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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.