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Tips for Biking in the Rain

Inclement weather, especially rain, can be rough both on you and your bike. Moisture can corrode components, causing them to rust or seize. Here in Colorado, because of our diverse elevation and climate, the weather can be unpredictable and change on a dime. With some simple preparation, a little knowledge, and all the right gear, you and your bike can be ready for all weather conditions. Christy Sports Bike Rentals is here to help with some handy tips below for being prepared if caught while riding in the rain.

Tips for Biking in the Rain

Before You Go – Preparation is Key

The key to cycling in any weather condition, especially here in Colorado, is to prepare yourself and your bike ahead of time. Here are some things to consider before you go:

  1. Weatherproof Your Ride

To prepare for rain while riding, start by lubricating your bike parts properly. Use a heavier lube on your chain to keep moisture out – make sure to apply it when the chain is completely dry. Protect your cables even more by running full cable housing. You can do this yourself if you feel confident or stop by one of our Christy Sports bike rental locations and have our professional bike techs do it for you.Prepare your bike for inclement weather.

Adding a few extra gear items will also make a world of difference to your riding comfort, including fenders and wider tires. Fenders are a must to both protect your bike and to keep nasty water and debris from splattering your clothes. Wider winter tires add much needed traction on slick wet roads, and their extra durability helps protect against potential punctures.

TIP:  Decreasing tire pressure a bit also increases traction.

  1. Prep Your Pack

Waterproof panniers (side bags/saddlebags for storing gear while biking), frame bags, and backpacks are all great options for protecting gear from the elements. You can also make your pack waterproof by lining it with a trash bag. Simply make sure you secure the top of the bag to keep moisture out.

TIP:  Backpacks can also provide a surprising amount of additional warmth for your back.

  1. Protect Your Fingers, Toes, and Head

It is extremely important to keep your hands and feet warm and dry in cold, wet weather. Insulated, full-fingered water and wind resistant gloves (a gel biking glove is recommended) and waterproof shoes or booties will keep fingers and toes toasty and dexterous. If you’re going to be riding for more than two hours, it’s a good idea to pack an extra pair of gloves in a plastic zip loc bag to swap out. Cover your shoes with lightweight neoprene shoe covers or booties to insulate them should they get soaked. Wearing merino or smart wool micro socks will help keep feet dry as well. Helmet covers are also recommended to keep your head dry in a rainstorm.

  1. Bring on the Layers

As with any outdoor activity in Colorado – no matter what time of year – dressing in layers is key. For cycling, this is even more important since you are on the road. The wetter you get, the colder you are going to be, so keep your core warm! Soft merino wool base layers help regulate your temperature even if you get wet, and unlike synthetics, the natural fibers resist smelling funky. Always pack a waterproof vest or jacket, and a neck gaiter to protect your neck and chin from wind and rain.

TIP:  Always remember to factor in temperature when choosing layers – you don’t want to end up soaked from the inside out because you didn’t wear breathable rain gear. Your body sweats rain or shine, so your rain gear and base layers must be able to breathe. Gore-Tex fabrics or ventilated outer layers are highly recommended.

  1. Proper Eyewear – To See or Not to See

Staying aware of your surroundings while riding is critical, but it can be difficult with rain flying in your face. In low light, clear or yellow lensed biking glasses are highly recommended. When riding in the rain, regular sunglasses cut out too much light, making road obstacles difficult to see.

Using an anti-fog product such as Rain-X will also help keep glasses from fogging over. However, biking glasses can also become a hinderance when rain droplets start falling on the lenses. This is just as bad as not wearing glasses at all. Try wearing a brimmed cap underneath your helmet or add an extended visor to your helmet for more coverage. Whether you wear glasses or not, these tips will help keep vision clearer.

While on the Road – Safety is Key

Now that you are prepped and packed, consider these tips while on the road:

  1. Ride Smart

    Road biking

The friendly roads, bike paths, or off-road trails you’re used to riding on beautiful sunny days might not be so welcoming when the weather takes a turn. Whether you are riding in town on city streets, out for a leisurely ride along a bike path, or hitting back country mountain bike trails, rain can quickly transform any terrain into a slippery hazard. Road surfaces are the slickest and most dangerous just after the rain begins. Iridescent oil patches (rainbow-edged spots) in the road from motor vehicles lurk where you least expect them. Deep puddles can disguise wheel-snagging obstacles, and dirt trails soften and become mud, often creating deceiving sink holes with tree stumps and debris. Always be extra cautious and aware of your surroundings, particularly when cornering and riding unfamiliar streets or trails. Allow yourself twice as much breaking time as usual and keep an eye out for such obstacles as manhole covers, steel-grid bridge decks, or wet leaves, mud and other debris. All these become extremely slick when wet.

TIP:  When cornering in the rain, shift as much of your weight on the outside pedal as possible. To keep your bike upright, lean your body more than the bike. By doing this, you will be able to corner with a reasonable amount of speed, your body tending to remain balanced over the bike should your tires hit a slippery patch.

  1. Watch Those Brake Pads

A mix of road grit and water is the fastest way to erode rubber brake pads. Pads that last a full season in dry weather will run metal to metal on the rims in a month of consistent riding in wet weather. Most rims also require a full revolution before the brake pads squeegee the water from the braking surface and are able to brake properly again. Cycling your tires by hand through at least one full revolution after a ride in the rain will certainly help save your brake pads.

