Riding in the rain is part of life on two wheels – no matter the time of year. Some hate it, others enjoy it. Whatever camp you fall in to there are ways to prepare, survive and recover from cycling in the rain.
1. Jacket: The most important item of clothing for battling the rain is a jacket. Not only will a good waterproof jacket keep your torso dry it will help you regulate your body temperature. Gore Tex is the best material as it is waterproof and breathable. A breathable material is essential so you don’t overheat. A thinner rain jacket or ‘shell’ can also be used with the correct layers underneath, although persistent or very heavy rain will get through eventually.
2. Mudguards: They may not look great, and they may rattle, but they are essential. Mudguards will keep all that filthy water on the road off of your feet, lower legs and back (where un-guarded wheels will spray the water with carefree abandon). Even if you miss the rain, the roads will remain wet. That (dirty) water then gets flicked up by the wheels and makes you wet and cold. A flap added to the front guard will give you even greater protection.
3. Overshoes and gloves: Your extremities are the first parts of your body to be sacrificed in order to maintain a core temperature, and when your hands and feet get wet and cold you will feel disproportionally uncomfortable. Water resistant overshoes are worth their weight in gold while gloves are a little harder to get right. They need to protect you without being so thick as to hamper your bike control. You still need to be able to feel the brakes and gears through all that material.
4. Chain degreaser: After a ride in the rain you should immediately shower and dry yourself. The same goes for your chain. Cover it in degreaser (WD40 or GT85 are both widely available although there are bike specific degreasers like Muc Off) then vigorously wipe it down with a rag until it’s dry. A few drops of lube will then protect it for the next ride. Do this and it can double the chain’s lifespan. It’s a good idea to spray the other metallic moving parts too; front and rear gear mechanisms and brake callipers. Try to keep the degreaser away from the hubs, bottom bracket, wheel rims and brake blocks. Ideally your whole bike would get washed down after a wet ride, but we know that’s not very realistic
5. Cycling cap: Air vents in helmets are great in the heat, not so much in the rain. A cheap cycling cap worn under your helmet is a good barrier for your head, with the peak giving extra protection for your eyes against the spray. Other options include a skull cap (although they don’t have peaks) or an aero helmet as many of them have plastic covers
6. Standing water: Avoid it. Standing water not only gets you wet, it can be incredibly dangerous as you never know what’s lurking beneath. It might just be a puddle, but then it could be a wheel smashing pothole. When you see standing water, check over your shoulder before moving safely out to ‘ride the lane’ (most standing water will gather near the kerb). Only ride through standing water if you can clearly see what’s underneath.
7. Check your tyres: Rain water washes all sorts of muck on to the roads, and when your tyres are wet they pick up more of it than usual. After each ride take a quick look over your tyres checking for flints, glass and other debris. Also check for cuts in the tyre that could weaken the carcass or allow the inner tube to bulge through. It’s a good idea to ride a heavier tyre in the winter with a thick tread. Why not try a 25c tyre run a slightly lower pressure too.
8. Plastic bags: If you’re riding in very heavy or constant rain there is almost nothing that will keep your feet dry as water runs down your legs or gets in from underneath. A cheap option to prolong that nice dry feelingin your feet is to slip a plastic bag over your socks, then your tights (if wearing them) pulled down over the bags, then finally your shoes and overshoes. A more permanent, less budget version is Seal Skinz socks that do a good job of protecting your feet.
9. Lights: Whether it’s the droplets of water on wing mirrors or a steamed-up windscreen, driving standards drop drastically in the rain. It is well worth making yourself more visible when it’s raining, even in the middle of the day. There are plenty of good quality, lightweight, LED lights that can be discreetly clipped to your bike. If riding at night, lights that meet legal requirements are needed anyway. Flashing LEDs are a good addition.
10. Turbo or rollers: This isn’t so much as dealing with the rain as avoiding it. Structured sessions of anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour can do amazing things for your fitness. Sat on your bike aimlessly pedalling while watching the TV, less so.