Is it safe to ride a bike in the rain? Is cycling when it’s pouring hard good for your bike? What are you supposed to do as a cyclist when it starts raining? In this post, I answer all these questions and more. More specifically, I list down 13 actionable cycling in the rain tips so that you can banish your worries and enjoy your life on wheels more.
13 Tips to Help You Survive Biking in the Rain
Without any further ado, below are 13 practical tips for riding a bike in the rain.
1. Wait a Day or Two
It’s OK to hop on your road bike or commuter bike and head outdoors when it’s raining. But unless it started pouring when you were already out, it’s a good idea to wait for some time before venturing out.
Why wait? It’s because getting out on the road on the very first day it pours can end in disaster. Roads tend to be at their slickest on day #1 after the first downpour.
That’s mostly because there are tons of oily deposits on the asphalt. And having almost zero treads on your slick road bike tires doesn’t help the slidey situation at all.
So, wait a day. Or two. Whatever you do, avoid hitting the road when the surface is most slippery.
2. Ride a Wet Season-ready Bike
Climate change’s been going on for decades, and weather patterns are increasingly unpredictable in many parts of the world. But while you can’t always predict exactly when the oncoming rainy period sets in, you can prep for it.
Bikes don’t like rain a whole lot. Because rainwater doesn’t treat bike components with much kindness. Moisture corrodes metals such as aluminum and steel.
If you’re a beginner, I bet you have an aluminum alloy bike, and aluminum corrodes when subjected to moisture. Corrosion on metals often causes rust, and it’s not uncommon for corroded bike components to seize.
So, if prepping for a long multiday ride, make sure your bike is ready to face bad weather elements. First off, use the heaviest lube you can get on your chain as that’ll help it ward off moisture. You want to wipe down the chain dry with a clean cloth before applying the lubricant.
Another strategy to consider when weather-proofing your road bike for a wet ride is to covering your cables. One to protect bike cables is to run full cable housing. If you’re the mechanical type, you can handle this yourself. For everyone else, having a cycologist handle the process would be best. Learn how to talk like a real road cyclist.
4. Use More Suitable Bike Tires
The bike tire market offers all sorts of road bike tires and MTB tires. Learn how to choose the right tire for your bike.
When it comes to riding a bike in the rain or on wet roads, you want to have the right tire rolling underneath you. The best tires for the job are relatively wide winter tires.
Road tires are typically thin and fast, but that’s because they don’t have much tread. Thin slick tires aren’t what you want when the going gets wet and slippery.
You want wider tires with a bit of traction. If you don’t already own a set of rainy weather tires, think about it. They cost money, but if they can save you from a potential concussion or a cracked skull, get them.
Another reason to get a winter weather wheelset is that good winter-weather road bike tires tend to last longer than regular ones.
5. Deflate Your Bike’s Tire a Little
When it’s all sunny and bright outside and the roads are dry and grippy, you need tires with lots of air pressure. But when the weather gets nasty and it’s easy to slide out and crash, you want less air in those tires.
We agreed you need wider tires, but if they are wider and have less air pressure, that’s even better — and safer. Rei.com recommends deflating the tires by 10psi-15psi.
Running lower air pressure in a bike’s tires helps make them grippier. How does that happen? When you sit on a bike with low-pressure tires, the weight causes the tire to spread out at the bottom. As a result, more of the tire gets into contact with the road. Having a larger surface area of the tire on the road naturally means increased friction/traction. And greater traction is something you want when rolling on wet, slick roads.
So, check your road tires and if they have too much air inside, let some of it out.
6. Time to Use Your Waterproof Bike Bags
There’s no better time to put your bike bags to work than when it’s snowing or raining. But they need to be waterproof or water will get in and damage your stuff. You don’t want any water coming close to your lovely iPhone, right? So, put your supplies and snack in dry pockets in your waterproof backpack, frame bag, or pannier.
What if you don’t have a waterproof bike bag? Don’t worry. Toss the stuff you need for your road trip into some trash compact bag and tie the top nice and securely. That’s creativity at work here, and your items will thank you later for it.
7. Find Ways to Keep Water Out of Your Feet
How do you ride a bike in the rain without the water getting into your shoes and making your feet cold?
One way to keep the water out of your feet is to wear plastic bags over your socks. So, get into these little watertight bags, and if you wear tights when cycling, put them on and pull them all the way down until they’re well over the plastic bags.
At that point, slide into your biking shoes and you’re good. Even better, use overshoes to protect your bike shoes while further waterproofing your shoes.
Good overshoes let you use your cleats without a problem. They cover the front part of your road bike shoes, completely blocking the vents. Blocking air vents shuts out water and chilly air out so that your toes can stay toasty throughout the commute.
You need covers that don’t make using your cleats difficult. You need something like the toe cover in the toe cover below.
