Tips for wet weather riding

It can be tempting to poke your nose outside as rain falls from the sky in buckets, shake your head, and take the train instead – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Wet weather riding can be strangely liberating if done right – and if you can’t enjoy it, there are things you can do to make it safe. Here are our top tips for wet weather riding:

Make yourself visible

Those who drive will already know what it looks like to peep out of the windscreen in heavy rain. If you don’t – wait until it’s pouring, sit beside a window and take a look outside. A driver’s vision isn’t as good in the wet. Not only that – but stopping distances are increased, so you want to be seen early.

You can achieve this by wearing something that has some kind of reflective panels. Good cycling jeans and cycling jackets, as well as other cycling clothing will all have some reflective elements. Whilst personally I’m not a fan of neon pink or yellow – white is just as good if you are a colour-phobic like me. Of course, accompany this with lights (which are for riding when visibility is poor, not just times when it’s dark).

Lights aren't only for when it's dark

Lights aren’t only for when it’s dark

Your own vision will also be affected – so riding glasses with clear lenses will help keep the rain out of your eyes, allowing you can concentrate on you ride. Of course, gloves, overshoes and jackets will all make you more comfortable, and we’ve covered winter cycling gear here.

Clear glasses will help you see

Clear glasses will help you see

Gear up for grit

Road grime is a lot more prevalent when it’s wet. To counter this, mudguards are a good place to start. These will help prevent your clothes from being splattered with grit and dirt thrown up from the road – saving your wallet as your threads will last longer, and you will be a lot more comfortable. Though mudguards don’t always look glamorous on your bike, they look a lot more attractive than your backside will do sprayed with mud.

It’s also a good idea to keep a close eye on your brake pads, if you have calliper or cantilevers. Firstly, ensure they are not worn down – there is usually a line to show where the limit is.

Here's an example of brake pads that could do with replacing - and the amount of grit that can get washed up on one ride.

Here’s an example of brake pads that could do with replacing – and the amount of grit that can get washed up on one ride.

If they need replacing, they will cost you from as little as £10 and there are loads of videos on YouTube demonstrating how to fit them.

If grit gets caught between the break pad and the rim of your wheel, it can cause them to wear down – so after your ride, just gently brush along the rim to ensure nothing is rubbing.

Fit sensible tyres

Summer tyres feel amazing –there is no doubt about it. I ride and race all summer on Schwalbe Ultremo’s, and I love them. However, there comes a time when you’ve both had your day in the sun.

Winter tyres will be grippier in the wet, limiting the risk of a skid. They will also be more durable, cutting down the likelihood of you spending a portion of your ride time standing in the rain fixing a flat.

My favourite winter tyres are the Schwalbe Durano’s – they’re fit for winter, but still racey – but Continental and Michelin are reputable brands, too, and I’ve heard great stories of the Conti 4 seasons.

Schwalbe Durano's

Schwalbe Durano’s

Take up your position

Soggy fallen leaves, slippery drains, and potholes are all things you want to avoid. Ideally, you also don’t want to make any sudden movements, so jerking out into the road to avoid these is not a good idea. On top of that you are also not nearly as visible riding on the edge of the road.

Make sure you confidently take a clear position on the road. Don’t ride so that you antagonize drivers, but also don’t allow them to bully you into riding at the edge of the road. This is where most if the grit is washed up, and it won’t do you or your bike any favours.

It’s worth being wary of any ‘rainbow’ patches on the road. These are not lovely patterns to brighten up your ride – they’re splashes of oil, and they can be slippy, so take it easy. If you’d like  more advice on sharing the road with drivers, we’ve also written about the 7 most comment mistakes made by cyclists on the roads,

Beware of deep puddles

‘What lies beneath’ is the question – and unfortunately, you might not know the answer. I’ve known people have falls from riding at full pelt through deep puddles, only to find a pot hole somewhere below the water. This doesn’t mean you need to daintily skirt the edge of every mini-pool – but bear it in mind, and knock your speed on the head if you have any doubts.

Keep dry socks at work

If you’re commuting – don’t ruin your day with a soggy pair on your feet. There are some amazing waterproof socks out there, such as those from SealSkinz  – those will make a big difference to your ride, but make sure you’ve got a cosy warm pair and a cuppa’ when you get in.

The feeling of fresh autumn rain on your skin and the sound of rubber on wet tarmac can be invigorating, when you feel safe and reassured. Don’t let the rain stop you enjoying that.

Has anyone got any extra tips?

Michelle blogs at ridewriterepeat.com and tweets from @MichelleArthurs.

