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Using Trails

How to Ride in the Rain

By: Katie Harris
November 10, 2014

Photo by Jamie McCaffrey
Photo by Jamie McCaffrey

Este contenido también está disponible en español.

Rain, whether a mist or a downpour, is a game changer. But, while it’s not top on the list for premiere riding conditions, with a few tricks up your sleeve, it’s easy to turn a ride in the rain from a soggy nightmare into a pleasure cruise.

1. Time It Right

The first thing to remember when riding in the rain is to take your time. Leave your house a few minutes earlier than usual, slow down, and ride consistently.

2. Use Your Brain

The road will be slick during those first 15 minutes of rain (remember those oils on the roadway that you learned about back in your high school driver’s ed class?), and your brakes will be less responsive. Watch out for surfaces that are usually fine in dry conditions. That includes metal plates, bridge decks, painted street surfaces and leaf piles.

3. Mind the Corner

Slow down before making a turn, and minimize breaking while you round a corner.

4. Be Seen

In order to stay safe in the rain, it’s imperative that you’re visible. Remember, the rain isn’t just reducing your visibility. It’s also reducing the visibility for drivers with whom you share the road. Make sure everyone can see you! Reflective clothing is a great idea. Also, make sure to have a bright white light on the front of your bike and a red light on the back.

5. Be Cool

I don’t care what anyone else tells you; fenders are cool. They keep that awful “skunk tail” of a mud streak off of your back and save your face and eyes from grit and water. Fenders are a relatively low cost investment with a huge payoff: your comfort!

6. Waterproof Yourself

A rain jacket and rain pants will make your life much easier when you’re riding in the rain. Be sure to buy gear with taped seams, and cuff your pant leg to keep it from getting caught in the chain. Are you concerned about your fashionista reputation being ruined by your biking gear? Don’t worry. The bicycle rain cape is a budding new fashion trend and keeps you dry without getting you sweaty.

7. Wanna Get Techie?

On the flipside, gear heads can have a heyday with equipment for the rain, including clear lenses, special gloves and overshoes to keep your toes dry. It’s great if you want to go all out with gear, but remember, a sturdy but breathable rain jacket and rain pants are the main items to invest in when it comes to riding in the rain.

8. Save Your Stuff

There are tons of great waterproof bags and panniers on the market. But if purchasing a new bag isn’t an option, don’t underestimate the power of a good old trash bag. Line your backpack with a trash bag, load your things, and seal it tight. Your bag might get wet, but the contents will stay dry—all for less than a quarter.

9. Adjust your ‘Tude

There is an adage that my parents used to repeat to me when the storm clouds started to brew. “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” After years of rolling my eyes every time I heard them say it, I now embrace the saying, but I’d like to offer an amendment. My version? “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing and a bad attitude.”

Remember- riding your bike is FUN! You don’t have to be a hero; it’s okay to take a day off from your bike if it’s raining. But if you’re out there in the rain, try to embrace it. Sticking a smile on your face will do great things for your experience. Even if you have to “fake it ‘til you make it,” smiling through a soggy ride will help you enjoy it!

Rain certainly changes the situation when you’re riding your bike, but it’s no reason to throw in the towel. So the next time that the weather report looks ominous, know that you’re ready for the challenge, and enjoy your ride!

Katie Harris

Katie Harris is a climate justice advocate, bicyclist and beekeeper who lives in Bellingham, Washington. Katie is inspired by and works on projects in the built environment that have benefits for climate + community + health, like trails, stormwater infrastructure and parks.

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