How to bike in the rain | All You Need To Know

biking in the rain

I'm here to tell you that it's a great idea and totally doable to bike in the rain. That said, there are definite challenges and safety concerns to keep in mind when riding in wet weather. Using the tips from this article will ensure you're prepared for everything, and enable you to enjoy escaping the traffic and stress of a rainy commute by bike.

I hope you'll take these helpful tips into account before heading out on your next sunny-but-wet ride.

Wear waterproof clothes

  • Make sure to wear waterproof everything.
  • Wear a raincoat, or a waterproof jacket. You can get a decent one at REI for under $100.00
  • Waterproof pants are also useful. You can find them for about $40-$50 at most sporting goods stores that sell biking gear.
  • A rain hat will keep you dryer than the typical biker helmet, but if your bike helmet has a visor and you don't like hats then it should work just as well (make sure the visor doesn't fog up!).
  • Waterproof shoes are great to have, too--not only will they keep your feet dry while biking through puddles, but they'll help when you're walking back into work after your commute (especially in urban areas where there's no avoiding some amount of walking). If you commute by bike regularly, consider investing in some good quality rain boots--they will become your best friend and make all the difference in comfort and warmth of your feet on rainy days.

Wear bright colors

If you're going to ride in the rain, wear something bright. You want to be as visible as possible to cars, and it's not just for your own safety. (Although, of course, that should be a priority.) The more visible you are, the less likely drivers are to do something stupid around you. When drivers see a ghost on the road, they may react quickly and erratically to avoid hitting you — or they might just ignore you altogether.

Lights and reflectors

A headlight is mandatory for riding in the dark, so it's equally important if you're riding during the day in inclement weather. I use a small LED light that straps onto my handlebars and runs off AAA batteries; they're inexpensive and easy to replace. If you can find one with flashing settings, even better, those lights draw more attention than steady beams. A taillight isn't necessary if it's light out but might be a good idea when visibility is low.

Also, don't forget reflectors if your bike doesn't come with them already. You want anything that will help make your bike stand out, especially at intersections where cars are turning and may not be looking for cyclists.

Consider investing in fenders

If you're a frequent cyclist, you may want to consider installing fenders on your bike. If you don't know what fenders are, they're essentially road mudguards that prevent water from splashing up on you as your wheels turn, keeping you dry and clean. They also keep water from flying off of your tires and onto other cyclists behind you. You can install them yourself (they fit on pretty much any bike), and they're available on Amazon for under $20!

Make sure your brakes are in tip-top shape

It's important to make sure that your brakes are well-maintained and in working order. That means they're clean, free of debris, have good stopping power and responsiveness, and are checked before every ride.

You can do this yourself by cleaning the entire braking system with brake cleaner or rubbing alcohol. If that doesn't work, a mechanic can help you out or you can take your bike to the shop.

Make sure your tires aren't too worn down

Before you do anything else, you should check your tire tread, which is basically the groove on the bottom of your tires that improves traction. If you're unsure about how to check your tire tread, don't worry.

We recommend checking your tire tread by applying a sample of the Penny Test to each tire. To perform the Penny Test, all you have to do is take a penny and place it upside down into one of the grooves on either side of your tire. If part of President Lincoln's head is still visible when inserting the penny into your tires, it's time for a new set.

Tire treads are designed to channel water away from your motorcycle as they run over puddles and rainwater on roads. When they start wearing down, this effect can be disrupted or eliminated entirely, making it more difficult for you to control your bike during wet weather conditions.

Air up your tires

While the rain does little to affect your bike’s handling, it can cause your tires to lose some pressure. That’s why you should check the pressure in your tires before leaving for work. If you’re under-inflated, air up your tires with a portable pump. If you don’t have one at home, borrow one from the shop where you bought it or use a car tire pump at a nearby gas station.

Get rubber grips to put on your brakes to improve stopping power

It's easy to get them into place. If you're handy, you can use old bicycle tires to make your own, or you can buy them on Amazon. But if you don't have the time or motivation for that, just find some other kind of rubber: a silicone trivet, a cutting board mat, even a mousepad will do. The most important thing is to use something with enough traction to help keep your wheels from spinning when they shouldn't. If it helps your peace of mind and your stopping power, by all means go for it.

Slow down even more than you otherwise would

As I type these words, it's 41 degrees and raining in New York City. Some of you may be considering jumping on your bike to head to work or run an errand. If so, read this first:

  • Slow down even more than you otherwise would. Brakes don't work as well when they're wet; stopping becomes a much longer process. Plus, there are likely other vehicles with brakes that don't work as well in the rain either, not to mention pedestrians who aren't used to traveling like a penguin on ice and can't anticipate how fast you'll be moving (or how hard it will be for you to slow down).
  • Avoid road paint and metal manhole covers at all costs. These surfaces become slick as soon as they get wet, which increases your chances of slipping out from under you.
  • Use bright lights if it's dark outside. Black bikes tend to blend into their surroundings in the rain; bright lights help make sure others see you from far away, just remember that if your light is blinking, the water droplets on both the lens and your body will distort its glow (which can confuse drivers about where exactly your bike is on the road).

10 things to do while you're riding in the rain

  1. Pick the right path
  2. Take it easy
  3. Stay dry
  4. Get a wetsuit
  5. Use fenders
  6. Be as visible as possible
  7. Don't forget your feet and hands
  8. Get an emergency kit
  9. Wear the right gear
  10. Clean up

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Conclusion

But before you head out into the rain, make sure you're properly prepared. Above all else, have fun and ride safe. It's wet and windy, but it's still a bike ride.

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