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Keep Your New Year's Vows: Tips for Rainy Day Bike Riding

Here we are at the New Year and it’s raining. Raining like it hasn’t for a couple of years in drought-stricken California, so we tapped a few folks who ride all year long in regions that generally see WAY more inclement weather than California.

You have your resolutions to maintain, at least for the next few months. So, for everyone who made that ill-advised vow at New Years to consistently ride more, rain or shine, here are some ideas for keeping the rain riding part of that vow.

IMG_2861: Guadalupe River Trail through downtown San Jose
Bicyclists, stay safe during the rain: The Guadalupe River through San Jose overflowed its banks onto the popular bike trail next to it

Equipment for your bike

Get fenders. Why? Because they keep water from splashing “off the tires and onto your body,” said Trevor Strohman. You can find fenders or mud guards, of course, online as aftermarket items if your bike didn’t come equipped with them. Or you can walk into your nearest local bike shop and spend your dollars locally.

Trevor Heald echoes Strolman’s advice, and suggests that mudguards and fenders with long flaps are essential “…because the front one keeps your feet and legs out of the wet. The back keeps your bum dry and rain out of the faces of those following you.” A particularly good idea when you are on a training ride or commuting with your peeps.

Aleksey Malyshev’s rain riding tip is to look for tires designed for rainy conditions.

Generally, tire companies recommend wider tires with just a shallow tread or slick tires; these offer more surface to make contact with the road, aiding stability to wet conditions. This VeloNews article breaks down some of the information regarding bike tires in wet conditions.

Then there are lights, Dominic Ball’s number one recommendation if only for the simple fact that, “Lights help you be seen.” In fact, it’s a good idea to have lights available whenever you ride. I would add that with all the distracted driving and driverless cars, you’re not making a bad choice to light you and your bike like a Christmas tree.

Equipment for you -- Staying Dry

As far as keeping yourself dry and warm while riding, dress in layers. That is, wear a base layer that wicks away sweat, then a warm fleecy layer, then a water-proof layer on top.

There are many types of waterproof jackets on the market that are specific to cycling.

What makes a cycling-specific rain jacket? They are usually constructed with ventilation and sealed seams so water doesn’t seep in as you ride.

Look for jackets in which “…the collar will be snug, otherwise rain will get in through the collar and soak your shirt,” advises Ball.

Obviously, wet and cold extremities can make for a miserable commute or ride. Ball also recommends shoe covers, since your shoes will get “sprayed by road water, so if they are not covered, your shoes and socks will get wet and cold.”

Waterproof gloves are also a must and are key to comfortable hands while riding. In December, we featured the Sugoi waterproof Zap Subzero gloves. Some full-fingered cycling gloves have silicone grips on the palms to give you better grip in wet conditions.

Also, check out shoe covers for keeping your feet toasty in wet conditions.

Handlebar pogies keep your hands dry and allow access to the brakes and shifters

Another way to keep your hands comfortable and dry is with Pogies or bar mitts, recommends Heald. He describes them as “big neoprene gloves that attach semi-permanently to your handlebars and you stick your hands inside them.”

These look a little bulky on the handlebars, but according to icebike.org, they attach to the handlebars and you can either use them with gloves if it is really cold; if it is just wet, but not super cold, you fit your gloveless hands inside and can use the brakes and shifters as you usually would.

When checking out shoe covers, you have to check the compatibility with the bicycling shoes you wear, particularly if you ride with clipless pedals. Several companies make these -- check to see which ones fit your shoes.

There are also waterproof socks, if you would rather wear something on the inside of your shoes instead of on the outside.

Or, you can go like one of my writers -- he uses two plastic produce bags and wraps them around his feet before he steps into his toe clips.

A cap that fits under your helmet is also useful for for keeping your head warm and dry.

If you do decide you like commuting or training in the rain, one more item to consider for your rain kit is waterproof pants. For the obvious reason of being waterproof, these are a good investment if you’re doing a lot of wet weather riding.

Rainy Day Advice

Finally, a little common wisdom from Christopher Jones, “I’ll just mention being bulletproof with your repair game. Have one or two tubes and the fixings to repair a tire puncture.” Also, carry a “topped up cell phone battery and money, because being stranded is a big fail when it’s cold and wet.”

Strolman also has a final suggestion, “Be sure to rinse the pads on your helmet. If you’ve used your helmet all summer without washing it, the pads will have salt in them from your sweat. In the rain, the salt will come out of them and drip into your eyes. It’s very painful.”

Now you know what you need to fulfill those New Year’s vows.

So there you have it: Wet weather riding advice from experienced cyclists.

What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

Here’s to hours of happy riding in 2017!




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