22 tips for cycling in the rain – how to ride safely

22 tips for cycling in the rain - how to ride safely

Biking in the rain is not the most enjoyable experience, but sometimes there is no choice.

Maybe you’re a commuter and your bike is your only means of transportation. Maybe you run into an unexpected storm while out for a ride.

Regardless, riding a bike in the rain doesn’t have to be painful if you’re properly prepared. In fact, a rainy day can create an incredible atmosphere.

It’s also less crowded and the air is fresh. This article concludes with 22 tips for cycling in the rain that can help you stay dry and safe in wet weather.

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    22 tips for cycling in the rain

    Keeping you and your bike clean with fenders

    When the road is wet, the bike tires can splash dirty water on the bike. The water spray can soak your calves and entire back.

    The bike’s drivetrain is covered with dirt, oil and any chemicals that may be on the road.

    Dirt and debris get into the bike’s chain and cover the bike’s gears, causing unnecessary wear and tear. The solution is to install fenders on the bike.

    These collect spray and direct it to the ground. When riding in the rain, it stays dry and clean.

    Your drivetrain will also stay cleaner and therefore last longer, and you won’t have to clean or lubricate the chain as often.

    Of course, fenders aren’t perfect, they tend to rattle and some people think they look a little silly.

    They also add a bit of weight to the bike. Even then, they are a must if touring or riding in the rain.

    Keeping you and your bike clean with fenders

    Wearing a raincoat

    One of the most important items of clothing for riding in the rain is a raincoat. It keeps the torso and arms dry, which keeps one warm.

    When riding a bike in the rain, you get wet in two ways. The first is rain, which is obvious, and the second is sweat building up on your clothes.

    In order to stay dry, a waterproof jacket is needed to keep the rain from seeping through the insulation.

    Rain jackets also need to be breathable so sweat can escape. If sweat can’t escape, you’ll be drenched as if you weren’t wearing a raincoat at all.

    The solution is to choose a raincoat made of waterproof, breathable material. These high-tech fabrics keep liquid water out but allow water vapor to escape.

    Wearing a raincoat

    They do this through tiny pores that are smaller than liquid water droplets but larger than water vapor molecules. It rains, but your sweat disappears.

    Ideally, raincoats should also have vents that can be unzipped to allow fresh air through.

    These can help regulate temperature and increase ventilation, with underarm vents being particularly useful. Some cyclists prefer to use a poncho rather than a raincoat.

    The main reason for this is that ponchos are more breathable because they provide better ventilation than rain jackets. Rain ponchos also partially protect the lower body while riding.

    Learning how to ride in the rain

    If you ride a lot, you’ll end up getting wet. Bikes handle it differently when roads and trails are wet than they do when everything is dry.

    The reason is obvious: wet surfaces are slippery. To stay safe, it’s important to learn how to ride properly in wet conditions, so you can stay safe when it gets stormy.

    For example, when the road is wet, the braking distance increases because the tires don’t have enough grip to hold onto the ground.

    Water reduces friction between the tires and the road, and you need to start braking earlier and more gently, which is especially important when descending from a wet hill.

    Rim brakes in particular don’t perform well when they get wet, and the wheels need to spin a full circle before the pads can scrape water off the rims before the brakes start to slow down.

    Turning in the rain also becomes more difficult, and you can’t lean as far without risking the wheel sliding out from under you.

    Learning how to ride in the rain

    When turning, try to stay upright and, if you can, shift your weight to the outside pedal, which will allow you to maintain the correct speed without your tires slipping. Avoid sharp turns.

    If you’re not used to riding in wet weather, test your traction in a safe place before riding on a busy road.

    For example, test your brakes on an open section of a bike path to see how fast you can stop. This way, you will be better prepared in case of an emergency.

    One of the main benefits of learning to ride in wet conditions is increased confidence by learning how to properly handle low traction conditions.

    When future encounters wet ground, ice, loose gravel, spills of some kind, etc., one will be better prepared to move through it safely and confidently.

    Using bicycle lights

    When rain clouds cover the sky, they block out sunlight, making the sky darker than usual, especially in the early morning and late evening.

    This can hinder visibility for you and other drivers sharing the road. In addition, wet, rainy weather can cause windows to fog, further reducing visibility for drivers.

    The solution is to use lights to make yourself more visible. This is true even when riding during the day.

    Mount bike lights on the front and back of your bike. Set them to blinking mode to increase visibility.

    Headlights can also be mounted to handlebars, tail lights can be attached to seatposts, rear racks or backpacks, and helmet lights are also an option. You can check the best bike helmets for your reference.

