Ask MassBike: Riding In Rain

We get a lot of questions here at MassBike, and we like to think we also give some pretty good answers. We realized that sharing these questions and answers on our website would be a valuable resource to others looking for the same information.

We got this question from Theo about riding in the rain:

Hello MassBike!

I have started riding for Bay State Bike Week, and unfortunately every time I go outside I manage to bike when the rain starts pouring! This makes it super stressful, not to mention soaking wet and potentially dangerous. What can I do to rain-proof my ride?

Wet and frustrated,
Theo

Hello Theo,

Your concerns about riding in the rain are definitely understandable, especially as a beginner. However, with the right gear and riding strategies, riding in the rain can be just as easy and safe as riding on a nice, sunny day.  Our tips for rainy day riding fall into three categories:

Maneuvering

  • Brakes don’t don’t work as well on wet rims. It can take much longer to stop (up to ten times normal distance!). Start braking earlier than usual, and be sure to periodically “wipe the rims” applying the brakes lightly for a short distance, ideally a little bit before you need to make a stop. Alternately, if you are interested in getting a new bike or some new parts, disc brakes provide much better stopping power in wet conditions than rim brakes.
  • Paint is slippery. Try to stay off pavement markings and lines – they can be extra-slippery when wet.
  • Metal is slippery too. Avoid manhole covers, grates, construction plates, and other metal objects. These things can be tricky to ride on in the best of conditions, and can act like ice when wet.
  • Tires lose traction when wet. Take turns more slowly than usual, don’t lean into turns as much, and avoid quick maneuvers.
  • Stay out of puddles. Innocent looking puddles can conceal wheel-swallowing potholes, so you’re better off going around any puddle you can’t see the bottom of.

Above all, though, Slow Down! Motorists cannot see you as well because of the rain on their windows, and you probably can’t see as well either because of the rain coming down on your face. It’s even worse if you wear glasses. Be sure to wear bright colors and use a front white light and rear red light to make yourself more visible.

A Rain Cape. Courtesy of www.catoregon.org.

Clothing

In addition to bright clothing, getting rain-specific clothing will make biking in wet conditions much more tolerable. A rain jacket, rain pants and shoe covers are a good way to go, as is a rain cape. There are also helmet covers to keep your head dry. Try to get materials that breathe pretty well, otherwise you will keep the rain out but get soaked with sweat.

Maintenance

Getting your bike ready for the rain is crucial to a pleasant journey. Fenders are a great place to start, as they keep water from kicking up your back, reduce the amount of spray from the front wheel, and also can protect the person behind you from getting a face-full of dirty water.

A rusty chain. Courtesy of steel-cut.blogspot.com/

There is a lot of salt and sand, not to mention dirt and muck, on the roads at this time of year. Be kind to your bike:

  • Wipe it down. Or spray it with a garden hose (gently, never with high pressure) once you get home to keep your bike from rusting and making all sorts of annoying pops and clicks.
  • Lube your chain. Lubing your chain keeps it cleans, prevents rust, and keeps things moving smoothly.
  • Clean your rims. Dirt and sand grind down your brake pads and rims much faster than normal use.

Riding in the rain doesn’t have to be stressful or dangerous. If you follow some of the tips above, we think you will significantly improve your ride and will even enjoy the trip.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Bike Week Becomes Rain Challenge | Pedal Paradise - May 17, 2011

    [...] Update: MassBike put up a post with tips for riding in the rain! [...]