The good news is that you can find cheap waterproof bike toe covers that work just fine. I recommend (affiliate link. I earn commissions from qualifying sales at no extra cost to you) the CXWXC Cold Weather Cycling Shoe Covers. Amazon carries these shoe covers for under $15 as of this post’s date. These aren’t the easiest to put on and remove, but they sure do the job.
Another strategy to keep your feet dry while on the road is to wear Seal Skinz socks. Seal Skinz socks have a great reputation for keeping water out of the feet when you’re out cycling.
8. Ride With a Cycling Cap
Wear a good cycling cap under your bike helmet. It helps you keep rain sprays out of your eyes so you can stay focused on the road ahead.
If you have an aero road bike helmet on your head and it’s raining, you can do without a rain cap. This helmet typically features fewer air vents than regular lids.
A cycling cap blocks cold windy air coming at your head so your head can stay nice and warm over the entire wet road trip.
9. Bundle Up
If it’s raining or snowing, be sure to bundle up correctly. Avoid synthetic base players if you can. Synthetic base layers aren’t great at temperature regulation, plus they’re known to smell not so nice sometimes. Use some neck gaiter to keep the weather elements out of your neck if it’s chilly.
Put on good cycling gloves on your hands, too. You need waterproof gloves that keep your hands and fingers warm. But the gloves shouldn’t be too dense that you can’t use the brakes or shift gears properly. The best riding-in-the-rain cycling gloves I know are made out of neoprene. This material is the sweet spot between warmth generation and unhindered dexterity.
But while layering helps keep water out of your body, it should be breathable enough. Otherwise, you’ll have sweat trapped in and that’s not something anyone wants.
10. Stay Out of Trouble
Whenever possible, avoid biking right through puddles especially if you’re not familiar with the road. It could be some uncovered manhole underneath. And the last thing you want to do is roll over such a gap.
When you approach hazardous (slick) road features such as rails, dismount or ride more carefully. And of course, you want to be wearing the safest road bike helmet ever… just in case.
11. Turn the Lights On Even During the Day
When it rains, drivers struggle to see what’s ahead of their vehicles. The windshield fogs up and the rear-view mirrors are less reliable. Reduced vision is probably the main reason road accidents spike in misty, rainy weather.
If drivers hit cyclists when the sky is blue and bright, what do you think happens when the weather gets all rainy or wintry and foggy?
Motorists can’t see cyclists clearly, especially cyclists who ride without good road safety lights and cycling clothes without reflective features. To stay safe on wet, foggy roads, it’s best to ride with your front and rear LED lights on even during the daytime.
And if cycling at nighttime, you’ll want to be even more careful. You’ll want to have lights that meet all the legal nighttime biking requirements, of course.
But while at it, why not use LED lights that flash and highly reflective wet-weather cycling jacket and shoes as you pedal? That’s definitely the best way to make sure that every driver can spot you early and drive more safely.
Be sure your rechargeable bike lights are good to go before you get on the road. But how do you make sure your rechargeable lights won’t die on you before you reach your destination? You can easily instruct your smartphone to remind you to plug them in before you hit the sacks.
12. Keep an Emergency Change of Clothes at Work
We all pack nice warm clothes to change into once we arrive at work. But if you’re anything the average person with a million cares on their mind at any one time, forgetting to carry socks or even a clean shirt isn’t uncommon.
To make sure you have clean clothes for when you forget to bring something, consider keep a complete change of clothes at your work. That’s the most reliable strategy of making sure you won’t miss any important engagements with your office mates.
13. Cover the Saddle — It’s Raining and Foggy
It’s possible you leave your bike outside at work even when it’s raining. How do you prevent rainwater from wetting your saddle? It helps if you have the best and most comfy waterproof memory foam bike saddle. But even waterproof saddles get wet on the outside.
One way to keep rainwater and snow out of your saddle is to use a good bike saddle rain cover. Saddle rain covers can be had on the cheap for as little as $7. What I use and like is the black Kulannder Waterproof Bike Saddle Rain Cover. It’s cheap, fits the seat well, and does a great job of keeping the saddle dry.
Did I hear you say you don’t have a bike saddle rain cover? No problem, you can always convert your shower cap into a nice little bike seat cover.
If you’re a guy, you can always slide a plastic grocery bag over the saddle and use some rubber bands to tie up the end underneath the seat.
What to Do Once You Get Back Home
Go to the bathroom and give that body a nice clean. Then, make yourself a hot coffee, sit down, relax. But don’t turn the TV on, yet, there’s a little work to do.
Give your faithful road bike a nice wipedown as an expression of gratitude for its reliability. Get all that dirt, mud, and grime your tires and other components collected on your ride off your bike.
That’s where your sport top water bottle comes in. Grab it and give the sports with road grit a couple of quick bursts. Once you’re back home, wipe the chain dry and give it a squirt of lube to keep it working smoothly and prolong its longevity.
And every once in a while, give your bike a deep clean.