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You may be among the estimated 870,000 people riding their bikes to work, but what do you do in foul weather? There are all kinds of clever and essential cycling items that can make it easy, pleasant, and safe to ride in the rain.
Essential Waterproof Gear You Need for Cycling in the Rain
When it comes to cycling in the rain, you need the right apparel to stay comfortable. This includes a waterproof jacket, leg protection, good footwear, and a pair of gloves. There is gear for your bike that can also help in inclement weather conditions: bike fenders, LED lights, seat covers, and weather apps for your phone. If you’re cycling in the rain with glasses, a cycling cap or helmet with a visor can really come in handy.
If you cycle to work, or if you simply want to ride in the rain, here’s what you need to know….
Plan and Prepare Before You Cycle
If you want to join the droves of cycling commuters and save money on monthly transportation costs, plan and prepare. The weather is unpredictable, so arm yourself with what you need for rainy weather before a single raindrop falls. After all, you don’t want to show up to your destination soaked.
When it comes to body temperature, many people don’t realize the importance of keeping your torso and chest warm and dry. This is the core of the body. When your core is warm, it pumps blood more effectively throughout the body. When your core is cold, your entire body will feel chilled. A warm torso helps to ensure that you don’t experience numbness in your legs or arms when cycling in cold, damp weather.
Also, make sure that you’re keeping your fingers and hands warm and dry. When they become cold and stiff, you can lose maneuverability on your bicycle. Waterproof gloves that fit well are your best bet (nothing too bulky, though).
Prepare yourself with gear for cycling in rainy conditions, including quality rain jackets made from waterproof fabric, as well as rain pants and other gear, like resilient footwear to prevent wet feet or loss of traction on the road.
Don’t Underestimate Mudguards
Consider all the water on the ground that you’ll need to contend with. Puddles and mud can make it difficult to navigate but can also cause you to get wet and muddy. Wearing the best wet weather cycle clothing and gear will not protect you from what a big mud puddle can do when you go cycling straight through it. If you’ll be cycling after heavy rain, or if you make a habit of wet weather riding, think about installing mudguards on your bike.
Mudguards help cyclists combat bad weather and help to prevent mud and water from splashing all over the cyclist. On heavily traveled roads after bad weather, you might be surprised by how quickly you get soaked. You can easily end up wearing the mud, dirt, and whatever else is on the roadway.
Mudguards give you protection from the road and are easy to install and widely found in sizes that fit any bike. There are fancy mudguards and temporary clip-ons, depending on what you’re looking for.
Prevent Squeaky Cleats
What are you wearing on your feet? When you ride in the rain, cleats make a lot of sense for your feet. These give you the traction and tread that you need to prevent your feet from slipping on the bike pedals. This is a game changer in bad weather and in wet conditions.
Squeaking is a common problem with cleats. When wet, cleats squeak and can be quite annoying. While this is not a huge problem, it can be frustrating if you have a long commute.
To solve this, rub a bit of wax on the metal cleats. Use a candle, a bit of beeswax, or even a crayon. The wax provides a buffer between the metal cleat and the metal pedal, reducing the aggravating squeak when you cycle in the rain.
If your cycling shoes get very dirty after a wet ride, see our post on how to clean cycling shoes.
Buy Dedicated Rain Gear
If you commute to work or cycle in the rain, you need rain gear. Invest in quality rain gear essentials that you can use for years to come. This includes products in waterproof fabrics with windproof seams and stitched reinforcement where it makes sense. Look for reputable brands such as Pearl Izumi when shopping for a cycling rain jacket or waterproof shoes. These products stand the test of time.
What else do you need for rainy weather conditions besides waterproof jackets and footwear? You need a pair of good quality rain pants. Actual rain pants are not meant to be fashionable nor are they intended to be worn all the time. These are something that you put in your pack or bag for when weather conditions warrant them. These are typically oversized with elastic to fit snugly around your waist and ankles. These can be stepped into fast, so when it rains you can be ready quickly.
Bicycle overshoes are another useful foul weather item. These essentially provide a weather-resistant and water-repellent barrier between your shoes and the elements. You step in these like a second pair of shoes, and they are worn over your footwear, but they are not worn all the time. These are very effective at helping to keep your toes and feet dry and comfortable during wet rides.
The easiest way to find the best brand or item is to read customer reviews and ratings online.
Keep Your Stuff Dry
How will you carry your supplies and goods to get you through the rain or weather? Usually a backpack or a waterproof lined bag works best and will go a long way toward keeping your stuff dry and undamaged during long, rainy rides.
In addition to bike-related supplies, you may need to transport other items if you commute to a job or a worksite. Computers, technology, and papers are at risk in the pelting rain. Look for bags and packs that have fully welded seams intended to keep the elements out. Also, look for options that feature a lot of pockets and compartments. These will provide your items with an extra barrier and level of protection during your commute.
Not carrying much stuff? Choose a drybag like the ROCKBROS waterproof bike handlebar bag to keep what few things you do have dry.
