Cycling in the Rain

cycling in the rain

It is just beginning to rain, and it is your time to start riding.

You have a choice between cycling in the rain or jumping on your trainer.  You look at the week’s weather, and rain is in the forecast every day.  You do not want to risk losing some of your hard-earned cycling fitness by not riding.

I have the same choices this time of the year as well.  For me cycling in the rain is not pleasant.  Zwifting is enjoyable, but not for more than a couple of days in a row.

So, like many of you, I would choose to ride in the rain sometimes.

Below is some advice if you decide to be one of our number who does some cycling in the rain.

Should You Be Cycling in the Rain?

Let’s get this question out of the way first.

I am not in the position to advise cyclists one way or the other.  It is a personal choice.  It can be fun to be out in nature when it is receiving a drenching.  For me, that enjoyment diminishes considerably after the first hour or so.  I save my longer rides for dryer days.

It might be best to get on the trainer during or just after the first rain of the season.  The roads will be treacherous due to oil that rises to the surface.  It is not fun at all to be on a bike on a slippery road.  Better to wait a day or two so the surface oil can wash away.

Never go out during a storm that is flashing lightning.  If you are out in the rain and lightning suddenly strikes, flee to shelter as fast as safely possible.  Don’t take any chances with lightning.  Cyclists get struck by lightning every year.  Avoid being one of them.

Prepare for Cycling in the Rain

If you do decide to venture out in the rain, prepare correctly for the ride.

If you are a cycling commuter, adventure cyclist, or bike packer, consider adding fenders to your bike. Of course, fenders are not something you will want to take on and off from one ride to the next.  But, if you must be out in inclement weather for several days or weeks in a row, fenders will be your friend.

Those fenders will keep your bike and your back cleaner.  You do not want to arrive at your destination looking like you just finished ParisRoubaix.

Indeed, you already have front and rear lights for your bike.  If you don’t, you need them.  If you plan to cycle in the rain, those lights should be mounted and fully charged.

When it is raining, cars cannot see you as well as expected.  They also have more distractions.  That places your life in danger.  Make sure they see you.  Turn on your lights.

The roads are slippery, and there is your tires have less traction.  You can increase your traction by lowering your tire pressure by 5 to 10 psi.  You may even want to put on wider or ribbed tires when you are cycling in the rain.

It would be best if you always lubed your bike before a ride.  In rainy weather, it is best to use a dry lube.

When you are cycling in the rain, you will get wet.  There is no getting around that. However, you can help yourself from getting unduly drenched and uncomfortable.

Dress in layers of breathable material.  If you are going out cycling in the rain, you are going to want a rain jacket.  Do not confuse a rain jacket with a windbreaker.  Windbreakers will get you drenched and feel cold in a hurry.  A rain jacket repels the water.  A cycling rain jacket will be light, reflective, and repel the water.

Some cycling in the rain jackets will fold up into themselves and strap around your waist when the downpour ceases.

Fingers and toes are the first to feel the cold in rainy weather.  If your budget has room, buy some shoe covers (overshoes) and waterproof gloves.

Drops can hit your eyes when cycling in the rain, causing pain and diminishing your all-important vision.  I wear glasses and sunglasses during bright days.  Those also protect my eyes during a ride.  However, they tend to fog up or get streaked with water in the rain, reducing my ability to see well.  The best option for protecting the eyes from the shower is a brimmed cap (cycling cap) made especially for cyclists.

The Ride Itself

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To state the obvious, when cycling in the rain, you need to go slower.  Even the pro-peloton riders go slower in a downpour. So a rainy day is not the time to go out chasing Strava segments.

Treat rainy rides as an opportunity to put more time in the saddle simply—no need to push it at all.  There is too much else to concentrate on in the rain. But, on the other hand, your health and life depend on you being hyper-alert.

Yes, it is wet out.  Don’t be fooled into thinking you can go without drinking the usual amount of liquid.  You can still get dehydrated. Drink more than usual.  You are wearing more clothing which will make you warmer.  Not all that moisture in your clothes is not from the rain.  You still sweat.

If it is cold as well as rainy, you might want to put a thermos filled with hot chocolate, tea, coffee, or hot apple cider in one of your bottle cages.  It will be a welcome warm refreshment.

When it rains, there will be puddles of water everywhere.  You may be on a familiar route that you have stared at from over your handlebars many times. However, the pool will now hide those potholes and cracks you used to see and avoid easily.

When you see a puddle, you have no idea how deep it is or what it hides. So, try not to ride through it. But, if you must pass through it, slow way down.

The bike handles differently in the rain.  Braking, especially with rim brakes, can be a problem.  If you brake too quickly or intensely, you might start sliding.  So, again, take it easy, slow down.

While cycling in the rain, cornering will be more challenging.  Approach corners and turns with added caution.  Your back wheel can easily slide out from under you.  That is not a pleasant feeling, and it often does not end well.

Stay off the painted lines and other markers, especially on corners or bends in the road.  That paint, when wet, becomes very slippery.

If you are riding with other cyclists, be courteous around puddles (don’t unnecessarily splash them).  Warn them of large pools ahead.

Be ultra alert.  The other vehicles on the road are dealing with the rain as well.

After the ride

After you have been cycling in the rain, your bike and gear need some added attention.

While out on the wet road, you collected a lot of dirt and grime.  If you do not wash off the gunk, it could cause considerable wear on your components.

Wash your bike thoroughly.  If you have a power washer, this is the time to use it.  Then, use a degreaser on the chain and cassette.  Then dry it with a soft rag or towel.  Finally, lube it for the next ride.

Make sure shoes dry out.  It will help if you stuff newspaper in them to absorb some of the moisture. Also, check the cleats to see if there is mud or other debris stuck in them.

Last of all, put your bike away out of the weather or cover it.

Riding in the rain can be a challenge, but it can also be enjoyable. So have fun and be careful.


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