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24 Responses to Tips for wet weather riding

  1. Steve A 22/10/2013 at 1:58 am #

    Those disposable waterproof booties are great for helping keep feet dry when unexpected wetness is encountered.

  2. JimF 22/10/2013 at 9:41 am #

    Good tips, but disagree strongly about glasses. We have thousands of years of evolution that have enabled us to see in the rain! I personally find glasses get streaks and droplets across them. Maybe I’m not going fast enough?

    My own tips – my rapha softshell is amazing in the wet and cold. Yes it’s expensive but I have been using mine since 2006 for cycling and skiing. It was getting a bit worn – I just sent it to rapha and got it repaired for free. Makes it feel as good as new. When you factor in the durability of the jacket over its lifetime, it is excellent value (I did c.500 miles a year, did a bit more this year, most of the wear was from carrying skis on the shoulder panel).

    Can heartily recommend sealskinz too. Make a real difference. Been a fan since I saw them at the bike show.

    JimF

    • hjwatso1 23/10/2013 at 3:12 pm #

      I agree with JimF, glasses in the rain = reduced vision with rain droplets on the lenses.

      Stick with good old fashioned eyeballs for wet weather.

  3. Michael 22/10/2013 at 9:49 am #

    Overshoes.

    I hear what you say about keeping spare socks at work but getting soaked feet is miserable. And your shoes will still be wet at home time.

    Overtrousers, even cycling specific brands, are all too short. Finish them off with a pair of Goretex overshoes and you can laugh at the rain.

  4. Toria 22/10/2013 at 12:50 pm #

    If it’s really, really wet, tape your overshoes or socks at the top to stop the water running down your legs into your shoes.
    If you’re out on a long ride, use your second bidon to carry dry clothes – another layer or jacket and socks.

  5. Vincent 22/10/2013 at 11:08 pm #

    1. Vision: Either wear a cap or use disposable contact lenses.

    2. Tires: They must not only fit winter weather, but also be puncture-resistent. Punctures are never fun, but even less when it’s cold and wet. Check the following:
    Continental: GP 4000(S), (Ultra) Gatorskin
    Michelin: Lithion, Pro 4 Endurance
    Schwalbe: Marathon (Plus), Durano (Plus)

    3. Keeping pants/feet dry: Rain cape. You’ll ride slower when it rains anyway.
    http://www.spaddeville.com/collection.html

    http://www.carradice.co.uk/index.php?page_id=product&product_id=66

    http://www.themonkeyking.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=14058

    http://www.agu.com/poncho%20s-4/regenjas-track-poncho-oranje-one-size

  6. Over 40 Cyclist 22/10/2013 at 11:14 pm #

    I second Toria’s tip. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than feeling that water seeping into your shoes as it runs down your leg and gets in between your leg and the overshoes.

    I find if it’s really wet that glasses are just about useless. Whilst I agree totally that they are good for keeping the water (and road grit) out of your eyes they just get covered in muck and if you try and wipe them with a glove they smear. I give up eventually and take them off.

    Very timely, it was bucketing down this morning!

  7. Orla 23/10/2013 at 4:48 pm #

    I definitely find cycling in the rain therapeutic but only when on the way home from work when I don’t care about being wet.

    I have yet to invest in proper rain gear so many thanks to @Vincent for his recommendations. Strangely I have never seen anyone wearing a cape in Dublin and it certainly rains enough but maybe I can start a trend :)

  8. Jude 23/10/2013 at 10:30 pm #

    As well as dry socks, keep a spare pair of knickers/underpants in your bag or at work – particularly if you don’t have mudguards or a pannier rack on your bike. If there’s water on the roads – even if it’s not actually raining at the time – it will splash up behind you and can easily soak through your clothes to your underwear. I know from experience that sitting at work in wet underwear is not pleasant.

  9. Joe 24/10/2013 at 4:31 am #

    As a wearer of prescription glasses, and commuting by bicycle in western Oregon, a good brim is necessary. There are several makers, but I’ll plug my current from dabrim.com.

  10. Phil 24/10/2013 at 2:42 pm #

    I picked my current helmet for two reasons: one, it has a built-in brim at the right angle to keep rain and sun out of my eyes and two, it doesn’t look like I’ve been attacked by a giant plastic insect: the Lazer Cityzen ( khaki ). I made long mudflaps from Morrisons kitchen cutting mats cut to a cricket bat shape, zip tied to my mudguards, covered with black gaffer tape and blinged up with red reflective chevrons from Moglo

  11. Spencer 24/10/2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Try and avoid wet man hole covers and careful when braking on the blue cycle routes in London. Found my braking to be a bit squirrely and my wheels try to get away from me if I brake on either of these surfaces in the rain. I am also using Gatorskin Ultra tyres and have been a bit disappointed with their wet weather performance so far (mind the amount of glass I have picked out of them so far has more than made up for what I paid for them).

