Ok, show of hands – who hates cycling in the rain?
For me, cycling in the rain in summertime isn’t so bad – at least it’s more bearable than cycling in winter when it’s freezing cold and windy! I have to admit though, I’m not one for cycling in the rain and will miss a training if it’s pouring down before I start. I’m what’s known as a “fair-weather cyclist” and yes I’m proud of that because I only want to enjoy my cycling, not get soaking wet and cold.
And yes, I know you’re not happy either riding in the rain. You know, you absolutely do NOT have to go out in the rain for the sake of ‘training’. If you do that you’ll most likely make yourself pretty miserable. Just schedule a different day and you’ll get so much more out of your cycling.
However, as you probably already know, it rains a heck of a lot in the UK…so how do we get by on the days we ‘absolutely have to’ ride in the rain?
To start with it’s all about minimising the degree of ‘misera-bility’…and here are my tips to get you through the wettest cycling days with at least a smile on your face:
Wear a waterproof jacket:
Fairly obvious point, but if you don’t take a waterproof with you, you could suffer badly from exposure if it rains. What may seem a warm day when you set off, might not be so warm when it starts to rain.
As far as waterproof jackets go, don’t go for the most expensive! I’ve tried gortex and I’ve been disappointed in the material. My gortex jacket (red one in pic above) cost me £250 and it did no more of a good job cycling in the wet than my Evo waterproof at £80 from Wiggle.
The point is, you always get wet inside when cycling in any waterproof jacket. So, you have to look for a jacket that minimises this ‘inside condensation’, but protects you from the wet and wind on the outside. The high visibility Evo in my opinion has been the best jacket I’ve ever used for rainy days. The only drawback is that it doesn’t roll up small enough to stuff in your back pocket…instead, I put it in a small backpack.
…and, make sure you wear a high visibility jacket. In the rain visibility is reduced, well it is for drivers because windscreens mist up and they just don’t see you! I’d even go as far as saying put your lights on too if daylight has reduced.
Wear mudguards (if you have eyelets mounted):
You might not like this idea in summertime when you’re on your racer, but if it’s raining before you set off it’s a good idea to fix some mudguards. Not only will they keep your backside fairly dry, but you minimise the spray for cyclists following behind! We use the SKS Race Blade clip-on mudguards because they can attach on and off really quickly and they do the job well.
Ride much slower than usual:
In wet conditions you have to slow down mainly because the road becomes more hazardous:
- One of the most dangerous times on a bike is when it just starts to rain! Roads are at their most slippery because rain drops just sit on the greasy, slippery surface. Slow right down at this early point even if you think the roads will still hold full traction – otherwise you might be in for a big surprise!
- Avoid puddles as best you can because you won’t know how deep a hole is underneath! I had a drastic experience of this recently and hit a pothole lurking underneath the puddle, causing me to catapult over my front handlebars – nasty!
- Slow right down when descending! Descents can be dangerous in the wet because at speed on the bike you can hit flood water across the road, or an unexpected puddle and be aquaplaned right off the bike! You also can’t stop as quickly, so you have to be looking far ahead up the road to judge stopping – the best thing to do is to slow RIGHT down instead.
- Watch for white paint markings and rainbow oil spills – these are the cyclists worst enemy – but if you encounter them on the road, don’t panic….just try to ride in a straight line ‘as far as you can’ and never jump on your brakes or swerve hard, or you’ll ‘be off’!
Ride with confidence in the wet:
As soon as the roads get wet, some of us start to panic about losing traction going around corners. Yes, you have to cycle with caution in the wet, but putting on your brakes and getting jumpy because you’re nervous will make things much worse. Relax and ride with the bike, try not to fight it round corners….go with the flow and the tyres should hold you fine and take you round.
Avoid pumping tyres up to highest pressures:
If you know it’s going to be wet beforehand, don’t pump your tyres up to full pressure. You need some ‘give’ in your tyres when it’s wet and this simple trick can make a big difference out on the road.
Brakes need to work in the wet, think ahead!
If you’ve got brake pads (which are usually found on a road bike) then braking is reduced in the wet. For this reason, you absolutely have to brake much earlier than in dry conditions. The reason for this is the pad has to brake onto the rim to stop you, but it has to clear the wet away first – so bringing yourself to a halt in the wet is a slow process. Bear this in mind when it’s raining and you’ve not tested your braking yet! Think ahead and brake well in advance of where you need to stop ahead.
In addition to braking early, you should apply more braking pressure to the back wheel than the front wheel. In dry conditions it’s the opposite way around, but in the wet you need a ‘solid wheel’ to hold you when you brake, or your front wheel could slide away from under you.
Finally, be happy riding in the rain!
Getting caught in the rain is not much fun – but don’t let it get you ‘down’. If you follow the points above and embrace the fact you have to ‘get through’ the rain ‘the best you can’ – you’ll at least be in a more positive state of mind before you reach home for a hot shower and a well deserved hot cup of tea!
Did you find this post useful? Do you often find yourself having to ride in the rain – how do you cope with it? I’d love to read your views, and if you think someone might benefit from this post simply share it with them…!