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Your bike in the rain

by Richard Masoner

I’ve heard people express concern about their bikes in the rain. As long as you keep up with some simple, basic maintenance, your bike should be just fine. Here are the simple things to keep your bike running well through wet weather.

  • Fenders and mudflaps not only keep wet and dirt off of your body, they help keep it off of the moving and vulnerable parts of your bicycle. In my opinion, this may be the best preventative maintenance you can do on your bike.
  • Frames are resistant or even impervious to corrosion. Even steel frames generally don’t need any special treatment in my experience. If you’re concerned, you can spray Frame Saver inside the frame as suggested by nippleworks. Some people drill drain holes at the bottom of the bottom bracket shell on their steel bikes. YMMV.
  • Chains and gears can be prematurely worn by grit and sand that’s thrown up, especially if you don’t have fenders and chainguards. To extend the life of your chain, chainring, cogs and external gearing, wash or wipe the parts after a wet weather ride and lubricate.
  • Headsets and bottom brackets are best protected by a front fender. Although bottom brackets are all sealed cartridge these days, constant exposure to rain can still shorten the life of his component. It’s a good idea to disassemble and clean out these components after the rainy season is over.
  • Brake pads can have grit embedded in them, which will shorten the life of your rims if you don’t use disk brakes. Wipe them off along with the braking surface when you clean your other components.

Your bike will work just fine after a ride in the rain, but to extend the life of the parts it’s a good idea to clean these things off.

 
Burley nomad 269

25 Responses to “Your bike in the rain”

  1. Great post and timely. Useful enough to bookmark.

  2. Stuart M. says:

    I’ve noticed some of the smaller nuts and cable entry sleeves on my German bike are prone to rust. After riding in the rain, I always dry off the bike with a towel I have just for that purpose in the garage. Here in Japan cheap bikes from China are popular and all it takes is about one year for those to sprout rust on all the chrome parts and sometimes the frame, too. But for $100, what does one expect?

  3. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    Riding in a road bike with taped bars makes it hard to dry under the tape. After seeing how bad my bars corroded, I saw a road bike with a plastic bag over them. Just make sure it does not cover any headlights.

  4. I am a new cyclist and a 2-3 day-a-week commuter (22 miles each way), but I avoid the rain like it was acid falling from the sky.

    This is a fantastic post about bike maintenance in the face of rain. Can you provide any advice on bike safety in rain scenarios?

    Thanks – Joe.

  5. jason (sd) says:

    Joe
    Flashing lights, front and rear are not a bad idea in any weather. I fell not too long ago on wet blacktop, as I was trying to turn short and it was slipperier than I expected. Break parts can also lose their grip when wet. So use them early or even when you don’t have to. To heat them up and dry then out a little.
    Riding in the rain is under rated.

  6. Quinn says:

    Full Fenders
    I used frenders for the first time last winter, I loved the result except for 1 thing, on my main rig I had clip-on frenders, rear triangle stayed clean however the BB gunked up constantly.

    waxing (car wax)
    I also tried this for the first time last year and it did make a big difference!

    Kool Stop Eagle II brake pads
    have a Built-in “blade” to wipe the crud off the rim, before the crud hit the main pad, Best pads I’ve used in my 12 years of riding!

  7. JiMCi says:

    There is a law faucet a few yards from the entrance door at my workplace. I attached a short piece of hose to it and use it to rinse my bike before taking it into the building. Same thing when I ride back home. It reduces maintenance because all the grit and dirt is removed before it sticks to the bike when it dries. I keep a bottle of chain lube at work, to be sure I don’t ride back home with a dry sqeaky chain.

  8. Xiousgeonz says:

    … or invest in drum brakes or disk brakes, which are lots better in slop.
    Clean and lubricate… I’ll get a chance try to remember later this week.
    It’s a minor revelation to discover that horrible indignities don’t happen the instant dampness descends. It helps to have care-free car-free hair and face, of course.

  9. ohio biker says:

    About safety in rain ….

    Any painted road markings tend to be even
    more slippery in rain, than any other part
    of the road. Any metal such as manhole
    covers or drain gratings also have the
    potential to be especially slippery when
    wet. Railroad tracks also fall into this
    category. It might make sense in the rain,
    to ride as if you were riding on ice. Avoid
    sudden moves or turns or heavy braking or
    high acceleration. Naturally to avoid heavy
    braking means slowing down well in advance
    of the point where you really need to stop.
    To avoid sudden moves, means riding far more
    carefully with lots more thinking-ahead than
    you might normally employ or need.

    Note, except when nearing stops, riding
    carefully does not necessarily mean riding
    more slowly, although depending on route
    conditions, more slowly may make sense.

    If on long descents, applying brakes slightly,
    even if not needed to slow you down, can help
    ensure that when you DO need to stop, you will
    be able to do so. Applying brakes before
    needed, can help clean water off of the
    parts involved, to help them work more
    effectively when used in earnest.

    Depending on your seat material, it might
    become squishy when wet. If so, keep the
    seat covered with a plastic bag, when not
    riding, to avoid the distraction and
    potential discomfort of a squishy seat.
    Any distractions, can adversely affect your
    safety, so try to avoid distractions when
    riding in the rain.

    Potholes can fill with water, and become
    effectively invisible. On rides you are
    familiar with, this might not be a problem.
    If you are going on an unfamiliar route,
    try to avoid puddles, due to the potential
    hazards they may hide.

    Active illumination to help ensure you are
    seen, cannot be over-emphasized. Help ensure
    you are visible, so be sure to use plenty
    of active illumination when riding in rain.
    Use Active illumination in rain.

