The Art of Riding in the Rain

j0447867Last month I got the “opportunity” to ride 76 miles in the rain.  I’ve ridden in rain before, but this was an organized ride with lots of riders and a long haul.  Plus, I knew it was going to rain, and welcomed the opportunity to learn from the experience.  Most riders do not plan to ride in the rain, it just happens when you least expect it.

With this in mind, here are a few tips for what to do when the drops start to fall.

  • Just like driving, when the streets just start to get wet, the oil and junk combines with the water to make the road as slippery as it will get.   Once it has been raining a while, the roads are mainly wet, not as slippery.
  • Ride on water like you drive on ice.  When making turns, do not change speeds (accelerate or decelerate); do that before you get to the turns.  Shift as much of your weight on the outside pedal as possible.  Lean your body more than the bike (to keep the bike upright more than usual).
  • Braking distance is obviously affected.  Give yourself extra distance to stop and don’t squeeze the brakes–instead, squeeze the brake levers and release and repeat.  Nice and easy.
  • AVOID THE PAINTED LINES ON THE ROAD.  These wreak havoc on riders.  They are very slick and can easily send you off the road.  Wet leaves are a similar danger.
  • If it looks like rain, pack a rain coat.  You might even wear your booties, if you have them.  Soggy socks suck.  You’ll probably still get water in your shoes, but not as much.
  • You’ll need your glasses to keep rain out of your eyes.  Clear ones are much better, obviously.  If you plan to ride in the rain, think about applying Rain-X to avoid fogged up glasses.  Are goggles over the top?  Maybe not.
  • Keep your distance from everyone.  If you’re riding with someone, you might want to be side-by-side (being right behind them is only fun if you like riding in the rooster tail of water coming off their back wheel).  However, side-by-side is dangerous in heavy car traffic.  Consider riding two seconds following distance, one behind one another.
  • Puddles can be deep and conceal dangerous pot holes (and other things).  Avoid them as best you can.
  • Use lights to be seen better.  A flashing red LED rear light is essential.
  • Make sure you conduct the normal safety check on your bike before heading out.  Is glass hiding in your tire ready to poke into your tube? Do you have a loose spoke or seat post?  A wore chain?  You don’t want to be stranded with a broken bike in the rain.

As far as the actual ride goes, once you get used to the slightly different handling of your bike (within five miles), you start to forget about the rain and just enjoy the ride (as long as you’re warm enough).  It just becomes a constant, like wind or a long climb up a mountain.  Frankly, I was enjoying my 76-miler in the rain so much, I didn’t want it to end.

By the way, I semi-stole the title from a great book I recently read, “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”  Race cars, not road bikes.  Check it out.


2 Responses to “The Art of Riding in the Rain”

  1. 1 rainycamp May 1, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Some also say that riding in wet conditions increases the possibility of flats, because gunk will stick to tires rather than be thrown off after one revolution, so there’s more opportunity to puncture. And since that has happened to me, I’m inclined to agree.

  1. 1 Riding in the Rain | Mud Bay Blog Trackback on October 29, 2011 at 12:51 am

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