Bike Commuting In The Rain: The Complete Guide
Bad weather can be a very big obstacle if you are a novice cyclist or just a casual rider. It’s the number one reason to leave the bike at home and take your car instead. But it shouldn’t be that way at all. After reading our complete guide for bike commuting in the rain you will change your mind.
There are 3 main areas you need to change in order to arrive safe and dry at your destination: Clothes & Accessories, Cycling Techniques, Attitude.
Clothes & Accessories
Let’s start from your feet…
If the day is really rainy most probably your normal shoes will get soaked even if you ride with fenders. The only possible way to avoid that is to use waterproof shoe covers. They are specially designed just for that purpose and you can find them in any bike shop. The waterproof shoe covers are small and light and you can carry them all the time in your rucksack.You will definitely appreciate the waterproof shoe covers because the shoes dry off very slowly.
Depending on the weather you can choose to ride with long pants or short pants. Have in mind that it’s always easier to dry your legs than a pair of super wet long pants. You can find some dedicated waterproof long pants for cycling, but I don’t recommend them as they are too expensive and not so useful after all. Anyways this choice is up to you.
Bike commuting in the rain can be much more acceptable when you have good, quality waterproof bike jacket. It is one of the essentials to stay dry and safe. The fabrics are getting better and better with the time and in 2016 we have some of the best cycling jackets which are light, breathable and waterproof at the same time.
I recommend using high visibility waterproof cycling jacket which includes plenty of reflective details to help you be seen on the road. It’s one of the most important clothes and I suggest investing a big chunk of your budget for it. The jacket will pay itself with the time. Riding with gloves can dramatically improve your grip especially when the handlebars are wet. In my opinion cycling with specially designed bike gloves is much better experience and when it’s raining you will be much safer with them.They are cheap enough these days and I don’t see any reason not to buy a pair of cycling gloves.
For the head actually, I don’t use anything apart from the helmet which in most cases is enough. Yes, you will take a few drops between the air vents but that’s just a small price to pay.There are some specially designed rain caps you can buy if you wish to be extra dry and look ridiculous. Some novice cyclists think that wearing cycling glasses could improve the visibility when the weather is bad but that’s not the case. In reality, it’s much worse riding with cycling glasses because you see only raindrops.
If you have a dedicated bike computer please check if it’s waterproof to avoid problems. You can see our article for more info: How to Choose the Best Cycling Computer.
Let’s talk about the accessories:
Apart from your high visibility waterproof jacket, you should definitely consider using front and tail light. It doesn’t matter if it’s dark or in the middle of the day. you should ALWAYS have your front and back lights installed on your bike. These days you can find some cheap and still very good bright lights in any bike shop.
Fenders look ridiculous almost on any bike but when the weather throws at you mud and rain you will change your mind very quickly. They are super easy to install and you will appreciate them in your first commute in the rain. Attaching them correctly is essential because they may be flimsy and wobbly. Basically, they are 3 types fenders. Full fenders are the big ones that come preinstalled in some city hybrid bicycles and they keep the vast majority of wetness away.
Race blades are fenders specially made for road bikes and they are not so effective like the full fenders but still keeps a big chunk of the mud and the water away. The third type is the mountain bike type fenders.
Your rucksack should always be waterproof not just “water-resistant” because it’s not the same. Another option is to have in hand a cycling rain cover but the rain always finds its way and will wet your rucksack anyways. So to be on the safe side, buy high-quality waterproof rucksack. Also, you can carry inside your dry clothes and it’s crucial to have them really dry when you arrive at your destination.
When it’s raining and the road is wet you have to adjust your speed. This is rule number one! Bike commuting in the rain could be really really dangerous. Rain makes concrete and asphalts super slippery and fallen leaves make it even worse. The result is that you can’t corner so easily, accelerating is limited and worst of all you are not able to stop so quickly.
That’s why you should ride slower than normal and always start stopping earlier. If you plan to make a corner, adjust your speed and slowly take the turn. It takes some practice but with a few rainy bike rides you will be experienced enough to know what to do.
Always make eye contact with the drivers if possible and you will learn with the time if they see you or not. Another great advice is to stay on a distance to the cars/bikes in front of you because they are throwing water and mud.
Looking for holes or other obstacles in the road is very important and you should always be alert. Until you have ridden in the rain, you don’t realize how dirty roads are. Every hole becomes a pool full of water and all the dust and tiny bits of tire become mud thrown into your face. Braking is a big challenge when it’s wet and as a precaution, it’s worth checking your brake pads. I’ve seen some cheap brake pads that don’t work at all when it’s wet. My advice is to test your brakes before you really need them.
Bike commuting in the rain could be great fun. It’s not scary at all and if you are well prepared it can be very enjoyable too. In my opinion, there is no such thing as “bad weather”. It’s all in your head. As usual, the biggest hurdle is mental and once you hit the wet road you will see it’s much easier than you thought.
Check the weather and if it’s going to rain the next day just prepare yourself with good gear. After your first ride in the rain, you will see that it’s almost the same as riding in dry weather. If you are well prepared you can commute to work the entire winter!
- plan your route as usual but now make sure to add extra time to dry up yourself when you arrive and also because you’ll ride much slower;
- eat properly before you hit the wet roads. Cycling in the wet conditions burns more calories than normal.
- put your dry clothes in a plastic bag inside your rucksack. It’s an extra precaution which sometimes makes huge difference;
- check the weather forecast and be prepared. If it’s sunny in the morning but the weather forecast says it’s going to rain in the afternoon, just bring all the gear you’ll need in your rucksack;
- do not wear too many too many layers of clothing. You will overheat super quickly and your cycling will become a disaster. A rule of thumb is that when you get out you should be a little bit cold. In a 10-15 minute of cycling, you will be fine. If you are warm and cozy when you start then you will overheat later on for sure;
- freshen up at work and change your clothes if possible. If you have a shower you can take a quick one and freshen up.
- always dry up your bike after cycling in the rain. Of course, this is applicable if you can store your bike in a safe and dry place. If not you should do it when you arrive at home;
- find a place to hang wet rain gear where it can dry. Avoid keeping the wet clothes in your rucksack all day;
More tips for cycling to work you can find in my article 5 Tips For Cycling to Work
About the Author
I'm a passionate cyclist and an adventurer. Writer and editor of Yes Cycling.