Backpacks are a convenient choice. The only issue is that backpacks are in the line of fire when it comes to rain, as they are usually worn flat on your back. When you arch over your handlebars to cycle, your backpack will get soaked in a downpour. For this reason, choose backpacks that are made of water-resistant and repellent materials. Go with thicker nylon or PVC, or choose waxed canvas instead, which seems to have some longevity.
Cycling Jackets Are Everything
Jackets are your first line of defense against the elements. As previously mentioned, it is important to keep your torso dry and warm for optimal blood circulation throughout the body. For this reason, invest in a high-quality waterproof jacket that is specifically designed for cycling.
A great cycling jacket is not too bulky but will keep you warm when it is chilly or windy. Invest in a resilient and easy-to-store waterproof layer that offers immediate extra protection when needed. These shell type layers are versatile and can fold down to fit in your pocket for added convenience.
Stay Safe on the Road
We’ve compiled some tips and tactics that you can use to stay safer on the road. Biking in wet conditions can be a blast, but it also comes with inherent hazards, such as reduced visibility and slick surfaces. Consider the following safety tips when biking or commuting to a job in the rain:
- Even in wet or slick conditions, riding in rain is not much different than any other cycling. Follow the rules of the road and use the best safety practices.
- Exercise caution near wet spots. These could be manhole covers, railroad tracks, or other metal surfaces that can become very slippery and treacherous for cyclists. Also, be wary of grass clippings, piles of leaves and vegetation, which can be hazardous when wet.
- Slow down when cycling in wet conditions. It is simply safer to ride more slowly and cautiously in rainy weather.
- Refrain from riding through puddles. These can cause a nasty fall and it can be difficult to tell how deep they are or what obstacles are under the water.
- Wear reflective tape or patches on a blaze-orange vest when cycling after dusk, dark, or in the rain. These fold up to fit in your pouch or pocket.
- Assume that you are not seen by cars and drivers. This will make you more wary and defensive when riding around other vehicles. Try to meet the eyes of the drivers that you see to ascertain whether they see you, too.
- Avoid riding in a motorist’s blind spots.
- Allow yourself twice as much room to brake as you would in dry conditions.
- Be honest and objective about when it is time to find another way to work. If visibility is less than 10 feet in front of you, the weather conditions are simply not safe for cycling.
Outfit Your Bike
It’s a good idea to outfit your bike with some rainy weather essentials. Consider these for your commutes:
One of the worst hazards when cycling in the heaviest rain is visibility. To make sure that motorists can see you, equip your bike with some affordable and effective LED bike lights. Overcast conditions can play tricks on the eye and you could end up in someone’s blind spot. Illuminate yourself and your bike with some additional light fixtures, such as the Serfas Thunderbolt Taillight, which is both inexpensive and reliable.
Fenders on your bike are really the only way to prevent road spray and rain from coming off the wheels and hitting you as you ride. Industry insiders recommend the Blackburn Central Full-Fender Set for great protection. This set is especially useful if you do not have dedicated mounts.
Don’t forget a seat cover for your bike. This works two-fold: it protects you from wet conditions and it protects your bike’s seat. Keep an extra durable water-repellent cover in your bag for protecting the seat if you need to park the bike outside. A couple of plastic bags can serve as a makeshift rain cover for your seat in a pinch. (Learn how to dry out a bike seat here.)
Keep yourself informed with a weather app on your smartphone. Weather radar forecasts can keep you on top of weather alerts and trends at a moment’s notice.
To Each Their Own
Must you wait to ride your bike until you’ve purchased rain gear? No, of course not. It’s just a lot easier and more comfortable to ride in rainy weather when you take some precautions and prepare.
The truth is, everyone is different, and some people don’t care about getting wet when riding. Some folks may not plan on cycling far enough for it to matter. If you want to ride your bike regularly or travel long distances, planning ahead can reduce the number obstacles and challenges you meet along the way.
Keep a List
Hardcore bike commuters usually keep a dedicated pack or bag ready. Over time and with experience, you’ll add items to your bike bag that may be useful during your commute or outing. Make yourself a checklist to ensure you have what you need, including these common cycling items:
- Cycling helmets
- Bicycle lights and LED flashlight or headlamp
- Tire repair and patch kit
- Spare bike tire tube
- Hand pump
- Multi-tool or screwdriver
- Hand or baby wipes
- Some cash in case of an emergency
Make sure that you keep your bike clean and serviced. This includes periodic lubrication of the bike’s drivetrain. Do this more often in foul weather conditions when there is a lot of water, dirt, sand, and debris on the road surfaces.
Get Out and Enjoy It
You aren’t going to let some light rain keep you inside, are you?
Get outside and enjoy a bike ride in the rain, but plan and prepare for it!
It can be a lot of fun to go cycling in wet weather conditions, but it’s important to stay dry and warm. Use the above recommendations for the right gear so you can safely cycle in any kind of weather conditions. Outfit your bike so that you are always clearly visible to other motorists sharing the roads.
If conditions are excessively miserable and visibility is too low, consider staying in, leaving your bike home, or finding another way to your destination.
Finally, if your ears are getting too cold out there, see our post on how to keep your ears warm while cycling.