With the right clothing and right attitude, riding in the rain can be more fun than you might think. (The headaches often come once you’ve stopped riding and have a look at what the muck on the road has done to your bike, but we’ve got that covered.)
I love to ride in the rain. Usually fewer people are outdoors, and the road traffic is lighter, too — finally, an ounce of solitude in the city. Plus it feels good being out there going that extra mile.
Just don’t wipe out, and you’re a hardcore cyclist by default.
How to have a good time riding in the rain:
- Wearing a waterproof shell will keep the water out, but you can still get wet from sweat. It can be worth spending more to get a rain jacket with better breathability. Pit zips are also good.
- For a cheaper alternative, clean and waterproof your old jackets with waterproofing products from the excellent Nikwax.
- I like to wear my gore-tex ski pants over some gaiters and overshoes to divert water that flows down my body to continue on its way and not into my shoes (learned from experience). Overshoes reduce how wet your shoes get, and keep your feet warmer.
- I wear fingerless gloves unless it is a cold rain, at which point I grab full-fingered yet thin wool gloves or neoprene gloves; they get wet but body heat keeps my hands warm.
- In really cold rains, I opt for water/wind-resistant gloves.
- Fenders on your bike, waterproof pannier bags, a visor on your helmet, and a dry change of clothes all help, too.
- Consider having a bike dedicated to commuting in rainy weather
I actually have a “rain bike” I’ll ride if it’s wet or raining out—it’s a Dutch bike with fenders, mounted lights, skirts, enclosed chain guard, and a few other doodads that make commuting in the rain a lot safer and a lot less miserable. But this bike is SUPER HEAVY and SLOW! Most dry days I ride my “fast bike” which is just an old mountain bike turned commuter.
- Brakes are not as great when wet. Take it slower than normal and give yourself lots more time to stop.
- Use headlights and rear flashing red lights. Turn them on in the rain.
- If the rain is pouring down, stay off the road because you will be less visible to drivers, even with all your flashing lights.
- Take protected paths separated by barriers from other traffic, or take the paved off-street cycle paths for bikes only (if your area offers those)
- Watch out for train tracks, utility hole covers, bike lane markings, etc. when you cross over them keep your handlebars straight, not turning, to avoid a slip. Metal, painted, and brick surfaces in the roadway can become very slippery during and after the rain.
- Protect your hands and feet. Hands and feet get the coldest when biking, if wet and unprotected. If you plan to bike more than just a couple miles in the rain, make sure both are covered with waterproof and well-insulated material. A plastic bag can work in a pinch.
- Puddles! Resist the temptation to explore. Even little puddles can hide nasty things like potholes, nails, or glass, which can cause a flat tire or a crash.
- After your ride, take some time to wipe water and dirt off the metal bike wheel rims, front and back. I carry a paper towel or rag with me in my backpack wherever I go. Wiping off your rims will ensure that the brakes are still effective the next time you take your bike out.
- Also wipe water off the chain after a rainy ride, and spray a little bike lubricant on the chain. This removes grit and prevents rust from building up on the chain, extending its life and saving you time and money later.
- Most importantly, don’t worry about getting a little wet and don’t let the rain keep you from having fun on your bike! With the exception of some wicked witches, most humans are water-resistant and will get through it just fine. Everyone has their own routine and preferences, so feel free to experiment and see what works for you.