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Cycling in the Rain

by on August 10, 2012

Eventually you will cycle in the rain.  Whether you get caught unexpectedly in a shower or whether you plan a ride into the rain, it will happen.  Here are some things that will help keep you reasonably comfortable.

Temperature management is everything.  Rain has the ability to chill your body into hypothermia and this can be dangerous.  Unless it is warm and the rain is warm & the time of exposure is short, keeping yourself relatively dry can be the difference between a reasonable ride and hospitalization.  If you start shivering, immediately take shelter.  It is one of the first signs of hypothermia.  Get out of the rain, get as dry as possible, use whatever is available to re-warm yourself, and call for help.

The Body

A shower cap on the helmet looks silly but does a great job at keeping your head dry.  A headlamp will shine through the clear, cheap, hotel shower caps.  Pick one up the next time you are at a hotel and save it for a rainy day.

A plastic bag stuffed into the top of the helmet above your head will also keep your head dry.  You may get rivers of water down your face or neck if you allow a pocket to form where water can collect.

A cycling cap (short brim) or other brimmed cap not only will help hold in heat, but will also protect your eye wear from excessive moisture allowing better visibility.  Besides, as the water drips off the bill of the cap, you will have some indication of how much water you are picking up.

Eye wear to protect your eyes from the rain is important.  But then, you should always be riding with eye wear.

A rain vest or rain jacket is essential depending on the temperatures.  If you are caught without one, a garbage bag can double as an improvised “poncho”.  Just make a hole for your head and arms.

If you need more coverage for your hands and arms because of the chill, plastic bags work well there too.  Insert your hands into the bag and grasp the handle bar with your now plastic bag “gloved” hand.

Rain chaps are available if you would like them.  I’ve never ridden with chaps.

Wool socks can keep your feet warm even when wet.  Some friends ride with plastic bags around their feet.  If I think I might get wet and cold, I use a shoe that is water resistant.

The Bike

Remember, your stopping distance will increase when your brakes are wet.  Some brake pads are designed for wet weather and have better stopping power.

People driving cars in the rain have reduced visibility and don’t expect to see cyclists out on the roads in the rain.  Be sure to use whatever lights and reflectors you have.  I like my headlight to be flashing (in daylight) and at least one red flashing light on the rear.  I’ve been known to ride with two flashing red lights.  Work to be seen!

You are more likely to get a flat in the rain.  Expect it and if it doesn’t happen, rejoice!  You should know how to repair a flat and know how to do it quickly in the rain.  Be sure to remove the sharp object from the tire.  There is no need to double flat in the rain because you were careless.  Careful with the CO2!  With all the added moisture, you can freeze your hand to the canister if you don’t take precautions.

Protect your electronic gear.  Most bike computers are water resistant.  A small plastic bag over the bike computer simply is added insurance.

A fender is a wonderful thing.  The rear fender is most important.  Without a rear fender, you will feel water from the road streaming steadily into the part of your body where the sun does not shine.  That cold water isn’t all that pleasant.  (Your results may vary.) Without a front fender, your feet will collect a lot more water.  There is nothing quite like having to pedal with a half a cup of water in each shoe.


Do not ride through standing water.  You don’t know how deep the puddle is.  It very likely could be a pothole.

Do not ride through flowing water.  If it only takes a foot of flowing water to make a car move sideways, how much less does it take to move a bike?

If it is necessary to ride through standing or flowing water (I know, I said don’t do it), then be careful, and don’t make it a habit.  Find a way around it.

Watch for spray from motor vehicles.

After the Ride

The front of your legs will be coated with road grime.  Don’t drag that into the house.  Remove your shoes and socks outside and use a broom, towel, or your socks to wipe down your legs and ankles.

Newspaper in your shoes will help dry them quickly.  Stuff them with newspaper and check every few hours.  When the paper is wet, replace with dry newspaper until the shoes are dry.  Air drying shoes after riding in the rain can take days and create a funk that will get you thrown out of the house.  Use newspaper.  Paper towels will work in a pinch.

Wipe down the bike chain (and the bike if possible).  When the chain is dry (that day) apply new lubrication on the chain and run it through the gears.  Rust will set in on some chains very quickly, especially if you have been near salt water.

Throw all the clothing in the washing machine and wash it now.  You might as well.

Pat yourself on the back.  It is fun to ride in the rain.

This is not an exhaustive list.  I may have forgotten something.  You are welcome to add a suggestion in the comments.

  1. Great tips. I’ve noticed two other things about rain. The temperature can drop dramatically with a rain storm and the fact you are now cycling while soaking wet adds to the chill. Just another reason for the jacket/bag requirement. Additionally, I’ve noticed that when your clothes are soaking wet, the chance for unwanted rubbing increases. Consider some form of lubricant such as a chamois cream to ease the friction.

  2. If you plan to park your bike where it will get rained on, wrap a plastic bag around the saddle. Why? Failure to do so will result in the resurfacing of embarrassing childhood memories.

  3. David Owens permalink

    Reblogged this on Lifetime Alpharetta Cycle Club.

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