March 1, 2017

Slippery When Wet

By Charlie Hockett

While we’re still in the midst of winter weather, many of us are tempted to hang up our bikes and opt for a drier ride in a car or bus.

But whether for fun, transportation or exercise, riding a bike has positive benefits that can outweigh the perceived discomfort of riding in damp weather. While two-wheeling on a sunny day can seem more enjoyable, a few easy changes to your attire, bike, riding style and attitude can make a rainy-day ride just as fun — maybe even more!

Outfit Your Bike

Keep in mind that the biggest source of wetness isn’t water falling from above — it’s from the spinning of your tires. Visit your local bike shop and consider picking up some full fenders that cover most of your back wheel and at least the rear section of your front wheel. Mud flaps on the fenders are an added bonus to keep your feet (and your friends riding behind you) nice and dry.

Outfit Yourself

First things first — a good rain jacket is key. Consider a jacket made of a bright, reflective material that has proper ventilation like a jacket with zippers under the armpits. While a good set of fenders should keep your bottom half dry, consider waterproof pants, a rain cape and shoe covers.

Waterproof fabric tends to be windproof as well, which means you’ll sweat more than usual when riding. The best strategy to combat overheating is to ride a little more slowly to keep your heart rate down and body temperature comfortable.

Think a Step or Two Ahead

Think of the phrase, “slippery when wet.” While a wet road can feel the same as a dry one, there are situations when you need to think a step or two ahead to keep cruising comfortably.

If you ride a bike with rim brakes, your brakes need more time to generate friction on wet rims.

To combat this, use your brakes earlier than usual and apply pressure gradually. Also, watch out for surfaces like sewer access covers, thick road paint and mud, which get especially slippery in the rain and can make taking corners a little more exciting than needed.

Anyone can be a fair-weather pedaler and it takes a little more determination to ride all year-round. Keep riding and exploring and prove that a little rain can’t slow your roll.

Charlie Hockett is the Rides and Events coordinator for Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes. He strives to get more people moving on two wheels and hopes to see bicycling become mainstream in all communities. This story was originally published on Nov. 13, 2016. It was reprinted with permission.