Splursh: Everything You Need To Know About Cycling In The Rain
Super-cyclist Stace King schools us on techniques for pedallin' when it's piddlin' it down
Have you started commuting by bike this summer, but you're not sure if you can carry on now the weather's turning? Or maybe you're a fair-weather cyclist who wants to continue heading out for your weekend ride through the winter months?
That rain will feel like water off a duck's back
Whatever your reason for wanting to weatherproof your pedallin', check out our guide to riding in the wet and soon that rain will feel like water off a duck's back.
Less Is More
You might be tempted to wrap up head-to-toe in waterproofs when it's raining, but you'll only end up getting just as wet on the inside when the sweat can't escape quickly enough. Instead, concentrate on a good waterproof (and breathable) jacket with a dropped tail to cover your bum. Wear one or two thin layers under this depending on how cold it is outside.
Cycling tights with a water-repelling treatment are a great option, since they shrug off all but persistent rain but feel just like normal Lycra. But if you're really not a Lycra person, soft shell trousers are preferable to hard shell ones – both from a comfort and breathability point of view.
Cycling “overshoes", which slide over your normal shoes, are a cheap way of keeping your feet snug and dry-ish, while a fleece or Lycra skull cap – preferably with ear covers – is invaluable in preventing the dreaded Stingy Ear Syndrome.
If you're still not warm enough, you could always buy an insulated cycling bottle and pop a nice cup of tea in it to sip en route. Just don't let us catch you trying to dunk a Hob Nob while you're riding.
Pro tip: If you're likely to get your shorts or tights soaked on the way into work, make sure you have a fresh garment for the journey home. Trust us, you don't want to be slipping back into that wringing wet pair at the end of the day.
Be On Your Guard
The single most-important thing you can do before riding in the rain is fit a set of mudguards to your bike. These will stop spray from the front wheel hitting your face and will save you from developing an embarrassing brown stripe up your rear – which is never the best look for office life.
A brown stripe up your rear is never the best look for office life
And if you're heading out for a group ride it's simply bad manners to go without a rear guard and spray road water into the face of the rider behind you. Many bikes come with eyelets to bolt mudguards onto, but if you have a lightweight racing machine you may have to resort to clip-on guards – which still do a decent job.
There's no need to change from slick tyres to ones with a tread pattern for wet roads – it makes no difference to grip. However, many riders go for more sturdy tyres in winter because the roads tend to have more debris, and because tougher rubber provides a bit more insurance against having to fix a puncture in the wet and cold.
Pro tip: Don't just put your bike away wet when you get home, however cream-crackered you're feeling. Instead, just give the chain a quick wipe with a rag and apply some fresh lube so that it's not all rusty the next day.
As the nights draw in you'll find yourself riding in dark or dingy conditions more often – and rain can make day seem like nighttime anyway.
Rain can make day seem like nighttime
For this reason it's essential to have a decent set of lights – and advances in LED technology mean that you can get a bright, lightweight set for a reasonable price, making sure motorists don't miss you in the rush-hour chaos.
Pro tip: Many experienced riders choose to have two rear lights, often mounting one on their bike and one on the back of their helmet. As well as increasing visibility, this also provides reassurance in case one fails while riding.
Keep an eye out for manhole covers and road markings as they can turn super-slippery in the wet, presenting a risk if you hit one while cornering.
It's a good idea to slow down for corners generally in the wet, and especially when it's just rained after a dry spell. This is when the roads are at their most treacherous, with spilled oil suddenly turning slick.
Tensing up will only increase your chances of coming a cropper
Try to stay loose when you're riding in slippery conditions. Tensing up will only increase your chances of coming a cropper. If you allow the bike a bit of movement to slip and regain grip you're more likely to remain rubber-side down.
Pro tip: While riding through puddles is just as much fun now as it was when you were five, it's better to avoid them if you're on skinny wheels – just in case there's a pothole lurking beneath the surface.
Stace King is the editor of Unduro.co.uk