When you’re running in wet weather, accidents can happen quickly. But when you’re on the bike, not only can they happen fast, but you also have further to fall and an expensive piece of equipment to worry about.
If you’re training for an event, or just want to get experience in case your race is wet, you can’t skip training on rainy days.
Learning how to ride safely and effectively in the rain can save you countless hours of misery. Not to mention injury!
Here are our top 15 tips for biking in the rain. Try them out next time you train in wet weather and see how much easier your ride is!
1. Brake Carefully
Wet weather can render brakes all but useless at high speeds! Brakes “failing’ is one of the most common reasons cyclists get injured in rainy conditions.
If you consider the mechanism of bike brakes, it’s easy to see how water or moisture can make them less effective. More water equals less grip, so your brakes can fail you when you need them most.
Although it’s tempting to train at full speed even when the weather isn’t great, it’s in your own best interest to take it slow and easy.
The faster you go, the harder it is to stop in a short space. That means that if a car pulls out in front of you, you spot an obstacle too late, or you need to make a turn, you need to start braking much earlier than usual.
Use rainy days for more relaxed rides at a slower pace. Go for longer rides at a slower speed, and work on endurance instead of speed.
2. Avoid Metal, Brick, and Paint on the Road
Any smooth surface can become extremely slippery when wet. This includes painted lines on the road, bricks on the sidewalk, or metal surfaces like grates.
As you can imagine, this poses an extra risk to cyclists who are riding in the rain. It doesn’t matter how knobbly your bike tires are! If you hit a slippery surface (especially in the rain), it can be hard to control your bike.
It could be worthwhile doing a bit of an assessment of your current route. Take note of things like painted signs and markings on the road, manhole covers, drainage grates, and areas of brickwork.
Work out a way to miss these sections of your route if you have to ride in the rain. It could be worth creating a whole new route just for use in rainy weather, that you know is free from these kinds of hazards.
If you do have to ride over these kinds of things, try to do so with your handlebars straight. Turning your handlebars while your bike is on a slippery surface is asking for a fall!
3. Protect Your Extremities
Rain isn’t always cold. But when you’re riding at a bit of a speed and have wind hitting you as you move, you may quickly find that your hands become kind of freezing.
When wet and cold, the extremities are at the highest risk of becoming uncomfortable, stiff, and painful.
Protect your hands and feet! They’re both an important part of riding a bike. You can’t pedal effectively if your feet are freezing and stiff. And you can’t stabilize yourself and change gears as well if your hands are cold and sore.
We recommend investing in a couple of things to keep your hands and feet safe and warm in adverse weather.
Firstly, to keep those toes toasty even in the wind and wet, we suggest getting something like the Sealskinz All-Weather LED Overshoes. These handy slip-ons are water-resistant, have reinforced heels and toes for added protection, allow space for cleats, and this particular one has a flashing light on the back for extra visibility.
To keep your fingers warm and flexible, we recommend the PEARL iZUMi AmFIB Lite Glove. They provide insulation and wind protection, have a degree of water resistance, use synthetic suede on the palm for handlebar feel, and are touchscreen compatible.
4. Avoid Puddles
Although a puddle can bring out your inner excited child, they should be avoided when you’re on a bike!
As fun as it is to ride at a speed through water and see it spraying up around you, puddles can hide all sorts of bike-damaging, dangerous things.
First, a puddle can look shallow but may be a gigantic pothole. Nobody wants to disappear into a giant puddle pothole on their chilled-out bike ride.
But even if the pothole is a smaller one, it can dent your wheels, puncture a tire, or cause a nasty fall.
Even if there isn’t a gaping hole hidden by the water, there could be glass, rusty nails, or other debris that can damage your tires.
5. Invest in a Good Waterproof Jacket
Although protecting your hands and feet is the first priority, don’t neglect the rest of you! A high-quality waterproof jacket should be your next bit of gear to invest in.
In light rain, you can get away with a light jacket or rain shell over layers. But if you’re out in heavy showers, you should have a heavier jacket in your collection for these days.
The jacket you choose should be breathable, to avoid overheating. It should also be water-resistant to a high degree, and shouldn’t restrict your movement.
GoreTex jackets are our top recommendation. The material is both waterproof and highly breathable, the best of both worlds.
We recommend the GORE WEAR Phantom Jacket. It has an aerodynamic, cycling-specific cut, a handy 3-compartment back pocket, and the sleeves can unzip to create a jersey.
6. Use Fenders
Bike tires can splash dirty and cold water from the ground onto your back and legs as you’re riding. This can keep you cold and uncomfortable!
A simple way to remedy this issue is to buy and install a fender on your back tire. It will catch the splash and prevent mud and cold water from landing on you. You may be surprised at how effective this can be!
If you’re interested in adding this simple but effective gadget to your bike, we suggest the SKS Germany S-Blade. It’s unobtrusive, has a quick-mounting system, and can be adjusted to suit you. It also weighs just 3.7 ounces, so it won’t add any weight to your ride.
7. Wear a Cycling Cap
Although you’ll be wearing a helmet, adding a cycling cap underneath provides an extra layer of protection and warmth. We lose a lot of heat through the head, so this could be an effective way to retain heat.
