Fitness Cycling in the Rain - Tips from a wet morning

Autmn is coming, and cyclists need to prepare themselves for two more niggles in their ride: darkness due to later and later sunrise and rain. But unlike darkness, head and taillights don't help with the rain. Today was my first ride of the season while raining.

Let me get this out of the way first: While i thoroughly enjoy my morning rides, I don't like cycling in the rain. I do my best to check the weather forecast and adjust my cycling schedule to avoid rain.

Rain is Coming on the Cycling Track by Spirovski Bozidar
There are a lot of discussions on the Internet regarding winter and rain cycling. A positive pattern in all of them emerging: Once you accept that you'll be wet and the raindrops stop bothering you, you can have a very nice time riding in the rain.

But even with the Zen aspect of things, cycling in the rain doesn't seem like a  pleasant proposition. Today, the forecast let me down, and I was greeted with heavy drops of rain approximately halfway in my ride. There was nothing to do other than to accept the Zen philosophy of riding in the rain and push on.

For all recreational cyclists, here is what I learned about cycling in the rain, and how you can better cope with cycling in the rain

  1. Perceived temperature drop - Raindrops are making you wet, and the drying process reduces temperature, so your skin will feels colder. This is not a huge deal if you you are warmed up.
  2. Real temperature drop - Usually the overall ambient temperature drops when it rains, and it did this time. This, combined with ambient humidity and sweat caused fogging-in of my cycling glasses. Both the effects of real and perceived temperature drop can be mitigated with an extra layer of clothes. For the eye-wear some anti fog-in sprays are available online. Resist the temptation to go to  faster riding to clear the glasses with airflow since faster riding means much less time to brake in poor conditions. 
  3. Feeling wet - The exterior humidity level prevents your clothes from drying, so you feel wet all over. Reminded me of the days i rode in cotton t-shirts. I would have preferred a light jacket on top of my cycling jersey.
  4. Water being picked up by the tires - Unless you have fenders on your bike (I don't), the tires pick up a lot of water and grime from the road, and splash your back as well as the chain and gears. A good cleaning is a must after that, and consider fenders for the coming rain season.
  5. Spatial awareness is reduced - Riders/joggers without eye-wear tend to look down when it's raining, so they are much less aware of their surroundings and other cyclists.Also, people with hooded jackets cycling or running have a very limited field of view. Same goes for auditory awareness. Rain noise, tire noise on wet road, hoodies all reduce the quality of the auditory information arriving to you. Always signal with your bell, although it may seem excessive. Also, be lit up - front and rear lights should be on, even if it is day. Better safe then sorry.
  6. Tire slipping and braking distance - not a big deal for me this time, but then again I didn't spend too much time in the rain. Fast cornering and overtaking becomes much much riskier. Also, braking distance is increased by cold and wet brakes as well as slippery road surface. Simply go and turn slower, no need to crash. 

For me, riding in the rain is not a pleasant proposition and I will continue to avoid it whenever possible. But for those that need or like to ride in the rain, I hope I have helped you a bit.

Do you ride in the rain? Do you like it and how do you cope? Tell us in the comments!

Share on Google Plus

About Bozidar Spirovski

    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment


  1. For rainy commuting I always used to ride a fixed-gear with fenders. That was my winter and rain bike because it exposed the fewest moving parts to wetness and possible road salt.

    Since I put full fenders on my regular geared commuter I have tended to ride that if the forecast only calls for a chance of showers or if a wet morning is supposed to give way to a dry afternoon

    The commuter also has a generator hub powering front and rear lights. I'm a huge fan of generator lights. They run at full brightness for the length of you ride, no matter how long that is. You don't have to worry about limited burn time or the diminishing output of aging rechargeable batteries. I do have small battery-powered blinking lights front and rear to catch the eye of drivers, but the real seeing power comes from the generator set.

    I gave up trying to be dry in the rain. Even breathable rain gear traps sweat, and every rain jacket I've owned seems to leak somewhere. So no I just try to stay warm by blocking the wind as it passes through my moist clothing.

    An old-fashioned rain cape might work really well at low speeds, since it's basically like a tent draped over the rider and bike. Not a practical option for faster riding, though. And any system needs full fenders so tire spray doesn't undo all the good with its upward splash of water and dirt.

    1. I am not a fan of rain capes, and have always wondered how on earth people ride in them. I agree about fenders, which I learned the hard way on a ride after a strong shower - my bike, gear and even helmet was muddy all over.