How to be prepared for wet conditions
There’s a word for people that look at the rain and say, “I’m still going riding”. That word is badass. However, even if you're not a badass you can be caught in the rain on your commute or riding home from a mates. There are a number of things you can do to make riding in wet weather easier, more comfortable and safer.
Bear in mind that most of the water you’re likely to encounter while riding in the rain is coming up from the ground, not down from the sky. Good mudguards are the solution here. For as little as $10 you can get a basic clip-on rear mudguard that'll keep your butt dry. Sold. If you’re riding frequently in the rain, then front and rear guards are advisable.
For something fancier, a full front and rear clip-on set like the Zefal Deflectors or the Zefal Paragon (which requires the proper mudguard mounting lugs) can be a great way to go. Full length mudguards don’t just keep you dry, they also protect your drivetrain from muck off the road. If you’re not sure what will fit your bike, give Reid Cycles a buzz to discuss the best options.
Light it up
If you’re riding in urban environments, the streetlights are often enough to see by, but you still need some good quality and bright flashing white (front) and red (rear) lights so that you’re easily seen by other road users. It’s common sense, and it’s the law. It’s worth having some spares lying around, or clipping a couple of extras onto your helmet or backpack for massive visibility.
If you need to see in the dark, where there’s no light at all, a helmet or handlebar mounted light of at least 200 or 300 hundred lumens is great for most on-road and path riding. Look for USB rechargeable lights so you can top up the charge during the day, then blaze a trail at light.
Check your bike
The change of seasons is a good time to remember to give your bike some love. Make sure that the brakes are in good working order with plenty of material left on the brake pads, and that your tyres aren’t worn out. Good grip and being able to stop quickly are essential when the rain starts to make things slippery.
Time to reflect
A few little things can keep you safer and more comfortable for very little outlay, like a reflective slap-band for your trousers or a reflective cover for your backpack. Note: high-vis clothing doesn't work unless there’s a fair bit of light falling onto it! You really need reflective materials that catch headlights and flash them back.
Dress for the conditions
Comfort starts with clothing. Don’t wear cotton. It soaks up the water and takes ages to dry out. High tech fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin and dry quickly are good. Wool is also great for when it’s damp.
If you need to go fast, you’re best to minimise the number of layers. If you get too hot, you’ll get damp from perspiration instead of rain and that’s not much better! For road riding, arm/leg warmers, roubaix fabric shorts and heavier weight jerseys combined with the lightest possible waterproof shell is usually ideal for Australian conditions.
A better idea, however, might be taking it easy! Dress for the temperature, and then add a light rain jacket, or make sure that the top layer is water repellant.
Either way, wear gloves. If your grips or handlebars are wet, bare skin will make it slippery. Plus, gloves will keep your hands warm.
Ride for the rain
When it’s wet, you have less traction, so you need to ride a little slower, leave more space between you and other cyclists and take the corners a little easier. Avoid the biggest puddles and stay out of the gutters. ‘Riding out’ and claiming your space on the road is important for your safety at all times, but it’s especially important when it’s wet. Also, avoid the painted lines and wet fallen leaves. They’re much more slippery. Even putting your foot down on them when pulling up to the lights can be a bit dodgy.
It's also worth noting that in wet conditions, drivers can also have a hard time. Roads are often busier, windows fog up and light conditions are generally poor. You need to keep your awareness up and anticipate what could potentially happen - it's certainly not the time to try and get through the lights on the orange, or pass another cyclist without giving them prior warning.
Embrace the rain
Lastly... if you take the time to prepare your bike for the rain, dress for the conditions and ride in an appropriate mannor, riding in the rain can be a fun experience. After all, it makes you feel alive... and it's only water!