It’s going to get wet out there…
When rain is forecast, even the most enthusiastic commuter cyclists amongst us can be tempted to leave the bike in the shed. But let’s be honest, fellow damp passengers and possible delays on public transport are not ideal either. With the right gear, as well as fewer riders on the road, you may find riding to work in the wet more pleasurable than expected.
Here are a few tips to help you ride carefully through the next deluge in a bit of comfort:
1. The actual cycling in the rain part
Stormy weather means reduced visibility, both through the rain and on the ground. Roads can quickly become an obstacle course of puddles and moving debris that can hide pot holes and road markings. Take your corners slower than usual, apply your brakes a little earlier and avoid slippery surfaces such as metal tracks, painted road markings and grates.
Throughout the ride, it is a good idea to squeeze water from your wheel rims by gently tapping your brakes. Most importantly, be particularly predictable to other road users, staying aware of your environment and those around you.
Note: if extreme weather is forecast, either wait for it to clear, or find an alternative means of transport. It’s just not worth the risk, no matter how prepared your bike is.
2. Before you ride, preparation is key
Keep your eye on the weather. Check the radar and if you know there is a rainy week coming up, make sure your bike is ready by giving the chain a good clean and oil:<?P>
- First spray the chain and cassette with a degreaser, then move the pedals backwards as you run a toothbrush along the cogs in the cassette to clear any grit. Degrease again and then rotate the chain through a clean cloth until the chain is clean and dry.
- Apply your chain’s lubricant, (waxy ones are great for dry weather but for rainy rides, use a wet lubricant). Spin the pedals as you apply so that all the chain’s links are lubricated. After a few minutes, wipe of any excess lubricant from the chain’s side plates which may attract dirt.
Also have a good look at your brakes:
- See that your wheel is not rubbing against the pads as you ride (your wheel needs to be centred) and if they are looking a bit worn, replace them.
- After a wet ride, check for any black residue from your wet brake pads. Wipe it from your rims and sidewall as well as the brake shoes to avoid abrasion.
There are also couple of things you can do with tyres:
- For more traction, you can lower your tyre pressure, though this can increase the risk of a puncture.
- If you find yourself regularly riding through the rain it may be a good idea to invest in fatter tyres with a Kevlar strip built in.
- Monitor the condition of your tyres so that you can replace them before they puncture. If they’re looking worn it might be time to look at getting some new tyres.
Make sure you check and clean your bike throughout the season to minimise the likelihood of a rainy roadside pit stop. If you’d like to get it professionally cleaned or checked over, speak to your bike mechanic who will have your bike in tip top condition and ready for wet weather riding.
3. Ensure you have the essential equipment for a wet weather ride
There are some key pieces of equipment that will ensure cycling in the rain is as smooth as possible.
- Lights. For you to see and other people to see you. Keep them ready, working and visible from 200 metres. In low light you legally need a white one at the front and a red one to the rear.
- Repair kit. Tyres are more likely to puncture in wet weather so carry your spare tubes, pump and puncture kit with you. You can also use a Slime sealant in your tubes which, unlike air, hardens against punctures to keep you on the road for longer.
- Mudguards. Once you get them you may never take them off. No more skidmarks on your jeans and no more spraying the rider behind you. If you don’t think you will fall in love with them, you can buy some easy to remove protectors that fit under your seat.
- Pedals. You need ones with a good grip. Clipless pedals are particularly effective and just need to be lubricated with silicon spray for quick release.
- Protection: Make sure your panniers and backpack are waterproof. If your back pack isn’t, invest in a backpack cover. Putting your things in a plastic bag within your backpack or pannier is also recommended.
4. You’ll need the right type of weather-proof clothing
The more it’s raining, the more you want to be able to be seen by other vehicles, so make sure your gear is highly visible with bright colours and reflective parts. A waterproof jacket will keep you warm and dry and there are now plenty of light ones with zippered vents that shouldn’t slow you down too much. If you are not worried about speed then a hooded rain cape that can also cover your backpack is another option.
An important part of keeping your body warm is looking after your fingers and toes. Whilst a plastic bag over your socks can work for your feet, it doesn’t breathe particularly well and can be uncomfortable. Waterproof overshoes may be a good option, as they are windproof and you can buy them with cleat holes for your cycling shoes.
For your hands there are now a range of water resistant gloves available, we recommend some with a bit of a grip to help with slippery handlebars.
5. Don’t skip the post ride check
Hang up your wet clothes to breathe, wipe down your bike and check your tyres for any little sticks or stones that could cause a puncture. This is essential to ensure your bike is ready to ride.
Finally, cross your fingers that next time there’s some more sunshine and you won’t be cycling in the rain.