If the recent horrendous flooding, and the 2019 UCI World Championships reminded us of anything, it was that the north of England can get some pretty relentless wet weather.
While we might long for those cold, crystal clear days of winter, by and large, we often get drab, wet conditions. Ongoing rain can also make us more reluctant to get out for a ride. So when it’s wetter than an otter’s pocket, follow these tips, get out and embrace the moisture…
A well-fitting waterproof jacket or cape, will help keep you drier and your lower back warm. Wet winter rides are also better with wet weather specific gloves, overshoes, skull caps and tights / trousers for MTB. Appropriate clothing for the weather can make the difference between enjoying a ride and enduring it, or even worse picking up a winter chill.
If you don’t have waterproof kit, then at least wrap up warm. Warm and wet, is better than cold and wet. Layer up and try to dodge the rain drops. For dismal wet days with poor visibility, wear brighter clothing and use a flashing rear light.
Glasses are not just to look cool in summer. Glasses can protect eyes from the constant breeze, which can carry allergies, grit, stones pollutants and road spray. In rural areas road spray can contain waste from farm animals which washes onto roads. Clear / yellow / rust lenses in glasses will give good protection and help your vision in the darker conditions too.
Full mudguards will keep you and your ride mates as comfortably dry (ish) as you can be in the rain. Full guards are mainly found on bikes with lots of clearance and mudguard ‘eyes’ mounted on the frame.
Ass Saver’s are a decent emergency last resort id you are riding without mudguards, but want to get home slightly cleaner. Ass Savers also fold up neatly under the saddle when not needed.
Several manufacturers make mudguards which fit a regular road bike with close clearances between the wheels and the frame and without mudguard eyes. These mudguards give winter bike levels of protection to a standard road bike.
If you want your bike to be as water prepared as possible, think about flaps. Front mudflaps will protect your feet, chainset and bottom bracket from road spray. Rear flaps protect the rider behind from getting a face full of filth. Making your own flaps from an old water bottle or fat mtb tyre can be a rewarding 10 minutes well spent!
Get proper tyres on for winter. Riding gritty roads in heavy winter rain, on thin race tyres is likely to lead to a deflating experience. Tyres with puncture protection and decent tread should reduce the likelihood of punctures. Dropping tyre pressure down a bit from the maximum recommended should provide more grip (10-15psi or so), but retain enough air to avoid pinch punctures. Tyres such as Continental Gatorskins help reduce the chances of puncturing in the rain.
MTFU (Motivate the Flip Up!)
If you are looking for motivation, remember the following;
- Skin is waterproof.
- Whats the worst that can happen?
- You won’t melt in the rain.
- Think of the hot shower afterwards.
- The first 20 minutes are the worst.
- Legendary Irish hardman, Sean Kelly, loved the rain, famously saying, “It can only go as far as your skin”
What Lies Beneath
Riding through flooding brings about its own unique problems. Firstly, it’s impossible to really know how deep the puddle / flood is. Deep puddles can knock bits off cars (usually plastic trim) when they hit them too fast. Really big puddles / floods can dislodge dry stone wall stones too. Those bits of cars / big stones lay beneath the surface and can easily knock a rider off. For smaller puddles sitting on the left of the road, check behind and pull out to avoid, there’s no point getting wet when you don’t have to.
Riding in heavy rain it is worth taking it a bit easier and if in doubt, don’t risk it. If you see somebody out canoing where you are riding, for example, then it’s probably too wet.
Better Wetter Routes
Keep safer on your ride by adjusting your route. Roads which are tight for cars / buses / bike riders are even trickier with bad visibility in the rain. If the rain turns biblical, like last winter in the UK, it is also worth avoiding areas that regularly flood, leave them for Noah and his Ark.
Additional things to look out for in the rain;
- Rainbow on the road – particularly on corners. The rainbow is spilt fuel and it’s very slippery, particularly on wet corners.
- Painted road surfaces can be super slippery – avoid crossing or riding on them if possible.
- Metal grates and covers in the road are not designed with cyclists in mind, they can be very slippery too.
- Grit and gravel washed onto the road surface can be hazardous particularly on corners.
Clean your bike
After your ride in the rain, remember to clean and lube your bike. Your bike probably didn’t want to get wet, and it got you around your ride safely, so treat it nicely – A full wash and degrease / lube will see it right for the next, hopefully drier, ride.
Get a Bad Weather Bike!
A specific winter bike is great for keeping your regular bike in pristine condition. Our Merlin Roc Disc got a great review on Bike Radar recently.