Everyone’s been talking about riding in the rain lately. It’s easy to cycle in fair weather, but dealing with rain is more of a challenge, and one I have been reluctant to embrace, to be honest. Like Tim of Car Free Days, I try to play the weather radar game, but sometimes—like on my way home last week—getting wet is unavoidable. It took a while, but I’ve finally come to appreciate the exhilarating effect of riding in the rain. Most of the time.
Let’s start with basics: when it’s raining, it’s even more important than usual to pay close attention to the road. It’s harder for cars to see you, and wet and slippery streets can make for trickier handling, especially if you ride a road bike with narrower tires. And warning: puddles in the rearview mirror may be deeper than they appear.
As for how to dress, if you’re not fully kitted out in rain jacket and pants, material that dries out quickly is best. Once again, our favorite cycling outfit of dress and tights shines here, but lightweight synthetic dress pants are also a good choice. If I’m not wearing my overshoes, I tend to choose knee boots since the leather/synthetic leather is durable and easy to clean. Rubber wellies are also a good choice.
If you know you’ll be cycling in the rain, make sure you have at least some of the following items:
- Lights – a necessity since rain cuts visibility for both you and motorists
- Jacket/rainpants – depending on how dry you want to stay. Look for fabric that’s both waterproof and breathable. Dottie highly recommends her Patagonia Rain Shadow trench. I wear my white Pearl Izumi Optik cycling jacket on rainy days, but have been disappointed in its breathability. (Its visibility, on the other hand, is beyond satisfactory.) Unfortunately, unless you get lucky at Goodwill, this is not something you’ll find cheap.
- Fenders – a must if you don’t want to be tragically marked with a skunk tail. And you don’t.
- Waterproof/resistant pannier or bag – last Tuesday proved that my Basil bag stands up to light showers.
- Plastic bag(s) to cover your saddle and/or any bag or purse that might be in your basket. These can be conveniently stored beneath the saddle.
- Overshoes! My vintage overshoes make riding in the rain fun, simply because I love to wear them. They protect my fancy heels from spray, which means I can still wear them on rainy days.
Once you get to your destination, it’s a lot like freshening up after any ride: towel off, or use a hand-dryer. You may need to carry some makeup or styling accessories to repair the damage.
Riding in the rain can be hard on your bike as well (another reason I always go Dutch in wet weather; Le Peug gets the sunny days). Beginning Bicycle Commuting had a great post recently on caring for your bike after a wet ride; it’s worth checking out.
Of course, all of this is for light to moderate rain only…I have zero experience riding in heavy rain and have so far found it easy to avoid. Since visibility is affected so much by even a light rain, riding in a thunderstorm when you don’t need to seems incredibly foolhardy. Your mileage may vary, of course…as always, share in the comments. What tips do you have for riding in the rain?