It is turning out to be a cool, rainy May this year, and in the bigger picture that is actually a good thing (picture full reservoirs, and less wildfire smoke in August).
Riding a bicycle in the rain can pose some challenges, but if you really want to ride, they can be overcome. Here are a few tips, gleaned from decades of experience:
MENTALITY: Starting with the hardest one, “Attitude is Everything!”
- I remind myself how much I love to ride my bike, that rain is not the enemy, and that I always feel better after a ride, even if I have to wring out my socks and change into dry clothes (which in itself can be a pleasure!).
- There is beauty outdoors in any weather, if you look for it.
- You can set a goal to ride 10, or 15, or more days in the Bicycle Community Challenge, and use your goal as motivation.
SAFETY: Visibility can be limited, stopping takes longer, pavement can be slick.
- Wear bright colors and use your lights.
- Try not to be in a hurry (leave earlier if it matters when you arrive). Anticipate your stops and moves, and signal other road users if it’s safe to do so.
- Slow way down for turns. Oil on wet pavement and pavement markings is invisible and literally as slick as ice. Use extra caution crossing train tracks. Cross at a right angle.
- If your ride is recreational, or your destination allows it, take small streets and multi-use paths to avoid car traffic.
There are at least two approaches to staying comfortable while riding in the rain. One is to stay dry, the other is to stay comfortable, but not worry about staying dry.
- Good rain gear can really keep you dry, up to a point. The limitation of waterproof breathable fabric is that it only breathes well below about 50 degrees F. If it’s warmer than that, you will break a sweat. In cool weather it is a miracle though!
- To stay comfortable without staying dry, choose clothes that keep you warm even when they are wet. Wool is the original miracle fabric, and with persistence, wool tops and tights can be found on sale or in thrift stores. The magic of wool is that it really keeps you warm even when it is wet. There are some synthetic fabrics that can do this too, and can dry quite quickly when it stops raining.
- Fenders: Good, properly-installed fenders keep the spray and road grime off of you and your bike. Outdated or improperly installed fenders can pose a hazard, so make sure your fenders have up to date safety release tabs, are securely installed, and leave plenty of clearance above the tire (20mm is best). Check with your local bike shop if you are not sure about your fender installation.
REWARDS: The joy of riding a bicycle is available, even in the rain. The endorphins are just as real after a wet ride. Outdoor exercise is the best, and then you get to log your rides in the Bicycle Community Challenge! You add miles and days to your total, and your team’s total, and you could win an awesome prize!
ASK AROUND: Your Local Bike Shop is a wealth of information and experience on all aspects of biking in the rain or any time. Check them out! Of course they will want to sell you the gear that they have, but all our local shops carry good gear at the best price they can offer. And, advice is free (but be decent and shop local).