TIP:  Again, plan ahead while riding and brake early.

  1. Be Seen – Light it Up

It’s important to be as visible as possible when cycling during bad weather – let everyone know you are there! Keep front and rear lights on, and reflectors clear of dirt any time you are riding. Heavy rain and glare from motor vehicle headlights reduce motorists’ vision, so it’s a good idea to ride with a bright LED lamp on the seat post and handle bar. LED lights are relatively inexpensive and work reasonably well. A good rechargeable lighting system will also provide more light than LEDs – something to consider if you are riding during early morning hours or evening. If you do use rechargeable lights, don’t forget to charge them overnight prior to your ride so you won’t run out of battery life in the middle of your route.

If you choose to ride with only one light, a flashing red LED rear lamp is highly recommended for stormy cycling. Again, these LEDs are also inexpensive and most have clips to attach them to your bike, backpack, or helmet. For bike lighting and accessories, Christy Sports can help you chose the right light for your ride.

  1. Two Choices: Ride it Out or Wait it Out

Sunset biking When a severe storm hits while cycling, you have only two choices – ride it out or wait it out. If a little rain and getting wet is the only threat, and you choose to ride it out, then simply keep moving. This will keep the blood flowing and keep you warm. If it is an all-out down pour, then seek shelter before you get completely soaked. Deciding whether or not to ride it out or wait it out is not something you want to do when you are already soaked and cold. Instead, pull over and take shelter when the heavy rain starts and assess your situation from there.

TIP:  Use a weather app on your phone like Weather Tracker or NOAA Weather Radar to see what you are up against and to determine how long you will need to wait out the storm.

If there is a threat of lightning, find the closest shelter possible and stay as low as you can. If you are riding with a group, seek shelter separately – if one person is struck by lightning, others can still provide aid verses everyone being hurt and in danger. Once the lightening has passed, keep moving to get out of the storm as quickly as you can. If you are riding back country trails and caught in storm, retreat to lower ground as soon as possible.

Wet, slick terrain likely won’t kill you, but rain is often accompanied by wind, lightning, and even hail. Consider the risks of these conditions and decide for yourself if riding out a storm is the right course of action. Most often, the best thing to do when severe weather hits, is to wait it out instead.

mountain_bike_trail_riding

Here in the Rocky Mountains, we are fortunate to live in such a beautiful place that we can enjoy different activities amongst the seasons. The weather is warming up and it’s a wonderful time to be outdoors, but the biggest drawback of the spring is that the trails are still primarily too wet for mountain biking. This year it seemed as winter was never-ending – were not complaining we enjoyed all those laps on the hills late into the season – yet getting the bike out to hit the trails is where most of us want to be when it’s warm.

While it is extremely tempting to get out there and go ride even if the trail is wet, in doing so it can have an adverse effect on the trail all summer. Riding on wet biking trails can cause ruts and erosion, widening of the trail, and damage to that bike you love so much. There are trails and areas in the Rocky Mountains that handle the moisture better than others such as a trail with more sand or gravel, but it is best to avoid the trails that turn to mud or full of water.

Erosion and Ruts:

If the trail is wet and muddy, continual bike riding creates ruts making the trail worse when it dries. The more a trail is ridden on, the more susceptible it becomes to erosion, yet erosion is accelerated when the trail is muddy and bike tires are going deeper into the dirt. Ruts on trails require additional trail maintenance, which is done by volunteer work. There is a huge misconception that the trail will just repair itself. That is False. The trail will become worse over time. The more work volunteers have to do to correct ruts and erosion from trail abuse and weather, the less time they have to focus on other trail improvements.  It would be a real bummer not to be able to enjoy those trails all summer in the gorgeous weather.

Widening of the Trails:

Riders usually tend to go around the muddy areas and off-trail when the paths are wet. In doing this, it will start to create another trail, leaving behind the vison of a singletrack path and making erosion worse. Riding the wet trails also hurts the natural environment leading to additional damage. At the end of the day, riders will have to make the decision to get off their bike to walk through puddles if the path is deeply saturated in parts instead of riding around it. Although, if the trail is truly mud filled or gets worse as you ride further into it and it’s probably best to turn back around and find another trail to ride.

Damage to Your Bike:

We have seen the commercials and ads of how awesome it looks when the mud is flinging back from the tires, leading us to believe our bikes can handle it all! Well, that image is not completely true. You weren’t sold a lie, but in all reality mud can have a severe impact on your bike. Riding wet, muddy trails will cause mud to lump up on your rear tire, which can catch your rear derailleur forcing it to bend or break. This is a real quick way hurt your bike and it’s not the only part that can be impacted-think about the other essential bike parts as well that could be damaged.

We know this time of year can be a real pain for bike riders. Most of us are dying to get out there to ride our favorite trails. The warm weather and sunny skies can trick us into believing we are good to get out there, but that is generally not the case. Various circumstances such as afternoon rain storms and water runoff play a major part in trail conditions. It is best to plan ahead and have alternative trail options ready. Read trail conditions and statuses before heading out. It may be very tempting, especially when you have put in the effort and time, to ride a muddy trail, but remember the impact that has on the trails, your bike, and after all who truly enjoys being soaking wet and muddy?

Do you have any tips to add? Do you know of a good trail to ride during the mud season? Comment below.