You’re not going to let a little rain ruin your parade, are you?
You can still go on your bicycle ride in the rain, you just have to be careful about how you do it.
We care about your safety here at Pedal Forward, so we put this guide together to help with cycling in the rain so you come back in one piece, and understand the potential dangers before you start pedaling off.
Cycling in the rain can be tricky, and above all else, you need to stay safe during it (and we also need to make sure that you can get some stellar rides in at the same time).
This is your one-stop guide to everything you need to know about cycling in the rain.
- 1 Is Cycling in the Rain Dangerous?
- 2 What Should You be Careful About?
- 3 Rain Cycling Equipment
- 4 You Can Still be Safe
Is Cycling in the Rain Dangerous?
Yes. Riding while it’s raining is more dangerous than riding when it’s dry. When it’s dry, your rubber tires make dry, friction-filled contact with multiple surfaces, such as grass, dirt, asphalt, and concrete.
Water makes dirt loose and slippery, it makes grass slippery, and it can bring up surface-level motor oil in the dimples of concrete and asphalt, such as in parking lots.
Apart from oil, water alone will limit the available friction between your bicycle tires and the contact surface.
With mountain bikes, the treads are generally deep enough to sustain a good portion of the bike’s friction, but it’s still dangerous compared to riding when it’s dry.
With road bikes, you have a much higher tire pressure rating (80 to 110 psi), which can be 3.5x higher than mountain bikes.
That basically means that there’s less room for the tire to dent inwards and absorb shock, making the surface more inflated and smooth.
Road tires are already smoother since the pavement supplies a lot of the traction and surface friction.
You won’t see deep treads on road bikes, making them extra dangerous to ride when it’s wet out.
If it’s actively raining or has just recently stopped raining, avoid cycling for now.
When the ground begins to dry, puddles will disappear and you will just see noticeable levels of low moisture. That’s when it becomes safe to cycle again.
What Should You be Careful About?
There are plenty of dangers out and about when it’s raining.
Overall, this is what you have to watch out for to maintain a safe and leisurely experience while cycling in the rain.
In asphalt, oil patches from constant motor vehicle traffic can begin to come up when the rain hits it.
These surface-level patches of oil make the surface very slippery, so if you’re taking bike lanes, you run a fairly high chance of running into these. There’s little to no traction here, so you have to be extra careful.
Grass by itself is slick and almost feels rubbery (when dry). The second water hits it, that natural waterproof exterior becomes extremely slippery.
If you have to cut across a patch of grass or someone’s lawn and you’re on a road/street bike, you might feel your tires begin to wobble as the traction is lost. This also ties in to the next problem.
Mountain bikers know that riding over shaky terrain is unsettling, and can completely throw off your balance. When that ground gives way and begins to crumble, it’s dangerous.
When the earth shifts as a result of water, you can hit mud patches and slide out of control, causing spills and serious injuries. Either that or the ground simply becomes loose and completely gives way beneath you.
There’s also the chance that you’ll hit patches of sand or dirt that shift and get your tire stuck, resulting in an abrupt stop.
How are puddles a risk? Well, all it takes is tipping over in one of these on the side of the road for a car to no longer see you and accidentally hit you.
Not to mention but the oil will partially come off of your chain, resulting in chain lock, and you’ll become completely soaked which will make you feel ice-cold as you continue to ride. Bicycle rust.
Your head lantern could short-circuit and go out. Suffice it to say, big puddles are a big no-no.
Traffic / Drivers
Have you ever driven a car and the rain just picks up out of nowhere? Even with your high beams on and windshield wipers furiously pushing water out of the way, sometimes the rain is just so heavy that you can’t see every detail of what’s in front of you.
An oncoming cyclist pops up out of nowhere, and even if you slam on the breaks with amazing reaction time, you could still hydroplane and hit them head-on. Now picture all of that, except you’re the cyclist. It’s not a very settling feeling.
Assume that every single car cannot see you, and do your best to stay far away from them to reduce the risk of this happening.
Hydroplaning occurs when the water between your tires and the road is the only thing receiving any force from your bike. There’s zero traction, so your wheels are spinning without any surface to “stick” to.
All that force and momentum is just free riding, and with no traction you can’t hope to have any balance either.
Hydroplaning is an issue we hear with cars more often than bikes, but hydroplaning on a bike can be just as dangerous.
Many cyclists travel at 25 MPH up to 40 MPH depending on the speed limit, and paved roads are where you have to worry about hydroplaning the most.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary, or it’s your only mode of transportation, you should avoid riding a bicycle in the rain whenever you can. The increased risks are just not worth it.
If you’re able to take a short ride around your neighborhood where traffic isn’t an issue, well then that’s all you should really do if you’re just itching to get out there and ride.
Rain Cycling Equipment
When it’s raining, you have to be equipped differently than normal. Thankfully, a lot of your pre-existing cycling gear can be weatherproofed.
This one should go without saying, but if oncoming traffic can’t see you, then you’re just putting yourself in harm’s way. Even if you’re not going to spend your entire ride on a sidewalk or near traffic, this is just a generally good idea.
Other cyclists with head lanterns will also be able to spot you easier, and God forbid you get injured, this will help rescue teams see you far more easily.
Trust me on this one. Your socks are going to get wet no matter what, but a tall and tight pair of socks aren’t going to feel so… moist and disgusting on your feet.
If you can, get socks that help with circulation since you will undoubtedly be colder than normal while riding.
It could help your body stay a little bit warmer than it otherwise would be.
Backpacks get disgusting when wet. Even if you dry one out, there are so many crevices for moisture to hide that your backpack will eventually grow mold in some fashion.
Having a waterproof shell helps your items stay dry, but it also won’t make you regret bringing your backpack along for the ride.
Water Repellent Riding Glasses or Goggles
You can’t afford to keep squinting as rain pellets bombard your vision and hit your eyelids. It’s just not going to help you maintain focus or keep your balance.
Have a pair of glasses you use when cycling, or goggles depending on the severity of the rain outside. If you can, get water resistant lenses so that water beads up quickly and gets out of your line of sight.
Bicycle Head Lantern
It’s not just about other people seeing you, but you need to see where you’re going as well. If you’re a mountain biker, then this is especially true.
Some wildlife may come out if it’s really dark as a result of the rain clouds if they’re confused and assume it’s nighttime. You need to be able to see everything around you.
Oncoming traffic, parked cars, pedestrians; there are so many reasons that you really need to see where you’re going. Your head lantern also works as a beacon to let others know that you’re coming, so you’re helping others around you.
You Can Still be Safe
As long as you’re following proper precautions, you can still be safe while cycling in the rain.
Just keep in mind that it does pose bigger risks such as hydroplaning, something you won’t have to worry about if you wait until it’s dry out to cycle around.
Now that you know how to prepare yourself, the choice is yours.