    I fitted a pair of SKS mudguards to my bike but made sure they are quite close to the tyres, so far prevents splash backs. Also fitted Hope disc brakes which have been good in the wet (though perhaps they outperform the tyres, which could explain the braking).

    I need to wear prescription cycling glasses as my prescription isn’t too brilliant in contact lenses.

    Lycra cycling tights and a good waterproof cycling jacket are quite good in the wet. The lycra dries off really quickly and the jacket keeps my top half dry and warm.

    Thankfully I have changing facilities in work and somewhere to hang up my clothes so they can dry off, though the shoes don’t dry quickly enough before time to head home…

    • humancyclist 26/10/2013 at 5:57 pm #

      “Avoid wet manhole covers” #1 tip for me. Those things are lethal.

      My other tip is simply: slow down. Those seconds will count for nothing if you hit the floor.

  12. Lena 24/10/2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Hi everyone,
    Can I ask you guys if you find the blue paint of the super cycle highways to be incredibly slippery when cycling? I fell off my bike the other day when it was wet out, trying to brake quickly when a car turned right in front of me and came off my bike. I didn’t suffer any scratches or bruises (thankfully!) but I’ve been very annoyed at the idea that London is paving our roads with a slippery surface that further increases stopping distances on wet roads. What’s your opinion? Sorry to impose this question here – for lack of a forum. Thanks.

    • Spencer 24/10/2013 at 9:27 pm #

      I concur, find the blue routes more slippery than standard tarmac when wet.

      But according to the Cycle Super Highways Evaluation of Pilot Routes 3 and 7 (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/roadusers/BCS-pilot-evaluation-report.pdf):

      “…several reports of the blue surfacing being slippery …has been
      tested, both at the supplier’s depot and after having been applied on the street. …it exceeds skid resistance requirements for use on London’s roads…”

    • Vincent 24/10/2013 at 11:34 pm #

      You’d think they would have checked with Dutch/Danish experts before choosing the right material before painting those lanes, but it doesn’t look like it.

  13. Phil 25/10/2013 at 12:55 pm #

    I bet they didn’t test it with bikes.

  14. Dave Greenwood 25/10/2013 at 3:01 pm #

    “Though mudguards don’t always look glamorous on your bike, they look a lot more attractive than your backside will do sprayed with mud.”
    If anyone wants to spray their own backside with mud, fine, but how about basic courtesy to cyclists following behind? This is a pet peeve of mine. Worse still is the blade-type mudgard which sends the message “I’m happy to spend the money and encumber my bike, and I’m keen to protect myself from dirty road water, but I’m quite comfortable with spraying it in other people’s faces”.
    In my opinion proper full coverage mudguards should be mandatory for road use. Not fitting them because of aesthetic considerations is stupid, and disrespectful to your fellow cyclists.

  15. Boo 25/10/2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Dave Greenwood – I have ‘floating’ mudguards, because they were light and I used to have to carry my bike up 5 flights of stairs so everything I bought as extra I got the lightest version. I too also hate cycling behind someone with no mudguards, and getting sprayed in the face. However, I never realised my mudguards create the same result for fellow cyclists….I’m sorry!

  16. Nathan 25/10/2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Courriering I get to cycle iunder the rain for hours and days, I use a snowboard mask, goretex jacket, trouser, gloves and shoes… Continental GP 4000 S Four season tires, Sks raceblade mudguards, KoolStop salmon skin brake pads… And I forgot the best pieace in the kit: a stetson chapka under my helmet…

  17. Tony 26/10/2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Wear a peaked cap when it rains, especialy if you wear prescription glasses, and they will remain rain-drop free in light rain.

  18. Egils 01/11/2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Thanks for the great tips.
    Bought Conti Grand Prix 4-Seasons 25-622 700 x 25C <–– great tires.

    Cheers,
    Egils

  19. Miles 06/07/2014 at 11:24 am #

    This one is pretty basic but it hurts if you get it wrong; when the road surface is wet do much more of your braking with the back brake. In dry weather on good surfaces I will generally brake with 60 to 90 percent of the effort on the front. The worse the traction conditions the more effort is shifted to the back and in very slippery conditions (wet metal road surface, ice, wet grass etc) I don’t use the front brake at all and increase my braking distances and gap with the vehicle in front accordingly.

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