Preparation and Riding in Wet Weather

by Tony Marchand

What to bring with you on overcast days in case you get caught in the rain:
  • A bright colored rain jacket. They now make some very light and store-able jackets that are breathable in the dry, yet keep the rain out in the wet. They can also keep you warm even if some rain penetrates through, much like a wet suit.
  • A cycling cap, as noted below, can be fitted under your helmet to keep rain off your glasses enough to see the road ahead.
  • Wear pink tinted glasses or clear ones if you have them. Visibility will be much improved in the cloudy raining weather.
  • A sandwich baggie and twist tie to cover you cycling computer - even it they say it's water proof.
  • Follow the "Safety First"and "Bike Handling" listed below.
If you know you'll be riding in the rain:
  1. Layer Your Clothing: Three layers tend to work best in winter conditions: Start with a snug base layer made from a wicking material, such as polypropylene, wool, silk, or a synthetic product such as Thinsulate. This layer will help move moisture away from your skin quickly to reduce the evaporate cooling effect that sweating has on your body. Your second layer is your insulator; it should be slightly looser than your base layer to trap air near the skin. This trapped air is warmed by your body and remains there to help keep you warm. The insulating layer can be made of a variety of materials depending on weather conditions: synthetics, wool, fleece and down all work well.

    Finally, choose an outer shell that incorporates a wind-blocking and water-resistant material. This final layer should be made of a Gore-Tex or Windstopper-type material that's both impervious to wind and exterior moisture, but still allows perspiration to escape to keep you dry. Remember, it's a lot colder in the rain.

    Consider wearing glove or glove liners under your cycling gloves. Hands tent to get cold.

  2. Use a Cycling Cap: A cycling cap under your helmet will help keep your head warm but most importantly, in a light rain, will keep your cycling glasses clear enough to see the road ahead.
  3. Use cycling glasses with clear or pink tip for better vision.
  4. Cover Your Cycling Computer: I carry a small sandwich baggie and twisty to cover my cycling computer and protect it from the rain (even if they say the computer is water proof.
  5. Cover your seat with a plastic bag.
  6. Lower the Pressure in Your Tires: >If it's wet to start, lower the pressure in your tires by about 5-10 psi to give you more traction.
  7. Be ready for punctures. Water helps to lubricate the edge of a glass shard so it’s easier for it to cut your tirse and tube. Carry an extra spare. 
Safety First:
  1. Mount a rear flashing light to use in poor visibility conditions (some individuals also use a front light). Strobe lights are the best.
  2. Assume cars will have the same visibility problem, so be cautious.
  3. Dress appropriately and wear a bright outer layer jacket.
  4. Avoid those puddles, not only to prevent skidding but who knows how deep the pot hole is below it.
Bicycle handling in the rain:
  1. Braking power: Braking power is less, keep your speed down. Brake early, release before you make the turn and keep pedaling through the corner. If you do need to brake in a turn, use only the rear lever and apply pressure evenly and release quickly. And don't stop pedaling. Lean your body more and your bike less so the bike won't slide out from under you.
  2. Tire traction is less, so slow and ease into those curves. Relax your pedaling and use small corrections. Try not to over steer.
  3. Use more of your rear brake: One of the leading causes of bike spills is over-braking the front wheel, and the issue is compounded in wet conditions. Even if you lock-up the back tire, you're much less likely to hit the deck.
  4. Shift your weight back on the saddle: In wet conditions you want to maximize rear wheel traction by shifting your weight further back in the seat. For emergency stops get out of the saddle and push your hips back over the rear wheel.
  5. Continue pedaling while braking: Continuing to pedal while braking the rear wheel will make you far less likely to lock up and skid. The pedaling keeps the tire spinning even when significant brake pressure is applied.
  6. Steer into corners: Avoid leaning into corners and focus more on turning the front wheel through the curve. This will keep the bike more upright and result in more downward force on the tires. And of course, take those corners a little slower!
  7. Watch the road: Watch for oily spots, white lines along the shoulder that might be slick, puddles that may hide pot holes. Be careful of grates and manhole cover which tend to be very slippery