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Safety Tips For Cycling In The Wet

Updated on December 7, 2012
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist as well as being a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.

Wet weather cycling (whether racing, training or commuting) can be great fun in wet weather conditions
Wet weather cycling (whether racing, training or commuting) can be great fun in wet weather conditions | Source

A Guide To Cycling Safety In Wet Weather

Unless you live in the middle of the Sahara Desert there's a good possibility you're going to encounter wet weather cycling at some point during your commutes or training rides.

Whether it's today, tomorrow or a week next Tuesday there's a likelihood you will have to face riding in the rain. With a little knowledge and some appropriate wet weather cycling gear you can actually be able to put-up with riding in the rain. You might even enjoy wet weather cycling!

There's no need to stay a fair-weather cyclist for the rest of your riding life. You'll soon be happy cycling in the rain with these hints and tips.

Tip 1. Use A Flashing Rear LED Light For Visiibility

Rainy days lead to lower levels of natural light. This can lead to decreased visibility for both yourself- and motorists.

One of the easiest ways to make yourself infinitely more visible to motorists on rainy days is to install some flashing red rear LED's (Some people know them as "blinky" lights) to your bike for increased safety. Best places to fit them are on your seatpost, to the seat stays or even consider a small lightweight LED to the back of your helmet or jersey pocket.

Additionally consider fitting a small white LED to your handlebars for improved face-on visibility.

Tip 2. Reflective Tape Also Helps Motorists To See You

As cyclists we often neglect to think about the needs of other road users. There is a demand for us to be consciencious road users for our safety and that of others.

Using reflective tape on your bike can help improve your visibility to motorists when they have their headlights on. Gone are the days when you can only use lurid luminous yellow reflective tape. Now you can choose more subtle tape to match your bike.

Tip 3- Steer Clear Of White Lines On The Road

Road markings are great for visibly directing traffic. However their surfaces are designed for a heavy car to pass over without greatly affecting traction.

The surface of road markings contrasts greatly to asphalt and concrete road surfaces and become extremely slippery when wet. Avoid these surfaces where possible for maximal traction while riding in the rain.

Drain covers get very slippy when wet too so try to avoid them as well.

Steer Clear Of Road Markings- They're Slippery!

Keep away from road markings like the white lines in the middle of the road and in the gutter which can cause bicycle tire to slide when wet
Keep away from road markings like the white lines in the middle of the road and in the gutter which can cause bicycle tire to slide when wet | Source

Riding In The Wet Tip 4- Try To Take A Straight Line Round Corners

While it's not always possible to take the straight racing line through a wet corner it makes sense to take as straight a line through a corner as possible for the purpose of traction.

When turning in the wet, the wider your turning circle the more likelihood you have of your tires losing traction with the road and you ending up in a cold wet pile in the gutter. No one wants that to happen so an emphasis on technique is needed to ensure you stay safe and upright whilst riding in the wet.

Cornering Technique For Wet Weather Cycling

When cornering in the wet your priority is keeping your centre of gravity as close to the bike as possible.

1. Your Feet

Take corners with your outside pedal in the 'down' position with you digging your foot inwards towards the centre of the cranks.

2. Your Body

Learn to lean towards the corner with your body instead of your bike. This will allow you to make slight alterations in steering when required and remain in a more upright riding position.

Bicycle Fender Options For Wet Weather Protection

SKS Chromoplastic Bicycle Fender Set
SKS Chromoplastic Bicycle Fender Set
If your frame has mudguard eyelets a full set of fenders like these from SKS will offer excellent coverage and protection from road spray

Tip 5. Fenders (Mudguards) Help Protect You And Those Around Your From Spray

A good set of fenders is an excellent investment for a commuter cyclist or anyone that does a lot of riding in the rain or wet weather. They're great at keeping the spray from the road away from the rider. You're backside will stay dry and you'll have much less water pouring out over your legs and feet.

The spray from your from wheel over your feet and legs can severely affect the warmth of your feet in the winter with the cooling effect of the water.

If your bicycle frame has mudguard eyelets consider a set of full fenders which permanently fix to your bicycle and offer excellent coverage to keep you dry and inevitably warmer. If you have a closer clearance road bike which isn't designed for mudguards you could use a set of race-blade clip on mudguards which negate the need for frame eyelets. Alternately Crude offer a fantastic race blade alternative with better coverage

If you ride regularly in a group a set of mudguards will offer them protection too from the spray from your back wheel to help them stay clean and drier. Mudguards also stop spray getting into their eyes which can be dangerous while riding.

