If there’s one thing that deters people from commuting to work by bike is the weather. What do you do when it’s blisteringly hot or worse, pouring with rain?
We get it… Riding in the rain isn’t fun and can actually be quite dangerous as things become more dark and slippery on the road. Hopefully these pointers can help make the experience a lot more pleasant and hopefully enjoyable.
1. Slow Down
Riding a bike in the wet is like driving a car in the wet, you have to adjust to suit the conditions and speed is one of those things.
While you may ride down a fast corner all the time in dry conditions and never had any issues, remember for a moment that if it hasn’t rain for some time, the road is going to be more slippery especially if you share a road with cars where there can be a build up of oils. Approach that fast corner with caution that it may be slippery and to lower your speed.
We’d also encourage you not to take unnecessary risks when riding in the rain. Trying to rush for a traffic light that you know is about to change? Don’t push it. Visibility in wet conditions can be especially difficult for drivers so slow down and wait for a better gap to present.
2. Brake gently
Sure, the disk brakes on your bike but may help provide improved stopping power in wet conditions but don’t under estimate what a bit of water can do to locking up your wheel and sliding out.
For anyone that rides rim brakes, be especially careful in wet conditions as rim brakes are known for building up water on the braking surface which can decrease how efficient the brake works and slows you down in the wet conditions.
Another thing to factor for anyone that rides in wet conditions a lot is the additional wear and tear that comes with riding in the rain. Brake pads wear out faster in wet conditions due to the build up of water and grit sticking to the pads and turning into a sandpaper like finish. The end result is that your rims and brake pads begin to wear down.
3. Avoid Slippery Patches
Everyone has a horror story of riding in wet conditions and under-estimating a wet surface they’d normally never have any problems with in dry conditions. For me, that was a wet tram track in Melbourne which was like riding on ice. Unfortunately for me, my back wheel slid out and I went down.
Generally there’s a few different surfaces to be wary of that can be different in wet conditions. These include:
- Metal manholes
- Paint markings
- Brick paths
If you can’t afford these on your commute in wet conditions, we recommend to avoid using your brakes too hard and keep your wheel straight. Of course, try to minimise your speed accordingly. Once you begin trying to go hard on your brakes and your wheel is on an angle, you will easily go into a slide like I experienced a few years back!
4. Corners are your enemy
As we mentioned previously when discussing speed, corners can be your enemy when it comes to commuting in the rain. Be sure to slow down and avoid taking the corner too sharply. Instead, use all the available space you have available by starting the corner wide.
Before taking your corner wide, be sure to check over your shoulder before going wide to ensure a motorist isn’t attempting to over take you.
Depending on what time of the day you are commuting, visibility on the road in wet conditions can be severely limited. For this reason, we’d recommend investing in good front and rear bike lights and reflective clothing to help increase your visibility.
Fenders or mudguards as some know them as, provide plenty of benefits for commuters including:
- Helps keep you more dry and clean
- Better protects your bike from the elements which helps prolong the lifespan of your bike
- Results in less spray for the person riding behind you
The only downside for mudguards is they can look ugly on some bikes unless you splash the cash and get yourself a good pair.
7. Waterproof Yourself
Obvious one here but… Don’t forget to make sure you’re wearing the right waterproof materials yourself.
We’ve written about the best waterproof cycling jackets and best waterproof cycling gloves in past posts. But it’s also worth considering over shoes which are essentially a rain jacket for your shoes and work great for keeping your feet nice and dry!
Some people also recommend wearing clear glasses to keep spray out of your eyes. This is less of a problem for me as I wear glasses occasionally but can see the benefits on the wet days.
Finally another option is to consider a cycling cap or skullcap which is worn underneath the cycling helmet and helps keep your head nice and dry if the rain is pouring.
8. Waterproof Your Stuff
While it’s important to wear a waterproof jacket, gloves and other odds and ends but what about protecting your belongings from the elements?
For this reason, we recommend investing in panniers or a backpack that has a removable rain jacket. We’ve written about some of the best cycling pannier bags and best cycling backpacks and also the best cycling backpacks for carrying a suit in the past which covered this exact issue if you’re interested!
9. Avoid Puddles
Another obvious one but when riding in wet conditions – avoid puddles! As fun as jumping in puddles was as a kid, riding through puddles and getting wet is not. Or worse, finding the puddle actually is a decent sized pot hole and you end up going over the handle bars.
When avoiding puddles (and potentially pot holes), it’s important to look over your shoulder in case there’s a driver behind you that hasn’t anticipated you swerving and was about to over take you. We generally recommend signalling to the car behind you by using your hand and arm to gesture where you are about to ride.
10. Lower Your Tyre Pressure
We recommend lowering your bike tyres when riding in heavy rain conditions. Like driving a car, decreasing the amount of pressure in the tyre can help provide more traction.
Generally lowering your tyres by 20% from the maximum pressure found on the tyre sidewall is a good start.
If you see yourself riding in wet conditions a lot, perhaps consider investing in fatter tyres which generally have better grip in wet conditions and are best suited for this type of weather. The only trade off with fatter tyres is that they can be quite slow compared to more thinner tyres.
11. Ride in the Bare Essentials
While we don’t agree with this advice but can only speak from seeing what other people do, why not go minimal clothing so you have less deal to worry about and get wet? Generally these people will have a good change of clothes at home and work so they can quickly clean up and get changed into something warm when they arrive at their destination.
12. Plan around the Rain
We get it, riding in the rain isn’t fun so if the weather is going to be atrocious, why not give commuting by bike a miss that day? Your safety is important especially if you know the weather is going to be terrible. Best to save the legs for another day.
13. Give your Bike some TLC
One of the downsides of riding in the rain is the additional maintenance required due to the build up of water and dirt on your bike. The dirt can build up in your mechanics which in turn puts more stress on your parts and requires earlier replacement.
We recommend a few things to check after riding in wet conditions:
- Check for stones and road debris that may be stuck in your tyre treads. The reason being is that your tyres become more grippier in the wet and pick up more debris than they normally would. The build up of any debris not removed might cause a puncture if not careful.
- Reapply lube to replace lubricant that gets washed off in the wet weather. We recommend wiping the change down first and then re-applying lube. Some people recommend applying WD40 after wiping the chain to displace any muck that may be between the chain links but that’s entirely up to you.
Unfortunately riding in the rain when commuting is something we will always face eventually as commuters. For this reason, you’re best served to try make it as a bearable experience as possible so riding in the rain becomes second nature.
Our best advice – Try to plan your rides around the rain and weather radars. Sometimes leaving 30 minutes earlier or later might mean you avoid the rain and make it a more enjoyable ride. Lastly and our most important advice, don’t rush when riding in the rain. Take it easy and get to work/home in one piece!