    Installing wider tires or lowering tire pressure

    23 mm slick road bike tires are not suitable for riding in the rain, and narrow tires do not allow adequate traction on slippery surfaces.

    If you live in an area where it rains a lot, you may need to install tires that are slightly wider than what you might use in a dry climate.

    Consider using tires that are at least 25-28 mm for more traction, or better yet, 35-40 mm if the bike has enough clearance.

    Wider tires greatly increase traction, which reduces stopping distances and helps prevent the bike from sliding out from underneath you during turns.

    Installing wider tires or lowering tire pressure

    If you don’t ride in the rain often and don’t need wider tires, you can also improve traction by lowering the pressure slightly.

    Running your tires at 5-10 PSI below normal will increase the surface area of the tire in contact with the road.

    This creates more friction, which significantly improves traction and costs you nothing but a little bit of efficiency.

    If you lower your tire pressure, remember to take a pump with you so you can refill your tires as the road dries out. You can also check the e-bike tire pressure for your reference.

    Avoid crossing puddles

    Splashing through puddles can be childish and fun, but it can also be a bit dangerous.

    The reason for this is that you never know how deep a puddle is unless you go through it, and what looks like a few inches of water may actually hide a wheel-destroying pothole.

    If sooner or later you have to cross enough puddles, the depth of the puddle can be surprising. At worst, you could end up falling off your bike and landing on the road.

    When you see a puddle, try to ride around it, not through it.

    If that means getting off and walking on the sidewalk or waiting for traffic to clear, so be it. Of course, if you can clearly see the bottom of the puddle, then ride through it.

    Avoid crossing puddles

    Lubricating the chain

    Wet weather is hard on bikes, mostly because your tires splash dirty water full of debris and chemicals onto your bike as you ride.
     
    Moisture can cause components to corrode and eventually seize, and debris can get into the drivetrain and cause wear and tear, so there are some steps you can take ahead of time to protect your bike from excessive wear and tear if you plan to ride in the rain often.
     
    Apply dry lube to the chain before riding in the rain. Dry lube gets wet and then dries quickly to a waxy film that doesn’t wash off easily in wet conditions.
     
    Lube helps keep moisture out and prevents rust. But you need to apply lube when the chain is dry; otherwise, the lube may not fully penetrate the chain links.

    Keeping your vision clear while biking in the rain

    Vision is especially important when riding in the rain and you need to keep a close eye on traffic as drivers can’t see as clearly as they can on a sunny day.

    You also need to be aware of puddles and any obstacles that may wash into the road as well as slippery areas.

    The problem is that the rain on your face can block your view. To keep your vision clear, there are two options:

    Wear glasses or goggles – this way you can keep your eyes open at all times, even in the heaviest rain.

    When choosing glasses or goggles to use in the rain, look for a pair of clear or yellow colored glasses.

    These make it easier to see in dark rainy weather. The problem with eyeglasses is that they can pick up raindrops and fog quickly, which can block your vision.

    Keeping your vision clear while biking in the rain

    One solution is to apply anti-fog treatment. This way, the rain rolls off and the glasses stay clean.

    Wear a brimmed hat under your helmet – or you can attach an extended visor to your helmet.

    This should stop most of the rain hitting your eyes, especially if the bike has a forward-leaning riding position.

    For storms, it may be necessary to use both goggles and a visor; the rain may still block your vision slightly, but it will be better. What are the top 10 cycling sunglasses you can buy?

    Cleaning your bike after a ride in the rain

    Rain washes all kinds of dirt, oil, salt, various chemicals and automotive fluids from car engines on the road. Some of this dirt can splash onto your bike’s drivetrain, even with fenders.

    This stuff can stick to the chain and gears and cause premature wear, it can even get into bearings and cause damage. It can also lead to corrosion of the frame and other components.

    After riding in the rain, it’s a good idea to spray your bike with fresh water to wash away all the dirt and grime that has built up during the ride.

    A sports water bottle is great for this. Simply squeeze the bottle to spray clean water where you need it.

    Cleaning your bike after a ride in the rain

    Be sure to clean the chain, rear cog, sprockets, chainstay, brake calipers and rims or brake rotors – these parts are sensitive to dirt and contaminants.

    If the bike has rim brakes, it’s especially important to thoroughly clean the rims and pads, because dirt can get into the pads and scratch the rims.

    If the drivetrain is particularly dirty, it may be necessary to clean it with a degreaser and then relubricate the chain.

    This simple maintenance will greatly extend the life of the chain and freewheel.