Waterproof Winter Cycling Gloves Are A Great Investment

A set of waterproof cycling gloves like these from Decathlon's BTwin line are great for warm, dry hands for winter riding.
A set of waterproof cycling gloves like these from Decathlon's BTwin line are great for warm, dry hands for winter riding. | Source

Tips 6-8: Dress Right For Wet Weather Cycling

If you get cold and wet whilst out cycling you're exposing yourself to potential health risks. You're more likely to get sick and pick up colds if you let yourself get wet when out riding so it makes sense to dress according to potential weather issues whether you're out training or commuting. If you're riding for extended periods of time it's essential for your clothing to protect you and be breathable to wick away sweat from your body.

Rainwater doesn't just fall from the sky when you're out riding. It gets kicked up from the road as well from your wheels and other road users.

Wet Weather Cycling Tip 6: Keep Your Feet And Hands Warm And Dry With Some Gloves And Overshoes

Water is a great conductor of heat and therefore can lead to an increased rate of cooling. This can have a particularly numbing effect on your extremities. Your fingers and toes are particularly susceptible to getting cold and therefore it's imperative to keep them protected.

Invest in a good quality pair of waterproof cycling overshoes and waterproof cycling gloves to protect against numbness on your commutes, training rides and whilst racing in the rain as these are the places on the body which tend to get coldest first and subsequently lead to increased discomfort.

Goretex Jackets Are Expensive But Offer Amazing Quality ANd Longevity

Gore Bike Wear Fusion 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Shell Jacket. An excellent waterproof cycling jacket
Gore Bike Wear Fusion 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Shell Jacket. An excellent waterproof cycling jacket | Source

Tip 7: Invest In A Breathable Waterproof Jacket For Long Rides And Commutes

Cheap waterproof cycling jackets simply do the job of being waterproof without really being a 'cycling jacket'. Cycling involves effort, which means you end up sweating and getting warm so a true cycling jacket really needs to be able to deal with the demands of your riding.

Therefore it makes sense to invest in a good quality, breathable and waterproof cycling jacket for your riding. It will not only keep you dry, but give you the performance characteristics to stop you arriving at your destination wringing with sweat and incredibly uncomfortable.

Gore Tex jackets like the Gore Bike Wear Fusion 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Shell Jacket, Red/Black, (as featured right) are a great long term investment. Their breathability means you won't arrive at work drenched and their quality means that it will still be doing it's job in 10 years time as long as you haven't fallen off the bike and ripped it.

Tip 8: Use Protective Eyewear To Keep The Rain Out Of Your Eyes

Rain doesn't just come down from the clouds when you're cycling. It can get kicked up from the road surface by other road users such as cars and other cyclists. Therefore instead of wearing sunglasses consider using protective glasses which instead have a clear lens to provide a barrier to road spray, or use a yellow lens which will actually help enhance a dark view to improve your visibility in muggy, damp conditions.

Use Clear Lenses For Your Eyewear In Wet/ Rainy Conditions

Clear lenses on your eyewear protect against road spray. Consider yellow/ organge lenses to help improve visibility in dull conditions
Clear lenses on your eyewear protect against road spray. Consider yellow/ organge lenses to help improve visibility in dull conditions | Source

Cycling In The Rain Tip 9: Have The Right Tires

If you're going to do plenty of cycling in the rain and in wet conditions it makes sense to pay attention to the key contact point of your bike with the road- Your Tires.

Many manufacturers now make some specific Road Cycling Tires For Wet Conditions although if it doesn't rain a huge amount where you live a regular set of winter road cycling tires will offer a trade of between grip and wet weather performance.

If you're looking to increase your wet weather tire traction without opening your wallet your best option is to lose a few additional PSI from your current tires as this will allow more of your tires to be in contact with the road surface. This can increase grip and traction but if you lose too much tire pressure it will negatively affect steering and grip so be aware.

Tip 10. You Can Still Use Your "Winter Bike" In Summer

Rain water can do awful things to the working parts of a bicycle and lead to excessive wear very, very quickly. Therefore it's perfectly acceptable to turn up to a wet summer group ride on your winter steed.

If you don't yet have your own winter specific bike it's a recommendation to do so. Not only will it protect your best bike from the destructive elements of winter riding but you'll also be able to use it as a specific commuter instead of your best bike. Sadly the author of this piece has no inside space to leave his bike while working and subsequently commutes to his main place of work on his winter bike all year round.

Sites like Ebay are great for picking up a bargain old steel or alloy framest you can easily make into a winter/ commuter bike with fenders.


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