When you’ve gotten into the groove of cycling, biking in the rain may not be as intimidating as it sounds.
Touring and bikepacking take days, often on rough terrain. Many tracks are built on dirt roads and decommissioned railways, and even then, they are considered the safer portion of the route. When it rains, not only do the concrete roads become slippery, but dirt tracks turn into a muddy mess as well.
Let’s say you are prepared with the necessary gear and have studied the weather for the duration of your trip. There is the low chance of precipitation, but it still rains on the last day. What do you do? The solution is simple… and obvious:
Go with the flow. Bike in the rain. Sooner or later, you will have to face it anyway.
Contrary to initial impressions, learning to bike in the rain has many benefits, especially if you plan to make biking a permanent addition to your fitness routine. The top advantage is developing better bike handling and building confidence in your skills as a cyclist.
Rain clearly poses a challenge to everyone on the road. It is harder to brake, and the rain decreases your awareness of other motorists around you. Practising in unconventional conditions improves your rider instincts and motor coordination.
In fact, come rain or shine, you should be able to stick to your bike schedule. Any fitness routine requires devotion; failing to keep to your schedule may result in demotivation. Imagine just starting out in this sport only to realize that the rainy season is approaching. Biking in the rain teaches you consistency.
Interestingly, some benefits are subtler than most. For instance, putting yourself in such a situation actually allows you to gain a deeper appreciation of your outdoor gear. Remember that pricey waterproof jacket you bought months ago? It is now an indispensable item in your closet. Besides, if you start to feel uncomfortable in the rain, the previously unremarkable dryness of your home will be missed. You will start to notice the little things that make you feel warm and cozy. After all, these are what really counts, right?
If you’re up to the challenge, here are surefire tips for biking in the rain:
Gain full control of your bicycle.
Wet roads are a hassle even to the most experienced cyclists. You can’t ride at full speed, and you have to adjust the distribution of your body weight on the bike frame. Above all, it is important to know your limits and understand how your body responds to such situations.
Muddy terrain will require you to brake early. Rainfall creates a mixture of dirt and water that quickly erode brake pads. Before going on a trip, examine your brake pads for potential damage and avoid using rim brakes. Disc and drum brakes are the best choices for rainy weather.
Fenders are underappreciated. They provide comfort and support for long rides. The chain shouldn’t be overlooked either. A heavy lubricant prevents it from rusting.
In the same way that you are wary of other vehicles, you should also increase your visibility on the road when biking in the rain. Installing LED lights on your bike not only illuminates your path at night; it also signals your presence on the road as well.
Dress to stay dry.
If you lead an active lifestyle, contracting the common cold or flu virus can ruin your schedule. Although getting wet is inevitable, you can lessen the chances of catching a cold by keeping yourself warm.
Choose a waterproof jacket made from laminated fabrics so that it serves its purpose while staying light. These jackets are longer at the back and have oversized hoodies to fit your helmets.
You may also opt to add layers of clothing if needed. Traditionally, there should be three layers:
- a breathable skintight layer,
- an insulating middle layer,
- and water- and/or windproof outerwear.
But keep the layering to a minimum – just enough to contain the heat, since the exercise will warm you up anyhow. Overdressing can weigh you down when biking in the rain.
Wear clear lenses.
Downpour means less visibility, especially on the road. While some cyclists prefer not to wear cycling glasses, some remain loyal to the standard cycling outfit. You can also opt for a cap under your helmet to keep raindrops from hitting your eyes. Clear (or yellow-tinted, at least) lenses maximize the amount of light that enters your eyes, which is a must under gloomy skies.
Watch the road.
This goes without saying but, when practising, avoid routes that are unfamiliar to you. Steer clear of puddles, as water easily disguises the depth of the pothole or dip. Additionally, watch out for patches on the road that have rainbow-coloured edges. These indicate an accumulation of oil that was washed off from vehicle drippings by the rain. These small spills may also be present at intersections.
Turn carefully at the corners, with your weight shifted to the outside pedal but keeping the bike frame upright. Leaning only with your body allows you to balance more easily. Curved railroad tracks are particularly problematic because metals are much slicker when wet, aside from having to maneuver a turn.
Biking in the rain is a skill you will be proud of acquiring once you apply it. It will bring you back to the days when you still had the liberty of running around and getting drenched with rainwater. If you grow to become serious about it and have the cash to spare, you can also buy a separate bike dedicated to biking in the rain. It’s making the best out of a seemingly bad situation but, at the same time, staying cautious and responsible.