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Biking in the rain safely

by Richard Masoner

I covered equipment and rain the other day and several people provided very helpful comments on biking safety in the rain. Here’s my contribution to the discussion.

  • Visibility is paramount! I’m not normally a safety ninny, but consider what you can and can’t see when you’re in a car with the windows fogged up and the wiper blades leaving streaks of bug juice across the windshield. I normally run with lights on in the rain. Consider also high visibility jackets.
  • Braking may take longer than usual. Wet braking surfaces take longer to slow you, and you generally want to avoid sudden stops on wet roads. Test your brakes before you have to stop to dry the braking surfaces and brake pads.
  • Avoid puddles. They may hide hazards such as deep potholes, bricks, alligators, etc. On the other hand, if you don’t care about your bottom bracket too much flooded streets are a ton of fun to ride through :-)
  • Pavement markings can be very slippery in the rain. Ditto (especially so) for anything metal: manhole covers, rail crossings, drain covers.
  • A small towel is handy. Like Ford Prefect, I know where my towel is. I keep a small hand towel in an easily accessible pocket to wipe the mist from my eyeglasses so I can see where I’m going.

Besides the excellent contributions some of you already left what are some other safety considerations for riding in the rain?

 
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13 Responses to “Biking in the rain safely”

  1. john says:

    needs more talk of fenders

  2. Andy says:

    Points for the Ford Prefect reference, Fritz. Well done.

    a

  3. Fritz says:

    Have I mentioned that I met Douglas Adams about a month before his death? He was a funny guy.

  4. Paul says:

    As a Seattlite, let me add a few things.

    Lights – yes, absolutely necessary.

    Wear wool, it really is the best material.

    Laminated waterproof fabrics work well if you ride slow enough where you’re not moving at a aerobic pace, or it’s cold enough (35 F or below for me). Otherwise you just turn into a sauna.

    Fenders are a near necessity. Full fenders, not those silly clip on things or blades.

    Slow down! I generally ride 2 – 3 mph slower when it’s wet and/or raining. Between the lessened braking power, debris, puddles, slippery surfaces (metal, painted road markings, leaves, etc.). A couple of good falls will teach you that, but better to just avoid it.

    Booties if you are riding in the rain for more than half an hour.

  5. Roger says:

    Mostly harmless.

  6. ethan says:

    I’m on board with everything mentioned in your article. I also want to second Paul’s “Slow down!” remark.

  7. Dave says:

    I am from Wisconsin but I had to pass on a tip I learned for cold weather. My toes would get very cold regardless of what I was had on. I the hunting section of a the local hardware store they had chemical toe warmers. I tried them and the worked great. They sell for about $1 for two and last 6 hours.

  8. Phil says:

    “I’m not normally a safety ninny…”

    If not a safety ninny, then what? Insurance statistic? Practice safe/visible riding all the time, no matter what the weather.

  9. Fritz says:

    You’re a riot, Phil. Thanks for the encouraging word.

  10. Phil says:

    Riot on, Fritz… I’m most definitely a safety ninny. We’ve lost a couple of cyclists in our region recently and the issue of safety is very much appreciated. Thanks for bringing up this topic. :-)

  11. Fritz says:

    Did the cyclists lose their lives because they rode unsafely?

    I’m coming from the perspective the cycling is generally safe as long as you don’t ride like an idiot (e.g. wrong way, blowing through red lights). There are certainly reasonable steps we can take to manage the risks and policy changes we should push for, but I also believe in the long term that drivers should be trained to watch for cyclists no matter what we’re wearing.

    Cycling in darkness and rain is significantly more dangerous than riding in clear daylight conditions, hence we should take more care.

    I’m a generally risk averse person, but I try not to get too uptight about people who don’t hew to my standards of safety. I used to do that and I was a real drag at parties. These days I’m a drag because I just go on in monotone about the 700 cyclist deaths per year in the United States.

  12. Phil says:

    Car driver education is very important. However, there will always be impaired drivers (and cyclists, for that matter). We lost over 6 in 2007 and two to three in 2008 so far. Most of the cyclists were wearing reflective gear at minimum. Most of the deaths were in early morning hours. The last two I mentioned were both professionals in their 40′s. One had reflectors and lights. The other I’m not sure of. One driver was drunk and hit the guy with lights and reflectors. I still don’t know why the other driver drifted into the other lane and hit the cyclist from behind (cyclist heading against flow of traffic on dark streets in early morning hour).

    I’m often the butt of bad jokes when I’m in my high vis clothes and have my lights on. The usual bad joke is “Gee, I didn’t see you!” Well, if that’s their joke, I guess I stand out – and all the better when I’m on the road. :-)

    Meanwhile, I’m looking at snow and rain this weekend. WooHoo! Should be fun to get out and get wet/snowy for the first time this season…

  13. michael says:

    How do you treat the bike after riding in the rain. Just wipe it off and oil the chain and pivot points on brakes, derailers, and shifters?
    Also, for a road bike, what do you do when the tape on the bars get soaked? Can they just air dry?

    Michael

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