If there is one thing that you can guarantee about the UK, it’s that at some point, you will get caught out in the rain when cycling. In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the things you may need to consider for cycling in poor weather, the extra gear you need, some safety tips and tips on how to prepare your bike for the winter months.
Cycling in the rain isn’t easy but it doesn’t have to be miserable if you prepare well. You certainly don’t need to shy away from cycling during the winter months. With good preparation, you can ride safely If you are reading this article then you have taken the first step on that journey towards a safe and enjoyable ride in the rain.
Things to consider
It’s always good to start with the basics and we’ve previously discussed some top cycling tips but there are some additional things to consider when you are cycling in the rain.
Ground conditions are likely to be poor meaning that you will have less grip and will need to factor in additional braking time. The ground will be slick with rain and may accumulate added debris, especially in heavier downpours. As a result, the condition of your bike becomes more important the worse conditions are. You should ensure that your bike is in good condition before you set out on your journey as standard but it is especially important when conditions are against you. It is also wise to come up with a contingency plan in the event that you suffer a mechanical fault and need to take shelter or wait for help.
You should also consider how well equipped you are to deal with the added challenges posed by adverse weather conditions. Having a plan, and having confidence in your ability to execute that plan in the event that something goes wrong is arguably the most important consideration. If you feel that the weather conditions are too poor for you to feel safe, then jump on the turbo trainer and hit the road on another day.
Extra gear you need to cycle in the rain
If you are happy to ride in the rain then there are some extra kit considerations before you jump on your bike. It’s clear that cycling in the wet is going to be more challenging. To give you the best chance of having a safe and comfortable ride, there are some extra pieces of kit that you should consider. Everyone should have their basic cycling kit as standard, but a few extra items will give you added comfort and protection when the weather turns.
When the ground is wet, you can pick up dirt and debris more easily. Fitting your bike with a mudguard won’t stop you getting drenched from falling rain but will help protect you from any muddy puddles that would otherwise cover you from your waist down.
If it’s raining hard then it’s likely to impair your visibility and the visibility of those around you. Consider wearing hi-vis and make sure that your lights are in good working order before heading out in inclement conditions. Even if the light is good when you set out, it can rapidly deteriorate in inclement weather conditions and this should be something that you are aware of when heading out for a ride. Bright colours that can easily be seen by motorists and/or reflective pads are a must.
Similarly, you may wish to consider fitting a visor to your helmet so that you don’t get distracted by rain constantly dripping down your face. The visor will act as a layer of protection as well as making the ride more enjoyable and giving you a clearer view of your surroundings.
In falling rain, your hands may become cold and that will impair your ability to operate your brakes as well as your bell. To prevent this from happening, invest in a pair of waterproof cycling gloves. Over shorter distances, you may find that you don’t need the added protection but if your hands are going to be exposed for hours at a time, cycling gloves will give you welcome relief.
If you are factoring in a stop mid-ride then it’s worth thinking about a lightweight, portable bike cover that you can quickly unroll and place over your bike. This is especially handy if you head to a cafe where there is a bike rack outside but no space for your bike in the warm, dry interior. You don’t want to come back to a bike that’s drenched and that will give you a cold, wet bottom as soon as you sit on the seat.
Once your ride is complete, don’t hang around. Get yourself dry and warmed up as soon as possible before cleaning your bike down and removing any dirt that may have accumulated. This will help you the next time you come to ride as you won’t have to deal with a dirty bike from the last time you rode.
Safety tips for cycling in rainfall
Your approach when cycling in the rain should be different from in dry conditions. You will need to factor in poor road surface conditions, or a muddy and puddle filled trail which will have an impact on the comfort of your ride. We would also err on the side of caution when it comes to planning your route, a challenging course with steep ascents and descents might be a great way to test your progress but it can quickly become treacherous in wet conditions and such challenges may be best kept for drier, summer days.
We strongly advise you to keep your bike clean, especially in winter. Check your bike over after each ride to make sure that your tyres haven’t suffered a small cut which could cause you a problem on your next ride. You should also keep all moving parts free from dirt and debris which may impair the functionality of the bike. Your bike chain is a particularly important component that should be wiped down of any dirt before having lubricant reapplied.
Talking of tyres, it may be worth substituting your summer treads for more durable winter tyres. This will reduce the chance of you picking up some debris and sustaining a dreaded puncture. Whilst punctures are no fun at the best of times, they certainly aren’t welcome when it is raining. Although winter tyres are an added cost, they make your ride a safer one and will give you added peace of mind with a more prominent tyre tread which gives you that much-needed grip.
Is your bike ready for winter?
There are so many different things to think about when you are heading out cycling that it can be a minefield knowing where to start. It is important to keep on top of bike maintenance, especially in winter, that’s not a ride-by-ride but a continuous process. You should keep a constant check that your bike is in good working order, that you have cleaned down all the key components of your bike before you even consider plotting a route and cycling off into the distance.
Once the nights begin drawing in, as they have, you should consider fixing your mudguards and changing your tyres for winter treads as soon as possible. Whilst the light may be holding for now, the clocks are due to change in the weeks ahead and nights are drawing in quickly meaning that hi-visibility clothing is now essential as well as working lights.
Once you have a plan to tackle cycling in the rain, you can head out onto the road with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are well prepared. Stay safe, stay warm and enjoy those cold winter rides!