The 45NRTH Greazy Merino Wool Blend Cycling Cap is an excellent choice for wet and cold weather. Merino wool has temperature-regulating properties, so it will go a long way towards keeping you warm without overheating.
It has a peak for light eye protection and ear flaps. This helps immensely when there’s wind as well as rain, especially if you’re prone to ear pain after riding or running.
8. Consider Different/Reduced Pressure Tires
If you ride in the rain often, it may be a good idea to consider using a different tire tread or a tire with reduced pressure.
A thicker tread can provide you with better grip on wet surfaces. Reducing your tire pressure by 5 to 10 psi means the tire “spreads” slightly as you place weight on the bike. This means more surface area meeting the road, leading to increased grip and safety. It also makes for a bit of a smoother ride!
It’s not always practical to change tires on your bike when the weather is bad. If you’re serious about cycling and have the means, it may be worthwhile dedicating one bike to rainy weather and your main bike for riding in good conditions.
You can kit out your extra bike with thick-treaded, reduced-pressure tires, and just grab it and go every time you’re training in poor weather.
9. Light Yourself Up
Poor weather means lower light. Don’t neglect to wear reflective gear in rainy conditions, even if you’re riding in the middle of the day.
Many jackets, shoes, and helmets have reflective detailing on them. But we highly recommend adding some kind of bicycle light to your stash of reflective gear.
The NiteRider Swift 300 Front/Sabre 110 Rear Bike Light Set is a good example of something that’s effective at keeping you safe and visible on the road.
No matter whether vehicles approach from the front or back, they’ll be sure to spot you coming. The front light also gives you a better view of what’s in front of you.
It’s IP64-rated, meaning it’s resistant to water. It’s also easy to recharge, with the included USB cable.
10. Protect Your Eyes
Just because there’s no sun, doesn’t mean you can neglect to protect your eyes!
Wearing glasses or goggles will prevent debris from hurting your eyes, and also stop water from blurring your vision.
Clear or yellow-tinted glasses are the best option for murky, rainy conditions. They help to dampen glare and enhance the contrast of what’s around you, keeping everything visible.
It’s also a good idea to look for something that has an anti-fog feature. This will prevent your glasses from steaming up and ruining your vision! Otherwise, invest in an anti-fog spray like the optix55 Anti-Fog Spray for Non-AR Lense.
11. Use Waterproof Carrying Gear
If you’re taking stuff along on your ride, like energy bars, gels, or chews, extra clothing, your smartphone, or other valuables, we strongly suggest investing in waterproof storage bags.
Not all bags will work, but you can find waterproof backpacks, bike-packing bags, bento boxes, or panniers at cycling shops.
You don’t want to come to the end of your ride only to find that your phone is soaked and doesn’t work anymore, or your ID book is damaged.
12. Know When to Turn Back
Although it’s definitely possible to train in the rain, in some cases, it’s best to call it a day before you even begin.
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking the weather forecast before you ride, to make sure you aren’t caught unawares by a storm or other severe weather.
If the weather takes a sudden turn for the worst while you’re out and about, instead of trying to push through it, find shelter and wait it out. Being outdoors in severe weather (especially with a bicycle) can put you in danger!
Be aware of your limits and don’t hesitate to cut your training short if it’s looking dangerous. Rather skip a training session and catch it up later, or spend an hour on the smart trainer or even on the treadmill instead.
Riding in the rain gets easier the more you do it. As long as you take precautions, we recommend getting in as many bike hours in the rain as you can!
Get a feel for riding in wet, slippery conditions. Learn just how much you need to pump your brakes, and how far in advance you need to start braking. Get used to avoiding potentially slippery areas.
Be aware when riding in these conditions, and make a point to learn from it. Every subsequent ride will get easier!
14. Clean Your Bike ASAP After Your Ride
Rain can make things dirty! We highly recommend cleaning your bike as soon as you can after your ride. You’ll most likely find mud and water droplets on the wheels, frame, and rims.
Leaving the dirt and water to sit on your bike can have a detrimental effect on your brakes, making them less effective even in dry weather.
Degrease your chain, dry it thoroughly, and lubricate it after riding in the rain. This will keep it in the best working order and extend its lifespan.
We like the mountainFLOW eco-wax Plant-Based Bike Wash + Degreaser. Not only is it planet-safe and sustainable, but it’s also safe to use on all bike components and comes ready to use in a handy spray bottle.
15. Embrace Layers
Layers are your friend. This is the easiest way to stay warm and still allow you the option to remove something if you begin to overheat.
This is the innermost layer, worn directly against the skin. Merino wool is an excellent choice, as it’s temperature-regulating and insulates you in the cold, while allowing for great breathability.
This adds more insulation and should be easy to remove. When you get warm, this is what you’ll remove. It should be soft, comfortable, and doesn’t need to be waterproof.
Fleece or wool jackets are great choices. They do a good job of keeping you warm when you’re moving through cold and wet air.
Your outermost layer should be waterproof. This is what truly protects you from the rain. Some are insulated, while others are just a light shell to protect you from the water.
Make sure whichever one you choose is lightweight and has excellent ventilation. Many come with vents for airflow.