Let’s talk about rain
So the last couple of weeks of wall to wall sunshine has ended, the weather has broken and we have seen the return of rainy days and showers typical of a British summer, making many of us hesitate in getting on the bike, especially if it is a new found love because of lockdown.
I began to think about what impact rain has on our motivation to keep cycling, whether for pleasure or as our exercise. The good news is that with a few minor precautions and a little preparation, riding in the rain is not only possible, it can be…liberating.
Let’s consider Safety first, and in no particular order:
1. Some of the most common of mistakes relate to tyres. While a slick tyre is just as good as a treaded tyre on a bike in the wet (it’s about getting the maximum footprint), having too high a pressure will reduce the amount of rubber that makes contact with the road, hence is less grippy. You can go lower than you might think from the tyre recommendations, 80psi is typical. Secondly, tyres need to be in good condition. If they are worn or have sustained damage, then you are more prone to punctures because of gravel, sharp stones, thorns, etc being washed onto the road surface. My advice is to always take two or more spare inner tubes when riding in the rain…and as you are likely to get very cold quickly, it is better to replace a puncture rather than try to glue a repair by the roadside.
2. The next safety items are lights; make sure you have fully charged both the front and the back, that they are clean and work. It may sound condesdending, but use them….you need to be seen.
3. The third safety consideration is anticipation. When riding in the rain you need to be even more alive to situations and road conditions. You will have less grip, which means extra care is needed when cornering; brake well before entering a bend, keep smooth, do not brake in the turn and look to get the best line ahead of time; less grip means your are more likely to skid the back wheel or wash out the front. Avoid riding over manhole covers, white lines as these are extra slippy and avoid puddles as much as possible as these may hide potholes and other obstructions.
4. Fourthly, keep seated as much as you can. When you stand up, not only is your centre of gravity higher (i.e. you are less stable), your body weight is shifted forwards the front, which is more likely to result in your back wheel losing traction, especially up a steep gradient.
The second set of considerations relate to Comfort. It’s about preparation. I have ridden in rain, being both prepared and unprepared, and the latter is a miserable experience.
1. Clothing. For light summer rain a lightweight jacket is usually sufficient, choose one that is breathable to avoid overheating. For colder or more prolonged downpours a heavier jacket is recommended.
2. However it does not stop with the jacket, you should invest in overshoes and waterproof socks. These will keep your feet dry for a period, but I have never found them 100% waterproof - if you want to have that certainty, buy a pair of waterproof cycling shoes.
3. Mudguards will keep the majority of the spray from the road from splashing onto you. When considering which to buy, look at the amount of space (clearance) between the tyre and the frame/forks so that the mudguard does not rub or interfere with the wheel, and secondly look for mudguards that have Secu-Clips or comply with the European Standard EN14764; these will snap in the event of the mudguard getting caught and hence prevent locking the wheel. If mudguards are not to your liking, at least use an “ass-saver”, these attach direct to the saddle and stop spray going up your back and soaking your...you get the picture.
4. Wear long fingered gloves to keep your hands warm. If it is cold I also suggest wearing silk under-gloves, trust me, they work.
5. Keeping your head dry is important as most helmets have lots of vents. In my experience it best to wear a riding cap with a peak to keep rain out of your eyes…there are many on the market.
After the ride, your bike needs to be cleaned, preferably with a non-solvent cleaner and do not use a pressure washer, ever. Take extra time over the chain, gears, the brakes, the wheel rims and reapply lube and grease….if you do this straight after the ride it will save hours of labour later. Check the condition of the brake pads, they wear quickly in the rain and may need to be replaced at more regular intervals. If you have ridden in prolonger rain, turn the bike upside down and drain any water from the frame, deflate the tyres, pinch the tyre away from the rim, hold it horizontal and allow any water to drain away.
If you take notice of the above, then training in the rain does not have to be a chore. The good news is that the www.cycleforfitness.com training plans are self paced, so when the going gets wet, you can either wrap up with your cocoa, or be prepared and get out there !