Riding in the rain
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The main thing to think about when riding in wet conditions is traction.
Whether you have rim or disc brakes, the traction between your brake pads and the braking surface is going to decrease in wet weather riding. Because of this, remember to give yourself extra time to slow down and to stop. Once you start engaging your brakes, your wheel will most likely need to make a full rotation or two to wipe water off of your braking surface before fully engaging. Give it that time. Because of this, the cleaner you can keep your braking surface in wet weather, the better.
No matter what the surface, traction between your tire and the ground will also decrease. Try not to brake when turning and take corners slowly. These surfaces can be especially slippery in the rain-
- Anything Metal: sewer covers, storm drains, etc
- Road paint: ironically, the white paint often used for bike lanes is slick. Bright green paint has some grit and traction.
- Leaf piles
- Puddles: fun to ride through, but you never know how deep they are or if there are huge cracks underneath that water.
- Rainbow patches: The road surface will be the slickest and most dangerous just after the rain has begun as oil buildup rises to surface. Keep an eye out for - rainbow shimmer on the street. This is an indication of an oil patch.
Your bike will need extra attention after being exposed to water and road grit all fall and winter long. A mixture of road grit and water is the quickest way to erode rubber brake pads and rust your components.
- Check your brake pads frequently and make sure they are adjusted close to the rim or disc.
- Chain lube wears off quickly in wet weather riding, and you are more likely to pick up some grit. Be even more deliberate about keeping your chain clean and lubed in the winter months.
- After a particularly wet or dirty ride, give your bike a quick post-ride rinse with fresh water and then towel dry. This will rinse off all the dirt and debris, and drying it will prevent rust.
We want to stress that you don’t need any extra gear to get started riding. Just start with what you have.
At the same time, we know that being wet is just plain uncomfortable and being wet and cold increases your chances of getting sick. If you’re looking to upgrade, here is some gear that we recommend to keep you riding happy and dry.
- Fenders: This is my number one recommendation- while they won't keep you completely dry when it's actually raining, fenders will quadruple your comfort level as they keep your legs, back and butt relatively dry and clean. Fenders also help protect your bike by keeping dirt and road grit away from your frame and out of your moving parts.
- Rain jacket: Again, just start with a rain jacket you like- any will do! As you start thinking about cycling specific rain jackets you’ll notice that four things often improve with price- breathability, durability, visibility, and fit, though these improvements can be incremental the higher up in price you go.
- Also keep in mind the difference between high-vis and reflective when you are purchasing a jacket, or riding gear in general.
- Cycling cap: the brim of a cycling cap will help you see by keeping the rain out of your face, especially useful if you wear glasses.I find it even more necessary in the winter than in the summer! You could also use a helmet visor or rain-resistant spray for glasses or goggles.
- Riding Gloves: nothing worse than cold hands! Consider something water-resistant at least and toy with options like lobster gloves, or bar mitts.
- Booties: You can cover your shoes with waterproof or neoprene booties to keep your feet dry, clean and warm. In a pinch, putting plastic bags around your feet before your slip on your shoes will also keep them dry and warm.
- Rain pants: For maximum dryness, consider getting some rain pants. You want to make sure the material breathes, and get a reflective band to put around your ankles to keep the pant legs from getting caught by your chain.
If not dry, then at least stay warm. Wool or polypropylene won't keep you dry but it will keep you warm, even when wet. Wear a wicking wool underliner as well as wool socks to insulate them when they are soaked. If you don't have waterproof gloves, wear smartwool liners underneath a wind- and water-resistant pair of gloves for warmth, comfort and safety.
Lastly, see and be seen! Running bike lights even during the day time can increase your chance of being seen by a vehicle user, and they are certainly necessary at night.