Riding your bike in wet weather can be so much fun: While everybody else is locked inside their houses, you could have the entire road to yourself as you happily skid through puddles of water.
It’s almost like being a kid again, taking your bike out for the first time. However, your bike may need a good clean after your ride, along with any appropriate maintenance practices.
Is rain bad for your bike?
The water and mud you expose your bike to in rainy weather could deteriorate its functionality if cleaning, drying and a little maintenance such as applying chain oil is not done. Take the steps to wash or rinse down the bike and apply a little chain oil and a light oil or water repellant (such as WD40) in crucial moving parts and your bike will not suffer any real deterioration. Winter may need a little more effort washing it, due to salt on the roads but not much more.
In this post, we will consider the challenges that come with riding your bike in wet weather and what you can do to make the experience safe. We will also look at how to keep your bike in top condition even after such a ride.
For some experienced bikers, there may not be such a thing as bad biking weather! But for some people, taking your bike out in a storm is unheard of.
Whichever class of riders you belong, there’s a lot you can do to make the ride enjoyable while making sure that your bicycle remains in good shape when you get back home after a ride.
Is it Safe to Bike in the Rain?
There are obvious dangers involved when biking in the rain; the slippery surfaces can make it a challenge to control your bike and the cold temperatures can make life uncomfortable without good wet weather gear to wear.
You also have to deal with poor visibility as you watch out for any falling tree branches or rubbish being blown about.
Not to mention that when it is raining hard, the raindrops hitting your skin feels like needles when you’re riding fast.
But despite all these drawbacks, you can actually turn your wet weather cycling experience into a safe and exciting one.
Here are a few tips you can use to stay comfortable while riding in the rain:
- Reduce your tire pressure– In wet conditions; high-pressure tires make it hard to maintain traction on the slippery riding surface. According to some experts, you will have trouble trying to control your bike on narrow tires inflated to 120 psi. What you want to do is use tires measuring 25mm or wider and lower your tire pressure to between 80 and 90 psi. Apart from increasing the surface area of the tires, this will also improve the grip on the road.
- Avoid leaning into corners – Leaning into corners in wet conditions reduces the contact tread patch of your tires and increases the chances of the bike sliding out from under you. You need to decrease your speed as you approach turns or corners and try to keep your body weight over the rear wheel without leaning. Remember to also keep your head up to improve your balance.
- Reduce your speed – The poor road conditions combined with poor visibility imply that you’ll have little reaction time to would-be hazards. Ensure you ride at a safe speed so that it’s easier to break sooner in case of an emergency and that you have better control of your bike.
- Keep off the painted lines – Painted lines are generally more slippery than the rest of the road. This becomes even worse when it has been raining. Try as much as possible to avoid painted markings such as chevrons etc, especially in turns and corners. The same is true for intersections, train tracks, and metal grates.
- Remain seated – Standing on your bike while climbing a slope on the road can make you lose traction of the back wheel. If you want to ensure the rear wheel doesn’t slide in the rain, you have to remain seated at all time. Maintaining your weight on the rear wheel helps to maintain traction when pedaling hard. There is also the fact that pedals can become slippery when wet, standing on them could be very hazardous.
- Stay away from puddles – Despite the fun of plowing through them, water puddles can be very dangerous since you can’t see what is lurking beneath. There could be potholes, debris, and other risks that may lead to an accident. So try to ride in an area where you are familiar with the hazards that hide when there are puddles.
- Invest in the right gear – You want to get yourself a good quality waterproof kit to keep yourself dry and protected from the cold. You also need water-resistant overshoes and gloves to keep your feet and hands dry. It might also pay you benefits to get the appropriate cycling eyewear and cap to shield yourself from those hard-hitting raindrops.
Is it Safe to Ride a Bike in a Thunderstorm?
The stakes get even higher when you are out riding in the rainy weather and there is a thunderstorm. While it is less likely that you’ll be hit by lighting- statistics show that around 100 people a year die from lightning strikes- you have to be wary of the energy in a lightning bolt.
It is so tremendous that if lightning were to strike near you, it’s very easy for the lightning bolt to be attracted to the metal frame of your bike and electrocute you, the rubber tires will not be enough to protect you.
Apart from that, in a storm the winds are strong and raindrops hit your skin hard; so if you are in traffic it places you at a huge safety disadvantage. It will be difficult for oncoming motorists to spot you, even with bright lights on your bike.
Besides, a thunderstorm means the rain will be pouring harder than an average rain shower and this makes the road even more slippery.
Any surface repairs on the cracks in the road will get more treacherous and painted lines will become a hazard in waiting.
Another point to think about is how good are your brakes, some old style brakes are basically worthless in these excessive conditions.
Considering all this potential for risk, I wouldn’t suggest that it may not be safe for you to ride in a thunderstorm.
If you ever get stuck in a storm while out riding, it would be wise to find temporary shelter and wait for the storm to subside before getting back on your bicycle.
Drying Bicycle after Rain
Riding in the rain exposes your bike to numerous foreign bodies that may contribute to the eventual deterioration of your bike’s utility.
The rainwater and grime on a muddy road can lead to extra wear and tear. You, therefore, want to make sure that you give your bike a much-needed clean up before drying it when you get back home from a ride.
Use the following guide to dry your bike after a ride in the rain:
- Remove the gunk – To get the grime off, bounce the bike on the ground so that the mud and waterdrops fall off. Take a bucket full of water mixed with dish soap and use a car sponge to scrub the bike from the handlebars all the way to the rear wheels. If need be, use a hose with a jet setting to shift mud from those awkward places or use a brush and sponge with your soapy water.
- Clean the brakes and wheels – Be sure to clean the inside of brake pads and calipers. For your wheels, remember to focus on the braking surface where most residues tend to collect. If soap doesn’t seem to do the job, you can use a little rubbing alcohol. Rinse the soap off the bike with clean water and a dry rag.
- Dry the bike – If you’re feeling lazy use a leaf blower to get any moisture off your bike. If you have no access to a leaf blower, you can use a dry towel to wipe every single component on your bike. Although carbon is rust-resistant, any steel parts should be thoroughly dried.
- Lubricate – Once you are sure the bike is clean and dry, apply grease or any other appropriate lubricant on the chain and a few drops on any other areas where cables exit or enter the frame. Remember to wipe off any excess lube.
Bike Commuting and Rain
Riding your bike in the rain may not sound practical but a downpour should not be a barrier to cycling. If you invest in good riding gear and bike accessories and pay attention to wet weather riding safety tips; you should have a comfortable commute on your bike.
For more information on wet weather riding, read this article on bike commuting in the rain.