Spring has sprung, and while the worst of winter might be behind us but there are still plenty of wet days ahead as we move towards the warmer weather. And while riding in the rain brings its safety challenges; slippery conditions, low visibility and increased traffic (is it just me or are there more cars on the road as people opt out of walking to the train station or strolling to work?), the worst part by far is the feeling of being drenched through and peeling off cold wet clothes that are probably still going to be wet when you head out on your return journey.
So let’s make cycling in the rain a more enjoyable experience and get prepared for the wet days ahead with a smile.
Waterproof as much as you can
The right kit is essential for comfort, and to be honest, if you are not thinking about the cold water drizzling down your chest or pooling into your shoes you are probably going to be better focused on the road and take fewer risks in wet weather.
You’ll need a fitted waterproof jacket that has plenty of breathability to prevent overheating – especially in spring as the weather is not as chilly and your body heat will really ramp up under multiple layers. An undergarment that wicks moisture is a spray jacket’s best friend as it helps with sweat and any rain you might suffer before the waterproofs come out.
Winter tights. If it looks like rain (or it’s already raining), avoid the summer knicks, the material is too thin to offer you any protection. Have a pair of quality winter knicks that are waterproof to help keep circulation moving through your body and especially your leg muscles. If you are wet and have air moving across your body your muscles will contract and blood will retract from the skin to help keep you warm, from an athletic point of view this is not a great result, it lowers your performance output and can lead to cramps and elevated risk of muscle soreness and injury. If you like short knicks then consider cycling leg warmers to give you an extra boost in the worst of the weather.
An unfashionable but cheap option for commuting is a pair of weatherproof pants to slide over the top of your usual cycling attire, just make sure they are well fitted for streamline travel and safety. Elastic openings at the ankles will help them get over your shoes as well if you need to make a quick rain stop (on or off)
Wet hair not only looks terrible, it also will give you chills, maybe even a cold. Wear a cap under your helmet or a weatherproof cover over your helmet to keep the rain out of the vents and prevent your head getting soaked.
It might seem like a small thing but wet hands and cold wind can make for a nasty combination. You also want to be sure you have full feeling in your hands for effective breaking and gear changes.
Okay so they are not pretty, but they are exceptional at keeping water from the road off your bum and feet. They also help visibility behind you as you diminish that giant rooster tail of spray that kicks up from your back wheel.
While you might not want to spend the money on overshoes (or cart them around with you just in case) a cheap and helpful option is waterproof socks.
They are thicker than regular socks so you will need to check the fit with your shoes before you buy.
And I don’t just mean one pair, basically, you want to have a sock draw available at work or in your gym locker. That gives you a dry pair of socks to put on straight away (heaven!) and a dry pair to cycle home in at the end of the day, plus another set ready if the same thing happens tomorrow.
Tightly wrapping your kit in a towel before your hang it up to dry will also help take the edge off the moisture – just don’t use a ‘good’ towel, the water will probably be black.
Having a spare kit at work too is a great idea as it means you don’t have to squeeze into a damp (and cold) kit later in the day.
By the same token you aren’t wearing your wet kit home, so have a stash of plastic bags to put your used kit in. Separate the really wet clothes from the semi dry ones and anything muddy.
A dehumidifier is a great hack for helping get clothes and boots dry, you’ll still need time (overnight is best) and stuffing (i.e. newspaper) to help speed the process up.
Slippery when wet
It’s not always safe to avoid trouble spots if you see them at the last minute so pay close attention to slippery road items like white lines, cattle grids, man holes and tram tracks and give yourself as much time as possible to move around them.
Punctures are also a common problem in the wet. It helps to reduce your air pressure by 10psi to dry conditions to help conquer both the slipperiness and the debris.
Cycle in the rain and stay safe
And as anyone who has ridden in the wet knows, it’s not just the water that is problematic, it’s the grit and grime that comes off the road that not only makes for a damp ride, but also a messy one.
While wearing a dark coloured kit helps reduce the look of black spray, it’s not safe. Visibility is low for drivers so make sure your spray jacket is a light colour or has reflective strips.
Speaking of visibility, clear glasses can help if you are cycling in the day time, however, most people are happy to opt for a peaked cap, that’s enough to keep the rain out of your eyes and off your face.
Lights are absolutely essential in wet conditions, even in daylight. Get them fitted front and back to be seen and stay safe on your ride.
If you want to cycle in the rain it’s possible to still look good and keep dry while staying safe when you have right kit. That’s freedom!