, garbage, gravel, and other unanticipated objects into the road. This is especially common near the road’s edge, where water flows. Keep an eye out for obstacles and try to ride around them.
9. Check your tires and reduce the pressure
Rainwater washes all kinds of muck onto the roads, and wet tires pick up more of it than dry tires.
Take a quick look over your tires after each ride for flints, glass, and other debris. Examine the tire for any cuts that could weaken the carcass or allow the inner tube to bulge through.
- Winter road bike tires
- Puncture-proof tires
In the winter, it’s a good idea to ride on a heavier tire with thick tread. Why not give a 25c tire run at a slightly lower pressure a shot as well?
Running your rubber at a slightly lower pressure – by 5 to 10 psi – increases your surface area, and thus your grip and comfort on the road.
10. Utilize plastic bags
There’s almost nothing that will keep your feet dry if you’re riding in heavy or constant rain, as water runs down your legs or gets in from underneath.
A cheap way to keep your feet dry is to put a plastic bag over your socks, then your tights (if you’re wearing them), and finally your shoes and overshoes. Seal Skinz socks are a more permanent, less expensive option that do a good job of protecting your feet.
11. Use lights
Driving standards plummet in the rain, whether it’s due to water droplets on wing mirrors or a steamed-up windscreen. It is well worth increasing your visibility when it is raining, even if it is in the middle of the day.
There are a variety of high-quality, lightweight LED lights that can be clipped to your bike. If you’re riding at night, you’ll need lights that meet legal requirements. Flashing LEDs are an excellent addition.
12. Stay hydrated
It’s easy to forget to drink water when it’s raining because you’re already wet. It’s also difficult to tell how much you’re sweating, making it difficult to realize how much water you’re losing. Also, on a cold rainy day, drinking cold water just doesn’t seem very appealing. In any case, make an effort to drink plenty of water.
Tip: Bring a thermos filled with hot chocolate, tea, coffee, or hot apple cider in addition to your water bottle on cold rainy days. A thermos can keep a drink hot for the entire day. Drinking a hot beverage keeps you warm and hydrated. There is, of course, a weight penalty.
13. Avoid cycling in the first rain after a long dry spell
It’s best to avoid riding on the first rainy day after it hasn’t rained in a long time. The reason for this is that on the road, oil and other automotive fluids, as well as various chemicals and grime, accumulate. When these combine with water, the roads become extremely slick and dangerous. These harsh fluids can also spray up onto your bike, causing wear and tear on the drivetrain and even causing paint damage if you don’t clean it properly.
After a few days of rain, the grime is washed away, and the road is clean. At this point, the traction improves and the ride becomes a little safer. It’s also better for your bike.
14. If there is lightning, find shelter
You might think that the rubber in your bike’s tires will protect you from a lightning strike, but this is not true. There simply isn’t enough rubber. If you get caught in a lightning storm while riding, your best bet is to seek shelter.
Indoors is the best place to seek refuge. Look for a nearby store or restaurant where you can wait out the storm. If you are near your home when the storm is approaching, it may be best to call it a day.
When there is no nearby shelter, your best option is to find a low point to shelter in. If you’re on a mountain, make your way down. Find a local low point if you’re on flat ground. This works because lightning strikes where it has the best chance of reaching the ground. It’s more likely that it’ll hit a tree, a large rock, or a telephone pole instead of you.
You should avoid taking cover under trees. While they will keep you dry in the rain, they will not keep you safe from lightning. The majority of the time, people are not directly struck by lightning. Instead, a nearby object was struck.
If you’re in a large flat and open area and lightning appears to be nearby, lay your bike down and move at least 100 meters away from it. Your bike’s metal could potentially attract lightning. Of course, this is a very rare occurrence.
15. Just get on the turbo or rollers
It’s not so much about dealing with the rain as it is about avoiding it. Structured sessions lasting 30 minutes to an hour can do wonders for your fitness. Less so if you’re riding your bike aimlessly while watching TV.
Rainy days can be a relaxing and enjoyable time to go for a bike ride. The bike paths and trails are deserted. The air is clean and fresh. The rain also creates a unique and beautiful atmosphere in which to cycle. It has a soothing effect on me. When you’ve ridden somewhere dozens of times before, it can feel completely different when you’re there during a rainstorm.
Rain, of course, adds another level of difficulty to cycling. To be comfortable, you must dress appropriately. You should also take some extra precautions. Rain can also cause some damage to your bike. When you ride in wet weather frequently, maintenance becomes more frequent.
Hopefully, this guide helps you stay safe, dry, and comfortable while cycling in the rain.