Lifestyle: Is there such a thing as bad weather for cycling? What should you do if it’s raining outside, but you want to go riding?
If you’re itching to get out there and off the couch, the wet weather shouldn’t necessarily deter you from riding to work or for recreation. Some common sense and good preparation will make a big difference to your ride in the wet.
Wear proper garments
A taped fully waterproof jacket, such as one made from Gore-Tex material, is the necessary item of clothing you’ll need to wear. Even in rain, your body sweats so make sure that your jacket also offers some breathability, or includes pit zips so you arrive dry. Waterproof pants, thermal tights or fleece-lined shorts worn together with leg warmers and overshoes will also keep you dry and warm. If you need to ride with a bag, make sure it is waterproof, so all the content inside stays dry.
Your helmet may need a rain cover, but avoid wearing something that covers your ears, as it will prevent you from hearing the surrounding traffic.
To prevent your hands getting cold in the rain, you may need to also wear full-fingered water and wind-resistant gloves. It can be difficult to get your hands on truly waterproof gloves, as many have too many seams, so consider buying gloves made from neoprene, which will offer good protection from the rain.
If you’re commuting to work, one option is to ride in a quick drying kit and then change into some dry clothes, which you can either carry in a pannier or waterproof bag, or already have waiting for you at work. Be sure to also keep a dry pair of shoes at work you can easily change into upon your arrival.
The glare from car headlights will reduce the vision of motorists on a rainy day, so in order to be more visible, ride with several reflectors and bright lights. If you’re not game to install a rechargeable lighting system, flashing LED lights probably work best, as they can be clipped onto your bike, helmet and bags. Install an ass saver or fender – the longer the better – which will keep the water from splashing up onto you. You can buy clip-on fenders that mount easily to the seat post or downtube.
Slip on a pair of clear or yellow lenses that will help protect your eyes from flying water and debris. If you choose to do this, you might also want to wear a cycling cap under your helmet to shield some of the rain from hitting your glasses. You can also use an anti-fog product to prevent your glasses from fogging up and impairing your vision.
Braking in the wet
Remember that brakes react much slower in wet conditions, so adjust and brake early enough. It pays off to check your brake pads before your ride, to ensure they are free of any debris. If there is grit on them, you can simply use a small brush to clean them off. Wet weather erodes rubber brake pads quicker, so if necessary, be sure to replace the pads if you ride in wet conditions a lot.
Wet roads are slippery and may contain dangerous oily residue. Puddles may also be hiding submerged potholes, so be vigilant to avoid slipping or damaging your wheels, particularly on painted lines on the road, which can become particularly slippery in wet conditions.
As far as your bike is concerned, tires become extremely important in the rain, as they are the only point of contact with the wet road. As wider tires offer more grip, consider choosing a broader 25c or 28c profile for rainy conditions. You might also want to think about lowering your tire pressure by around 10 – 15psi from their normal level to get a better grip. This might slow down your ride, however it’s much more important to be safe on the road in difficult conditions.
Going around the corners
Rainy surfaces can be treacherous, and going around corners can become extremely tricky in rainy weather. Reduce your speed before you approach the corner and avoid braking going into the corner. When turning, shift as much of your weight on the outside pedal, and lean your body more than your bike as this will increase your grip on the road. Avoid hard breaking as you may loose you grip and skid. Make your moves slowly and apply brakes smoothly, decelerating gradually.
If you’re well prepared to keep dry and remain vigilant on the road, riding in the rain can be a fun and enjoyable experience.