by: Steve Thomas
Note: This article was written before the outbreak of COVID-19. Now, more than ever, it is important to exercise caution when riding to avoid potential accidents (and additional strain to an already overwhelmed medical system). If you don’t feel like you can ride safely outside, it’s probably best to stay home for now. However, you can still lean some theory and put it into action when things have normalized more.
If you’re up for the challenge of riding in the rain, here’s a look at ways to make the whole experience safer and maybe, just maybe, enjoyable.
The right ride for the rain
Before you head out in the wet, try to make sure you’ll be facing a reasonable amount of precipitation. If you’re not comfortable with the weather and you have to ride, hit the trainer.
If you have the skills and are ready to cruise in heavy rain, have a clear focus on the road. Try warming up at home first. Then keep your ride short and sharp – make it count. Try not to stop, a break can lead to chills, which will surely dampen enthusiasm.
Dressing for the conditions
Wearing a casquette is great for sheltering your eyes from the spray and rain. You should also put on well-ventilated eyewear with clear or light-enhancing lenses. Glasses will steam up, so remove them on the climbs. While there are gels and anti-fog sprays, their effectiveness is limited when you’re riding into the rain and sweating.
In warmer temperatures, keep your clothing as light-weight and ventilated as possible. For light showers, a gilet might be all you need. As for colder rides in the wet, your choice of layers depends on how long you will ride, the actual temperature and how much you sweat. If it’s really cold, then a well-ventilated waterproof jacket is the thing. Waterproof overshoes do a good job of keeping your feet warm and dry. Sometimes, water can get into your shoes through the cleat holes. To manage this issue, you can try sealing things with a silicone sealant or by simply wearing waterproof socks.
Mind the splatter
During a soggy spring, full fenders (or even clip-ons) are a wise addition. The spray and grit from the road is far worse than the rain itself. Fenders will keep your shorts and feet drier for longer. They’ll keep the road spray out of your eyes and mouth, as well as the eyes and mouths of others in your groups.
Rolling and stopping
With rim brakes, wheels with aluminum rims perform better in the rain than carbon-fibre models. Also, deep-section carbon rims can take on water, which is annoying. If you just have carbon hoops, be sure to factor 25 to 50 per cent of extra braking distance on the road. Keep your braking gentle. Favour the rear, and feather the brakes to clear water from the rims.
Water affects the stopping power of disc brakes, too, but not nearly as much as rim brakes. The rotors may squeal, but the better control is worth it.
Do all of your braking well before any corners. Do not brake on slippery patches or in a corner itself.
Tires and air pressure are crucial to wet-weather performance. The current trend toward wider rubber – 25-28 mm – is definitely good for wet conditions. Let out a little air pressure for improved traction.