  10. ohio biker says:

    one more thing … about safety in adverse weather
    Riding in adverse weather can be more exhausting
    than riding in good weather. Physical exhaustion
    can reduce your IQ by 10-20 points or more.
    Be aware of this and employ extra caution when
    riding with exhaustion. If you normally look twice,
    then when exhausted, consider looking three times.

    (Just my guesstimate from having observed myself
    when riding with exhaustion, … your mileage
    may vary)

  11. Fritz says:

    Thanks for the additional thoughts and tips, all. It’s all good info.

    Ohio: A few years ago I was riding my bike across a water covered parking lot when I hit a hidden pothole at about 15 mph. That one hurt.

  12. BadBart says:

    Along with the comments about paint and metal on the road, this time of year be doubly on the lookout for leaves on the road. Wet leaves give you more or less zero traction, and can cover a world of unpleasant road hazards (potholes, sticks, trash, etc.)

  13. Logan says:

    Avoid leaf piles also. This is even more crucial in the rain.

    The leaf piles are slippery and can hide hazards. I was forced into a small leaf pile this morning and found a limb the size of my arm. Luckily my tire size allowed me to continue over it. If I would have been on my road bike I would have been asphalt surfing. Careful out there folks!

    Cheers!

  14. Greasemonkey says:

    My only accidents in the rain have come from trying to turn roads covered in wet leaves… these things aren’t just slippery, they are downright slimy. Banking for any turns is a bad idea, so I slow it down and do a more upright turn, trying to make sure my wheels are as perpendicular to the ground as possible. I HATE skidding on my side:)

  15. Michelle says:

    Wet leaves can be as slippery as ice – even after a rain. My brother has surgery yesterday to repair a fractured wrist after hitting a slippery pile of leaves and 20 years ago one of my students was killed after she skidded on a pile and slid under a car.

  16. Thank you all for your many responses to my request. All of them have been insightful and useful. It is supposed to rain before I head home today, so I will venture on my first raining commute in a few hours and I will take everything said into consideration.

    - Joe.

  17. Quinn says:

    with all this leaf talk I have to wonder, what kind of tires you guys are riding and about your riding/braking technique I mean I grew up mountain biking in Virginia, and riding every day in Nevada, sure I slipped in the trees and mud in Va. but even with the lack of leaves in NV, therefore the lack of practice riding on/around them, in the past 3 autumns ii have not fallen once.

  18. I am riding a road bike with little to no tread on the tires. I would assume this makes me more susceptible to spills due to leaves than if I were riding a knobby-tired mountain bike.

  19. ohio biker says:

    Joe supposes that a road bike with little tread
    may be more susceptible to spills on wet leaves.

    It depends. If the leaves are few and far
    between enough, that the knobby MTB tire
    can still manage to grab non-leafed surface,
    then the knobby MTB tire may slip less.

    If the leaves are plentiful enough that no
    road surface shows at all, there will be little to no
    advantage to knobby MTB over road bike tire.

    Although I’ve ridden both, I must admit that
    I don’t remember any leafy incidents with
    either, and I’ve made no objective scientific
    study to support my claims in this matter.

  20. Bob O says:

    It helps to keep your rims really clean when trying to stop in the rain, I use mineral spirits on a clean rag, stopping is not so afeected by water if the gunk is gone.

  21. Gordon says:

    The thing that worries me the most about riding in the rain is reduced visibility to motorists. Especially after dark, motorists are fighting glare from wet surfaces, and foggy windows. So even more so than other times, never assume motorists see you.

    The worst rain-related bike crash I ever had was in a light drizzle, going around a corner near some construction. There was a layer of dust from the construction, and not enough rain to wash it away. It was so slippery that it didn’t really hurt to hit the ground — I just kept sliding!

  22. Quinn says:

    Gordon,

    to make sure motoists see you, Turn On your blinky, and headlight, Also in my experience, the worse the weather you ride in, the crazier motorist think you are, the wider the path they drive around you.

  23. LoneRider says:

    I must second that. This winter what I remember most was the people thinking I was daft. I had one person come up to me when I stopped for coffee say “I was behind you on the bridge into town, how do you do that in the snow?”

    I used to get that one summer when I worked in the post office, and rode in to work on my bike in heavy rain. The mailman in the truck recognized me and thought I was nuts.

    Lately I must confess I’m lazy and dislike foul weather riding, but I am trying to get back into the all weahter spirit; even built up a second commuter bike, this one with two fenders…

  24. William says:

    Very useful, concise information.

    Like motor vehicles, I think there can be a tendency to become over-attached to a bike. It stops becoming an object for community and starts dictating when and where you ride, due to things like road conditions and of course, the inclement weather. This happened to me because I bought a used, but good, mountain bike. It was a light as a feather and had suspension forks at the front. I wouldn’t take it out even in light rain, but in a country like the UK that made me stop and realize the impossible. You simply can’t lead your life around a bike; it will get wet, often soaking. Just clean it when you get home, then lube it. If you’re that worried you can’t face taking it out in bad weather then get two bikes: one for good weather and one you only have to care about in terms of rider safety. Get the right size and parts for both, however. Just remember.. everything including even the best bikes eventually break :)

  25. Bill says:

    Wax your bike!!! The frame the chrome the nuts and bolts. Of course don’t wax anything you grab sit or put your feet on. It will make it slippery. Do it every time you clean your bike for the first while then you can do it periodically. Your bike will look better last longer and have a higher resale value. Don’t use a fancy wax or a synthetic just use the cheap original turtle wax stuff, it’ll work fine.

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