Rain may not seem like ideal weather for a ride, but with the right preparations, cycling in the rain can be an exciting change in your training routine. Taking a break or opting for the indoor bike every time it pours can interrupt your training and hinder you from achieving your goals. Don’t let rain set you back or confine you inside–let riding in the rain boost your cycling skill level and confidence. But cycling in the rain does require adjustments. You can’t head out for a ride exactly as you would in dry weather and expect to be safe or successful. You should make sure you and your bike are fitted for the challenges of riding in rainy weather. These 20 tips will help prepare you to embrace wet weather and feel right as rain cycling when it’s pouring outdoors.
Pros and cons of riding in the rain
Pros of riding in the rain
- It’s exciting and fun! Cycling in the rain presents different mental and physical challenges to kick your ride up a notch and prevent you from falling prey to boredom. You may find that you love the misty and moody blue-gray atmosphere on rainy days.
- It keeps you cool in warmer temps. Rain showers can be a blessing when you’re hot and sweaty and desperate to cool off. The rain may even help boost your endurance on warm days.
- It keeps you on target with your training plan. Rain may deter you from some activities like sunbathing, kite-flying, or line-drying laundry, but not cycling. As long as it’s not storming, rain can be great riding weather. Rain is no excuse for a day off (unless you need one), so don’t let it interrupt your routine.
- It teaches you to handle your bike well. Riding in the rain requires extra focus and dexterity, which can improve your control and give you an advantage when cycling on sunny days.
Cons of riding in the rain
- It creates new road safety hazards. Roads are slick in the rain, especially after the first shower following a dry spell. Oils that have accumulated on the roads get washed up and create a slippery surface. Rain can also reduce your visibility, blow debris into the road, and turn your regular route into new terrain.
- It requires extra gear and preparation. Moisture can corrode your bike, so you have to ensure that you take proper care to prevent this. Rainy rides also require additional waterproof layers to keep you dry and maintain your core temperature.
- It gets you wet. This con is obvious but also the primary reason many people choose not to ride in the rain. For most people, getting soaked is not a comfortable feeling.
20 tips for cycling in the rain
If you think a rainy-day ride sounds fun but are wondering how to cycle in the rain safely, these tips will help prepare you.
Gear for cycling in the rain
1. Wear a waterproof jacket to keep you warm and dry.
Cold, wet weather calls for extra warmth. Water-resistant cycling jackets are good for brief, light showers, but heavy rains require a fully waterproof jacket or shell. To be considered waterproof, a cycling jacket must have at least a 5,000mm rating, but 10,000-20,000mm is ideal.
Great waterproof jackets, like the Hincapie Element Pocket Shell, have a waterproof zipper and a high collar to keep rain from seeping in, a long tail to keep your back dry, and reflective elements so you stay visible. The Hincapie Pacific Rain Shell is perfect for packing away and pulling out when showers start.
2. Wear a merino wool base layer for extra warmth.
It’s essential to keep your core dry and comfortably cool. Merino wool baselayers are perfect for the job–they’re water-repellant and moisture-wicking so sweat escapes and the rain stays out. Our Powercore Merino Baselayer is a great example.
3. Wear a brimmed cap to keep the rain out of your eyes.
Glasses are good, but a brimmed cap (or both) is better. Water droplets on the surface of glasses can obscure your vision, but a brimmed cap worm under your helmet should stop water drops from rolling into your eyes.
4. Carry a waterproof backpack for your belongings.
You and your bike aren’t the only things to look out for when riding in the rain. If you’re commuting, you likely need an extra dry pair of clothes, and you certainly don’t want your cell phone soaked. Your backpack will be very exposed to the elements, so it’s important to make sure it’s waterproof.
5. Cover your feet and hands.
If your feet and hands get wet and cold, it’s nearly impossible to maintain your temperature. Waterproof gloves and cycling shoe covers are rainy-day cycling essentials.
