Let It Rain!
by Susan Otcenas
Here in Portland, we've had our one snowfall for the season but we have several months of rain ahead of us before our perfect summer weather arrives. With that in mind, we thought we'd offer up a few simple tips to help you have a BLAST riding in the rain!
Brake Early. Your stopping distance while riding in wet weather will be greatly increased (unless you have a bike with disc brakes). If you are in a situation where you might need to come to a sudden stop, lightly pulse your brakes to "squeegee" off the water on the rims in advance of actually needing to brake hard.
Light It Up. Even during the daytime, a flashing red tailight and a front headlight can help other road users see you better. You should also wear brightly colored clothing with plenty of reflectivity to enhance your visibility.
Avoid Puddles, Paint, Plates and Plant Debris. Puddles can be surprisingly deep and can hide potholes, rocks and even roadside curbs. The white fog line and other painted features on the road can be slippery when wet and should be avoided. Use caution when rolling over manhole covers and metal plates in the roadway. And a final word of warning: leave the leaves alone! Wet leaves and other debris on the side of the road can cause you to lose control, especially when turning or going around curves.
Stay Alert. You aren't the only one who can't see as well when it is dark and rainy. Assume that motorists do not see you and exercise even more caution than usual while playing in traffic.
Take Your Time. Riding slower gives you more time to detect and safely react to roadway hazards.
“There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
10 Gear Recommendations for Wet Weather Riding
Fenders. Fenders dramatically reduce the impact of the road spray kicked up by your bike. Without fenders, water from the front wheel soaks your feet and lower legs, while spray from your rear wheel leaves a characteristic "skunk stripe" of mud and grit up your back and in your shorts. If you've ever finished a long rainy ride and found your chamois pad full of road grime, you know what I'm talking about!
Fenders are available in a huge range of styles and sizes to fit almost any bike. Here are some the leading fender manufacturers: Planet Bike, Topeak, SKS Germany.
A properly sized fender (you can add mudflaps) also makes you a polite rider on group rides -- no one wants to ride behind someone who is sending up a rooster tail of cold muddy water.
In addition to shielding you and those around you from the spray, fenders are also crucial protective equipment for your bike itself. All that dirt and muck gets into your headset, bottom bracket and drivetrain and causes premature wear.
In rainy Oregon, many of us have a dedicated "rain bike" that has fenders permanently mounted. Fullwood Fenders For those of you in less wet climes, or who only rarely ride in the rain, several companies manufacture fenders ("race blades") that can quickly and easily be put on and taken off a bike.
Waterproof Jacket. In warmer weather, even a jacket made with the most breathable waterproof fabric will still soak you from the inside if you are exerting yourself over an extended period. Consequently, good ventilation is a key requirement in a waterproof cycling jacket. Things to look for:
pit zips or other extra ventilation options,
extended cuffs that can open up to provide airflow up your arms,
a back vent to allow the air that enters through the cuffs and pit zips to flow around your body and out your back without "puffing up" the jacket too much,
and a long "tail" on the back of the jacket to cover your butt when you are hunkered down in the cycling position.
Waterproof Pants. Many cyclists already own a waterproof jacket, but a pair of waterproof pants can be just the ticket for riding / commuting when the rain is really coming down. Features to look for include:
zippers on the lower leg so you can pull the pants on over your shoes,
velcro adjusters on the lower legs to keep the pants from "ballooning" and getting caught in your chain,
stretch panels or other features to allow for flexibility in the hip and knee areas,
reflective piping for increased visibility.
Booties and Shoe Covers. While they won't necessarily keep your feet completely dry, booties and shoe covers block the majority of the rain, wind and grit. The thicker thermal booties are good for cold and wet weather, while you may want to investigate some of the thinner shoe covers if you inhabit a warm but rainy climate.
Winter Boots. If you are looking for a truly waterproof cycling shoe, look no further than the Sidi winter boot. This shoe has a thin layer of insulation along with a 100% waterproof Gore-Tex upper. The cuff at the top of the boot takes a bit of getting used to, and you'll need to think about how to keep water from running down your legs into the shoe to avoid turning this waterproof boot into a leakproof bucket! (Hint: the pants go outside the boot - don't tuck them in.)
Waterproof Gloves. Finding a truly waterproof cycling glove that isn't also super-insulated for cold weather can be a bit of a challenge. At the thin, non-cycling-specific end of the spectrum look for the SealSkinz Glove, while at the "perhaps-a-bit-to-warm" end, check out the Pearl Izumi Barrier Glove and the Gore Countdown Glove. In the middle ground there are a number of windproof, water-resistant gloves that combine svelte styling with enough water protection to get you through anything short of a steady rain. The Gore Bike Wear ALP-X III Windstopper Glove is one of our favorite "in-between" wet weather gloves.
Foot and Hand Warmers. Sometimes you don't care if your feet and hands get wet, so long as they stay WARM. As a bonus, you can tell your friends you've got an exothermic reaction on your hands!
Helmet Cover. While it may be a myth that we lose most of our heat through our heads, staying dry up top is still a worthy goal. A helmet cover will keep the cold wind out of your helmet vents and shed the rain before it plasters your hair to your skull in a drippy mess!
Anti-Fog Lens Drops or Wipes. No, we don't have mini-wipers, but we do using anti-fog wipes or drops when cool and humid weather tends to fog up your lenses.
Reflective Bits. You can never be too visible. Add some bling to your ride or enhance your kit with reflective stickers and tapes, or try out some reflective wear including reflective vests and legbands.