    Dress in different way

    When cycling in the rain, you should wear clothes that will keep you warm and dry.

    Your clothes also need to be ventilated so sweat can evaporate, and if they don’t breathe, sweat will make you as wet as rain.

    The best solution is to wear more layers. This way, you can add and remove clothing as needed to regulate your body temperature.

    For riding in wet weather, choose clothing made from breathable and quick-drying materials.

    Synthetic fabrics such as polyester work well. Merino wool is another popular fabric. Avoid cotton because it takes a long time to dry.

    It also doesn’t provide any insulation when it gets wet, and down should be avoided for the same reason.

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    A good layering system for riding in the rain includes:

    Base layer – apply this layer directly to the skin. Merino wool is perfect for this as it provides insulation even when wet. Even if you’re wet, you can still stay warm. As an added bonus, it’s odor-resistant. Synthetic thermal long underwear also works well as a base.

    Middle Layer – This layer provides additional insulation. This layer is removed when you get too hot and a wool or fleece jacket works well.

    Raincoat – This is your waterproof jacket. Some raincoats are insulated, others are just waterproof shells, make sure you choose one that is well ventilated and underarm zippers are a great feature to help with perspiration.

    If riding in a hot climate where it rains a lot, such as the tropics, it’s best to just wear thin, quick-drying clothes rather than trying to stay dry.

    Getting wet is cooler and more comfortable than wearing hot, wet rain gear. When the rain stops, synthetics dry incredibly fast.

    Cover your seat when getting out of the bike

    If you have to leave your bike in the rain when you go for a ride, cover the seat with some kind of waterproof material to keep it dry.
     
    That way, when it’s time to get back on the bike, your butt won’t get wet. Plastic grocery bags or shower caps work great for this.

    You can also purchase a waterproof seat cover if you prefer a specialty product.

    Watch for slippery obstacles on the roadway

    Over time, oil and other automotive fluids that accumulate on the road mix with rain and cause slippery mud.

    To avoid these conditions, keep an eye out for wet roads with rainbow oil stains.

    These are most commonly found in the middle of driveways where cars travel, at intersections, and in parking lots.

    Metal surfaces such as railway tracks, road grates, access panels and manhole covers also become slippery when wet. Painted and brick surfaces also become very slippery.

    To avoid slipping, try to maneuver around these obstacles. If you must ride across oily or slick metal or painted surfaces, try not to brake or make sharp turns.

    Watch for slippery obstacles on the roadway

    Be extra careful when turning, try not to lean too hard, and also allow yourself enough extra room to brake on these surfaces.

    After the first rain in a long time, roads will be at their wettest.

    You should also keep an eye out for debris; heavy rain can wash branches, trash, debris and other unexpected items onto the road.

    This is especially common near the edge of the road where the water is flowing; keep an eye out and try to maneuver around any obstacles.

    Riding slower on wet roads to give yourself more time

    When cycling in the rain, it may not be possible to maintain the same speed as you would on a dry road.
     
    After all, you need to slow down to safely cross the slippery road.
     
    It is also important not to turn or brake hard. Because of the slower riding speed, you won’t cover as much ground as quickly.
     
    Keep this in mind when planning your trip. For example, maybe it usually takes 20 minutes to cycle to work. When it rains, give yourself 30 minutes just in case.
     
    If you usually drive 50 miles a day, you might plan 30-40 miles when it rains.

    Defensive riding when it rains

    Wet road conditions make cycling in the rain more dangerous than cycling in dry weather.

    For example, shoulders are flooded, potholes are covered with puddles, and debris is washed into the roadway. These dangerous obstacle areas can usually be avoided by riding closer to the road.

    Another consideration is that when roads are wet, drivers can’t stop as fast. Their tires can lose traction on wet and greasy roads just like yours.

    Keep this in mind when crossing intersections and riding on the road. Always keep an eye out for traffic.

    Defensive riding when it rains

    Carrying your gear in a waterproof backpack

    If you’re carrying a laptop, camera, food or a change of clothes, you need to make sure everything stays dry.
     
    A good solution is to store your gear in some type of waterproof bag.
     
    When choosing a waterproof bag, make sure it is seam-sealed and completely waterproof – bags made with PVC coating and roll-top design perform well in wet weather.
     
    In fact, most waterproof bike bags seal so well that they keep their contents dry even if the bag is submerged underwater.
     
    Tip: If you don’t have the budget for a waterproof bike bag, you can line an existing non-waterproof backpack with some kind of trash bag.
     
