In case you haven’t noticed it raining outside and has been for weeks. Regular cyclists living in Scotland might know all this stuff – but if you don’t ride often and you’re thinking about getting out there anyway, or if your just sick of the turbo trainer, don’t let a little water and road grit get in your way.
Sooner or later, everyone will be faced with riding in the rain but, with a little knowledge and the appropriate gear, spinning through showers can be a fun! So to help you along here’s some helpful hints to get you happily riding the mist. Happily?…well, more or less.
Stay as dry as you can! The wetter you get the colder you are going to be and being cold and wet is seriously unpleasant! Keep your core warm; make sure you have a proper waterproof jacket with a dropped tail and a hat or liner for under your helmet. Modern base-layer clothing made from wool or polypropylene will help a lot – as will woolen socks.
If you are really getting into this you may wish to consider shoe neoprene shoe covers for distance rides and use full fingered water-and-wind-resistant gloves.
Remember that your body sweats regardless of the weather so make sure your jacket and other garments can breathe (choose Gore-Tex or other breathable fabric) otherwise you’ll arrive wet from the inside, instead on the outside!
Clear Lens in your Glasses:
In low light clear or yellow lens glasses for eye protection are critical. When riding in the rain, normal sunglasses cut out too much light and can make road obstacles hard to see.
If you are still having issues seeing, a cycling cap placed under the helmet will shield some of the rain and road spray from hitting your glasses and you won’t become legally blind after waiting for a traffic light
If you are a serious ‘roadie’ you will already have a winter training bike that you have adapted to cope with harsher weather conditions. For the rest of us, consider getting yourself a rain bike.
Really, are you going to trash your pride and joy with water and grit? The best investment you can have is a dedicated rain bike. Fit it with Mudguards and then, when the rain comes on, you’ll be far happier submerging your bad-weather-beater knowing that your best bike is snuggling next to the fireplace at home.
If you don’t already have an old bike hanging in the garage then shop for something with generous room for mudguards on the frame and fork, as well as room for larger ‘wet’ profile tyres for comfort and grip.
Mudguards are essential if you plan on riding for any length of time or with other riders. Install mudguards on both wheels; they will vastly increase your comfort level and help to keep your vision clear. Mudguards are easy to install and several bike companies sell clip-on ‘blades’ that will fit bikes without threaded eyelets. It’s just good manners to have mudguards for wet weather rides with others; it simply avoids soaking them as well as you.
Getting seen is vital – so a good quality light set is essential in the wet. Good quality so that it works well, is bright and it well sealed and therefore works when you need it. Lights let everyone know you are there. Heavy rain and the glare from car headlights will reduce motorists’ vision, so it is a good idea to ride with a bright LED lamp both on seatposts and handlebars.
LED lights are relatively inexpensive and work very well. A good, rechargeable lighting system will also provide more light than a standard system, which is something to consider if your rides take place during early morning or evening. But, if you can only spring for one light, a flashing red rear lamp is an absolute essential for stormy riding. Most lights have clips that allow you to attach them to your bike, backpack, or helmet.
Keep your eye on the condition of your brake pads. A mixture of road grit and water is the fastest way to erode rubber brake pads. Pads that last a full season in the dry will run metal to metal on the rims in a month of wet-weather rides. Also remember that your wheel rims require a full revolution before the pads ‘squeegee’ the water from the braking surface and begin stopping properly. Plan ahead and brake early!
Grips and Bartape need to be freshened up from time to time generally, but well used grips can be very slippery in the rain. Reasonable grips are pretty cheap these days as is nice comfortable cork bar tape. Other ‘lizard skin’ tapes are available. These are very effective but can be a little bit pricey. Your local bike shop will be happy to help and advise.
Plenty of Chain Lube for sustained wet conditions. Use a heavier ‘wet conditions’ chain lube and use plenty of it too! It’s better to have a chain that requires cleaning than to have it freeze with rust. Remember, your lube won’t penetrate into the links unless the chain is completely dry when you apply it.
The road surface will be the slickest and most dangerous just after the rain has begun. During this time the rain will cause the oil build-up to rise to the surface, causing the road surface to resemble a giant oil slick.
Keep an eye out for little rainbow-edged patches on the road; this is an indication of an oil patch. Don’t brake or corner in the centre of the roadway at intersections, as this is where cars leave the majority of their ‘drippings’. Make an effort to notice metal surfaces such as manhole covers or tram tracks, painted traffic markings and wet leaves, as they all become very slick in the wet too.
As fun as it can be bash through puddles avoid them! More than one cyclist has broken a wheel in a submerged pothole or far worse – think ‘Vicar of Dibley’ at 20 miles an hour!
Watch the Corners!
Cornering in the rain can be tricky and dangerous. Shift as much of your weight onto the outside pedal as possible. Use your body weight to keep the bike more upright when cornering. Lean your body more than the bike. By doing this, you will be able to corner with a reasonable amount of speed, as the body will tend to remain balanced over the bike when the tires slide over painted lines and unseen oil patches.
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