Whether you get caught in a sudden downpour or you put on your waterproof gear with a smile, eventually we all end up riding in the rain. It’s not all bad, a pleasant summer shower can be quite refreshing after all, but a few practical riding tips will make sure that you end up at your destination damp but happy.
If you’ve driven a car in the rain, you know that the roads are very different when they’re wet, and with bicycles, the situation is pretty similar. Here’s what to do when you’re riding in the rain:
- Go slow – Wet tires + wet pavement + wet brakes = much less stopping power. The slower you’re moving, the faster you’ll stop when you have to.
- Feather your brakes – When you know you’ll be stopping soon (at all red lights and stop signs, of course), take a moment to tap your brakes lightly a few times to dry off the surface of your brake pads.
- Light it up – Visibility is reduced in the rain, so use extra lights, reflective material and bright clothing. Cars can only avoid you if they can see you.
- Take the lane – When you control the lane, you make sure that you are visible and like we just said, visibility should be one of your priorities.
- Traction control – Road paint and metal are very slippery when wet, so try to keep clear of manhole covers, grates and crosswalk paint, especially while braking and/or turning.
- Wait it out – If you’re at all unsure of riding in the rain, find a cozy cafe somewhere and wait it out. You can always put your bike on the bus or metro, too. (See Metro’s rules about bikes here)
- Be prepared – A small investment in the right gear now can save you some rain-soaked misery later. Check out the gear tips below.
First, of all, whenever you suspect that your future may be wet, pack along a good waterproof rain shell just in case. This one, from REI, is designed to fold up extra small so you can stow it in a backpack, purse or saddle bag.
Next, think about investing in a set of fenders. Not only will the rear fender prevent the dreaded “skunk stripe” of dirty water up your back, but the front fender will help keep your shoes dry. Which brings us to…
Good, waterproof cycling shoes. They do exist, but for most people who don’t ride in the rain regularly, they’re on the expensive side. Instead, you can do what our Bike Ambassador does: pack a pair of light shoes and some warm socks in a waterproof bag and just let your feet get wet, then change when you arrive.
Tip-within-a-tip: After you remove those wet shoes, stuff them with crumpled up newspaper and stick ‘em near a radiator. By the time the workday is over, the newspaper will have sucked the moisture out of them and they’ll be dry and ready to get soaked all over again.
With a little bit of thought and preparation, riding in the rain can actually be fun! Enjoy the ride out there.
I wouldn't stick shoes near a heater to dry. It will dry them out too much, and could cause them to crack or fade. Stuff newspaper or paper towels in the shoes and change the paper as it soaks with fresh paper to keep it drying quickly.
I don't like the pants because they make me overheat. I use a rain poncho from campmor.com. I like wool if it's cool. I use a helmet cover - that's my first option if the weather is borderline. The poncho is next. Since I have fenders I haven't felt the need to use any foot protection by and large. If I had to carry electronics I'd definitely have a high quality pannier like an Ortlieb. I always wear sunglasses as well.
I might add some waterproof pants - we like the ones available from Showers Pass, and they also make well-ventilated cycling rain jackets that double as normal streetwear. I would also recommend soft wool socks and undergarments on a cold wet day like today, and a set of Ortlieb panniers to carry a second set of dry shoes and keep the laptop dry. And finally, a helmet with a visor, like those that Bern offers will help keep the rain out of your eyes. Above all, be well lit, observant, patient, and safe.
For a more economical foot covering, plastic grocery bags over your socks will keep your feet dry. (And when it's really cold out, warmer too.) And if they're inside your shoes nobody will really know.