12 Practical Tips for Biking in the Rainy Season
Given the choice, most cyclists would prefer to ride on a sunny day. But rainy days are a reality and in climates like the Bay Area, rainy days come often in the rainy season from November through February. Rather than miss out on months of riding your bike just because of rainy weather, you can make a few adjustments to your bike, the way you ride, and what you wear to keep those pedals turning even on the wettest days.
These tips for biking in the rain, or rainy season, will improve your ride and just in time considering 2021 is seeing a wetter-than-expected start to the rainy season.
Riding Tips for Rainy Days
1. Lower Your Speed
If you’re biking in the rain, odds are you’ll want to be out of the rain as quickly as possible. But resist the urge to increase your speed to get to your destination faster. Lowering your speed will help you navigate and avoid the increased hazards of cycling in the rain and on slick and slippery surfaces.
A slower speed will give you more time and distance to react and deal with unexpected conditions and obstacles. It’s the single best thing you can do to stay safe on a rainy day and avoid bicycle accidents.
2. Avoid Puddles
Avoiding puddles sounds like a no brainer, but it’s genuinely good advice for cycling in the rainy season. Aside from cutting down on splashing that will dirty your bike and clothes, it’s also good safety practice to avoid that puddle.
Murky water can conceal the true depth of a puddle. Offroad, this can lead to getting mired in mud. On a roadway, what looks like a puddle can turn out to be a deep pothole that leads to a wipe out.
There’s an old hiking expression that goes, “Don’t step on anything that you can step over. Don’t step over anything you can step around.” Cycle with the same mentality. Don’t ride over anything you can ride around. And if you have to go through a puddle, slow down ahead of time because your brakes won’t work as well once you hit it.
3. Avoid Sharp Braking
Even under ideal riding conditions, a gradual brake is preferable to a hard one. When you’re biking in the rainy season, an even lighter touch is called for. You’ll notice that your brakes will be less responsive and the potential for rim brakes slipping increases. A fast stop on a slick surface will increase the likelihood of your tires skidding.
4. Decrease Tire Pressure
Slightly lowering your tire pressure, by about 5 psi, will give your treads more grip on a wet and slippery surface. If you’re curious about tire pressure, there’s great information and a handy chart here to help you figure out the right pressure for your weight and the size of your tires.
If you typically go for a faster racing tire in the sunny months, consider swapping out for a tire with more tread to get you through the rainy season. Your local bicycle shop can help you make this swap if you’re not sure what tires would be best in the rain.
5. Increase Your Visibility
If you’re sharing the road with motor vehicles, increase your visibility by wearing bright, reflective clothing and having a flashing LED light on your bike (in addition to a white bicycle light that faces forward and a rear light or reflector that is red). Investing in waterproof visibility gear is well worth it, but in a pinch it’s better to be waterlogged and visible than dry and hard to see.
Be extra aware of motor vehicles’ blind spots on rainy days. Raindrops on a car or truck’s side windows and side view mirror can decrease a motorist’s ability to see anything that’s not directly in front of or behind them.
Gear Up for the Rain
6. Fenders or Mudguards
If you’ve ever seen a biker pass by with the telltale stripe of mud going up their back, you know the importance of a rear fender. A front fender isn’t a bad idea either, especially if you’re a bike commuter who needs to arrive at your destination looking presentable. Throw in a waterproof bicycle seat cover for good measure and your bike will be about as ready as it can be for commuting through the rainy season.
7. Rain Jackets That Breathe
Staying dry while cycling is a battle with two fronts. The rain is your first enemy and sweat is your second. A waterproof breathable fabric is your best defense against both rain and sweat. If you tend to run hot, look for a rain jacket that has zippered vents to dump extra heat that your body generates.
As mentioned above, when buying a rain jacket for biking in the rainy season, opt for one that’s brightly colored and ideally reflective. Most biking specific apparel already takes this into consideration, but if you’re shopping at a generalized outdoor recreation store, avoid the greens and earth tones that some rain gear comes in.
8. Rain Pants That Snap
It’s fair to say that rain jackets are wildly popular, but rain pants? Not so much. Maybe it’s because pulling a pair of pants over your pants is just…awkward. When the rain is really coming down out there, though, you’ll be happy for full body coverage. A pair of break away rain pants with snaps or zippers are easier to get on and off without the awkward shimmy.
9. Layer Up and Avoid Cotton
Base layers (t-shirt, underwear, socks) made of wool or synthetics specifically designed to wick moisture away from the body will keep you dry and work in tandem with outer rain gear while biking in the rainy season. Avoid any cotton clothing while biking in the rain. If it gets wet, it will stay wet all day long.
10. Keep Your Head Dry
Always ride with a helmet, especially when biking in the rain. A rain cover to go over your vented helmet is a quick and easy way to keep your head dry while biking in the rainy season.
The other option is to wear a waterproof biking cap underneath your helmet. In a pinch, a plastic shower cap can stretch over your helmet. It might not be as sleek or aerodynamic as a specially designed rain cover, but it’s better than nothing.
11. In a Pinch, A Plastic Bag Works
If you’re at home or work and it’s rainy outside, it might be cold comfort to know what gear you should have if you don’t have access to it right now. In these cases, a humble plastic bag can see you through until you’re reunited with your gear or can pick some up.
A plastic bag over your socks and under your shoes tied up around your shins makes a decent gaiter. A plastic bag over your helmet will do fine. Even a trash bag with neck and arm holes cut out is slightly better than nothing. These are not long term solutions, but whatever gets you home today while biking in the rainy season.
Bike Maintenance for the Rainy Season
12. Dry your gear
Rain water can do a number on your bike. One of the best tips for bike maintenance during a rainy season is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Dry your gear off as soon as you get to your destination. Rust is far easier to prevent than deal with after the fact.
Likewise, keep your bike chain lubricated throughout the rainy season. This is especially true in San Francisco’s rainy season where the rain’s higher salt content can be extra corrosive on bikes.
Call A Bicycle Accident Lawyer if You’re in a Crash
As the days get shorter and weather gets wetter, visibility decreases. In the dark, through rain covered windows, it can be harder for vehicle drivers to see you. We hope, as always, that you stay safe throughout these winter months. But if you unfortunately are in a bicycle accident, don’t hesitate to call the bike accident lawyers at Bay Area Bicycle Law.
We always offer free consultations, and will let you know our honest opinion about whether you need a bike crash attorney, or if you’d be better off handling negotiations with the insurance company yourself.