How to ride a bike in the rain
This entry was posted on April 17, 2013.
Riding a bicycle in the rain is very intimidating to new riders, many of whom have memories of wet, miserable (and short) rides as children. It makes sense. Wet rides can be cold and uncomfortable, with saturated clothes causing painful chafing of cold, tender skin within minutes.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way! Riding in the rain can be an enjoyable, warm, dry and comfortable activity with the right plan and the right gear. This guide will walk you through some of the basics of riding in the rain. With the information contained here, you will be able to ride on the wettest of days with confidence.
The first thing we have to consider is how to stay dry, and that starts with rain gear. Waterproof clothing is essential to riding in the rain with comfort. For anything but the shortest rides, you should wear clothes made of waterproof and breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex.
Unlike waterproof but non-breathable fabrics, clothing made from waterproof/breathable fabrics will wick sweat and moisture away from your body, which is critical. Without the ability to transfer sweat away from your body, even a normal-speed bike ride can leave you drenched from the inside.
Bicycle-specific clothing that is made with brightly colored and/or reflective fabrics can make riding in the rain much safer. Neon, yellow and orange are the best colors for safety.
Cycling rain jacket
When looking for a rain jacket for cycling, look for something with extra-long sleeves and a back panel that will cover your waist when bent over in a cycling position. Cycling-specific rain jackets are the best.
Cycling rain pants
While many people get by without rain pants in everyday life, riding a bike in the rain without them is a bad idea -- soaked legs and painful abrasions from chafing are the likely result. Look for rain pants with a narrow lower leg to avoid fabric getting caught in the rotating gears of the bike (alternately, a leg band can be used to secure the extra fabric in place). Another nice feature is a relatively high rear waistband to provide more rain coverage, and some riders prefer pants with a full- or partial-length side zipper to allow easier donning and removal.
Believe it or not, having water-resistant or waterproof footwear is critical. Down near the road, your feet bear the brunt of the spray and mud coming off a wet street or trail. Many riders use standard waterproof trail running shoes or light hiking shoes.
An alternative option is “overboots” -- thin waterproof covers that are often used with clipless shoes to provide water resistance and extra warmth for those cold and wet rides.
Last but not least is a sturdy pair of gloves. Most fair-weather cycling gloves are designed to provide padding but not water-resistance, but increasingly, more cycling gloves made for wet weather are showing up. For winter riding, look for thicker gloves with insulation, while in Spring and Fall, thinner waterproof shell gloves will do the job admirably, cutting the wind and shedding rain to keep your hands dry and warm.
Many people who have ridden in the rain down steep hills or when the wind is blowing can attest to being nearly blinded by the drops stinging against their face and making them blink instinctively.
The best way to maintain your vision while cycling is to wear sunglasses fitted with clear or yellow-tinted lenses. Many cycling sunglasses coming with interchangeable lenses that include these options.
To stop the interior of the glasses from fogging up, use an anti-fogging product, which usually only costs a few dollars and lasts for many applications.
The next piece of critical gear is a good set of fenders, which attach to your bike frame to block mud and water flung off your wheels with every rotation. Riding without fenders in the rain is a quick and easy way to get soaked, and to get a trademark mud-strip up your back.
Fenders start around $30, with more expensive models providing better coverage. It is important to check if your bike frame is compatible with fenders before you buy them. Some fair-weather road bikes and other cycles don't have adequate spacing in the frame to fit traditional fenders.
When the skies are covered with dark clouds, bike lights can be important even in the middle of the day. It is best to use a powerful red-colored rear light with a flashing setting and a white, solid-beamed front light. Rear lights can cost as little as $5, while front lights range the gamut from cheap $15 models to make you more visible to $200+ rechargeable lights that make riding a dark trail at midnight not only feasible but even safe.
The last major consideration with riding in the rain is riding style. In general, riding in the rain is a bit more dangerous than riding on dry roads: the surfaces are more slippery and visibility is reduced. But with a few modifications in your riding style, you can help mitigate these dangers.
Coming to a stop in the rain is more difficult than during dry conditions. Traditional rim brakes have reduced stopping power in the rain, when rims and pads are wet, so you will have to begin braking earlier. Disk brakes provide more stopping power, but aren't common except on mountain bikes.
For more safety, ride slightly slower than normal. When it rains, patches of oil dropped from passing cars rise to the surface of the road and can make conditions exceptionally slippery. Slower speeds will allow you to see and anticipate hazards, and will make turning much safer.