Cycling safely in the rain
6. Stay seen.
You’ll want other cyclists or cars to be able to spot you from a distance, especially in the rain when roads can be hazardous. To stay seen, wear clothes with reflective elements and make sure your bike has front and rear lights.
7. Stay away from slippery surfaces.
Metal grates, railroad tracks, and painted lines are all slipping hazards when wet. Avoid them if you can, but if not, slow down and approach them with caution.
8. Cycle around puddles.
Splashing through puddles may seem fun, but it’s too risky when cycling in the rain. On a bike, there’s no way to know how deep a puddle is or what lurks beneath that could puncture a tire or cause a fall. Rainbow oil puddles are definite slipping hazards, so steer clear of them as well.
9. Cycle slowly and brake carefully.
No matter your level of experience, riding in the rain safely requires slower speeds. Maintaining control over your bike is more difficult in the rain. When braking or cornering, slow down gradually and be careful not to lean forward too far when turning.
10. Consider taking a different route.
If the route you normally take is wooded or unpaved at any point, consider having a plan B for rainy weather. Even if you’re confident you know every square inch of your typical route, rain brings obstacles that can surprise you.
11. Don’t cycle when it’s lightning.
Cycling in the rain is fine and dandy until it becomes too dangerous to drive or even walk outside. If it’s pouring to the point that it’s impossible to see in front of you and streaks of lightning are your only source of light, you should not be on your bike. You don’t want to risk being stuck or struck in a thunderstorm.
12. Carry a bicycle repair kit and a first-aid kit.
Although cycling in the rain is safe if you’re well-equipped, you do have a higher chance of puncturing a tire or slipping in the rain. To be prepared for any patching up of your bike or yourself, have a bike repair kit and a first-aid kit handy.
13. First-timers, be extra cautious.
If you’ve never cycled in the rain before, take time to get comfortable with the experience. Learn how to handle your bike in the rain gradually. You don’t want to be caught off guard by slick spots or rain in your eyes, so be extra alert and cautious.
Weatherproofing your bike
14. Lubricate your drivetrain.
Moisture will corrode your bike if you let it. To prevent this, add a wet lube (made for wet conditions) to your drive chain when the bike is dry before you take it outside in the rain. The lube should last for 100 miles.
15. Use fenders.
Fenders can be heavy and clunky, but they’re necessary for rainy, muddy weather to keep grime off of you and your bike. Fenders act as a splash guard and prevent dirt from caking on your bike and streaking your backside.
16. Use wider tires
Wider, winter tires have more contact area with the ground and are good at rolling over obstructions the rain washes into your path. They’re also better at gripping the ground over slick spots.
Maintaining your bike after rain
17. Wash it while it’s wet.
Grime is easier to rinse off while it’s wet. If you leave it alone and let the grime harden, it can damage your drivetrain and be more difficult to clean off later on. The best method of de-griming is to rinse your bike down with a hose. If you don’t have access to a hose or have a long ride home, pre-clean your bike by rinsing it with a water bottle.
18. Inspect brakes
After a rainy ride, check the status of your brakes. Water and muck can wear out your brake pads. Rim brakes have closer contact with the ground and usually wear out faster than disc brakes, so be sure to clean and dry them well.
19. Clean your shoes and helmet.
Once your bike is ship-shape, make sure you give your cycling clothing the proper care. Wipe down your shoes and helmet so they’re in good shape for the next ride. If you’re really muddy, you may want to hose yourself down before heading inside.
20. Don’t stay in wet cycling clothes long.
Even though you might be tempted to sit back and relax after your ride, wait until you’re out of your wet cycling clothes. Wet and sweaty shorts and chamois are not only uncomfortable, but they’re also the perfect environment for bacteria. Remove your cycling clothes, spray them with stain remover if visibly dirty, and let them dry before throwing them into the wash. Use this guide to correctly wash and care for your cycling kit.
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