    Trash compactor bags work great because they are thin, strong and airtight. Make sure to tighten or roll the top of the bag to avoid leaks.

    Wearing waterproof gloves and socks

    When your core temperature starts to drop, a person’s hands and feet are the first parts of the body to get cold, and riding a bike with cold, wet hands and feet can quickly become uncomfortable.

    When your hands get cold, they also lose their dexterity, which makes applying brakes and shifting gears much more difficult to control the bike accurately.

    To keep your hands and feet warm, wear waterproof gloves and boots when cycling in the rain.

    When buying gloves, you need a pair that is thick enough to keep you warm, but thin enough to feel the bike’s brakes and shifters.

    There are waterproof winter gloves, for example, which are made of waterproof PU leather and polyester with a TPU coating on the inside for extra protection from rain.

    Wearing waterproof gloves and socks

    In terms of feet, waterproof socks work well. Another tip is to put a plastic bag over your socks to provide better insulation and waterproof protection.

    Another option is to wear neoprene boots over your shoes; they provide insulation like a wetsuit.

    Gaiters also help keep your shoes dry by preventing water from seeping into the uppers.

    If it’s raining heavily and you’re planning a long ride, you may want to bring a second pair of waterproof gloves and socks to replace the first pair if they get wet.

    Make sure to store them in a waterproof bag to prevent them from getting wet.

    Put on your cycling helmet

    Vents on your helmet can help keep you cool in hot weather, but are detrimental when it rains.

    To keep your head dry, consider wearing a riding cap under your helmet; the cap will keep your head warm and prevent water from running down your face.

    If cold weather is expected, it may be necessary to wear something warm, such as a knit cap or ski mask, and in addition to a hat, wearing a scarf or muffler will help keep your neck warm and dry.

    Wearing a visibility jacket or undershirt

    Drivers also don’t want to see cyclists riding in the rain. This means they won’t be looking around as much as they would when the weather is nice.

    To make sure you are visible to them, consider wearing a highly visible raincoat, or you can wear a highly reflective undershirt over your raincoat.

    Alternatively, a brightly colored flag can be mounted on your bike, which should be done in addition to using lights.Wearing a visibility jacket or undershirt

    Bring a change of clothes

    If you ride in the rain long enough or if it rains hard enough, you ‘ll end up wet. No matter how much raincoat you have, water has a way of getting in and sweat tends to build up.
     
    If commuting by bike, the best solution is to carry a change of clothes in a waterproof carrier or backpack.

    When you arrive, you can dry off with a towel and put on dry clothes.
     
    When you’re ready to get back on your bike, you can change into your wet bike clothes and head home. If you’re lucky, they’ll be dry by the time you’re ready to go.
     
    Alternatively, keep a change of clothes at your destination so you can wear something dry in case of an unexpected shower. You’ll need at least one extra shirt, pants, socks and shoes.

    Staying hydrated

    When it rains, it’s easy to forget to drink water during the cycling because you’re already soaked.

    It’s also hard to tell how much you’re sweating, which makes it harder to realize how much water you’re losing.

    Also, it doesn’t feel good to drink cold water on a cold, rainy day, so be sure to drink plenty of water anyway.

    Tip: In addition to a water bottle on a cold, rainy day, consider bringing a hot water bottle with hot chocolate, tea, coffee, and hot cider.

    A hot water bottle will keep drinks hot all day long. Having a hot drink can help you stay warm and hydrated. Of course, it will add a little weight.

    Staying hydrated

    Avoid biking in the first rain after a long dry spell

    It’s best to avoid riding on the first rainy day after it hasn’t rained in a while due to the buildup of oil and other automotive fluids, as well as a variety of chemicals and dirt on the road.

    When these mix with water, the roads become very slippery and dangerous, and these harsh fluids can also spray on your bike, which can cause wear and tear or even damage to the drivetrain if the bike is not cleaned properly.

    After a few days of rain, the dirt is washed away and the roads become clean.

    At this point, traction improves and riding becomes safer, which is also better for the bike.

    Avoid biking in the first rain after a long dry spell

    Waiting for the rainstorm to end

    You can always postpone a ride if you don’t have somewhere you absolutely need to be, or if you don’t want to get wet.

    Storms usually pass in just a few hours, and a big storm can last for days; there’s no shame in staying home or going to the gym on a rainy day instead of riding your bike.

    Chocolatezhu
    Chocolatezhu
    Hi, I'm an experienced writer about mechanic and an expert on bike and e-bike tech who appreciates practical, beautifully-engineered things. And of course, I love cycling.
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