If you like to ride bikes, chances are there is going to be a time where you are faced with riding your bike in the rain.
Maybe it is a rain or shine cycling event. Or, you know the weather is going to be questionable but you’re tired of riding indoors on the trainer. Perhaps you live in a climate that’s prone to rain but you’re committed to riding your bike for transportation.
Whatever the circumstances may be, it absolutely IS possible to ride in the rain more safely, and stay relatively dry and comfortable while doing it!
In this article, we will share some essential tips and suggestions to help you get out on your bike even when the rain is coming down!
Tip #1: Have the Right Clothing And Gear
One of the most important things to think about when you are riding in the rain is what you are going to wear. Having the right gear can be the difference between being comfortable and being miserable.
This is especially important if it is cold rain that you are dealing with. If it is relatively warm outside, you can usually get away with wearing regular cycling clothing. Yes, you will get really wet, but you probably won’t have any adverse reactions in terms of chafing.
If it’s cold, however, staying dry is critical. Below are some clothing and gear suggestions for how to keep your body dry and increase visibility in the rain.
Get A Cycling Raincoat
Yup! I know it might sound a little crazy, but they do have raincoats for when you are on the bike! A cycling specific raincoat is a great option, especially if it is on the colder side and you really want to keep your core dry.
One company that we love–Shower’s Pass–specializes in rain gear just for cyclists.
Compared to a regular rain jacket, a cycling specific rain jacket usually has a few features to make it more comfortable on the bike. The first of these is breathability.
When you’re biking, you are creating a bunch of body height even if it’s cold outside. If the jacket isn’t breathable, all you’ll do is get wet on the inside from sweat.
Biking rain jackets also often cut longer in the back, or even have a drop tail, to help protect your bum from water spraying up from the road. Finally, they’re offered in bright colors or with reflective accents.
These jackets greatly increase your visibility. Remember that when it’s raining, it’s usually dark and harder for cars to see you.
One additional thing to keep in mind with cycling rain gear, though, is that it often isn’t as stretchy as other biking clothing.
As a result you might need to size up.
Also, I strongly recommend that you get a women’s specific fit. This yellow Pearl Izumi jacket pictured above is unisex but it’s really not because I can’t get it over my hips!
Shoe Covers And Waterproof Socks
One thing that it’s easy forget about when you are looking for the proper gear when biking in the rain is your feet. There is nothing worse than having soaking wet feet in any kind of shoe, least of all a cycling shoe.
Waterproof shoe covers will at least minimize if not completely solve this problem. They are even more important if it is cold outside because wet, cold feet when you are riding is truly just awful.
The other thing you can consider investing in are waterproof socks. Shower’s Pass makes neoprene cycling socks that work great to keep your feet warm and dry on wet days.
Glasses With Clear Lenses
You might not be thinking that sunglasses are essential in the rain, and they are not, but glasses with clear lenses are SO helpful. There is nothing worse than having a bunch of water whipping into your eyes when you are trying to see.
These Julbo Fury sunglasses* are truly amazing. Definitely on the expensive side, but they have REACTIV technology which makes them clear when it’s darker outside. They are truly great if you are lazy like me and would rather not switch out lenses depending on light conditions.
Waterproof gloves are a must if it’s colder out. The last thing anyone needs is freezing cold hands! I use an older model of these cool weather gloves by Pearl Izumi for both cool and wet conditions.
If you want a thinner pair of gloves that are more focused on keeping hands dry than warm, check out the Pearl Izumi Summit WRX Neoshell Gloves*. Kristen (Femme Cyclist founder) also really likes the Shower’s Pass Neoprene gloves.
Water Resistant Or Waterproof Pants
That said, if you are biking in colder temperatures or for longer distances, you may want to consider investing in water resistant or waterproof pants as well. True rain pants are waterproof, and while they do a fantastic job of keeping you dry, they do feel a bit ridiculous.
If it’s not a crazy downpour a better option are water-resistant pants. I really like any that have a DWR finish on the outside. The Pactimo Vertex bibs are one example of these.
Tip #2: Keep Your Stuff Dry
Whatever kind of biking your doing, you’re likely carrying SOMETHING with you. This might be as simple as your phone and cash, or if you’re bike commuting, you might be carrying your work laptop too!
Resealable Plastic Baggies For The Little Stuff
Now this is a piece of “gear” that you likely have in your kitchen.
Putting your essentials like your wallet or phone in little resealable plastic sandwich bags is an often overlooked step in biking in the rain. No one wants a soaking wet phone or water-logged snacks!
Waterproof Bike Bags For The Big Stuff
If you’re carrying more than what fits in your pockets, you’ll need to consider how to keep it dry also. The good news is that there are a lot of really fantastic, waterproof bags out there.
If you’re biking to work, consider waterproof pannier bags. For bikepacking or bike touring, there are plenty of waterproof frame bags or handlebar bags. Even if you’re doing something shorter–say a century ride on a rainy day–a waterproof frame bag can be great for stashing extra dry clothing.
Tip #3: Focus On Safety Equipment and Techniques
In addition to having proper gear for cycling in the rain, you are also going to want to make sure that you have proper safety equipment, and that you are doing everything in your power riding-wise to stay as safe as possible on the road or trails.
Visibility in the rain is going to be more difficult for you as well as for drivers on the road if you are riding on the road.
The idea here is to make yourself as easy to see as possible.
A great way to do this is to have a VERY bright jacket and reflective gear (see suggestions above).
You also want to make sure you have bright lights on the front and rear of your bike. Though it’s rather pricey, I absolutely love the Garmin Varia with Radar. The light is extremely bright and eye-catching so motorists can see you, and you have the benefit of the radar letting you know when cars are coming up from behind.
Consider Riding A Bit Further Into Your Lane
Now, this one may seem counterintuitive, and at the onset more dangerous, but conventional bike safety encourages riders to ride 2-4 feet from the side of the road to remain visible.
The idea here is to be seen. If you are hugging the side of the road you might blend in with the tree line and be less visible to motorists.
This is even more necessary when it’s raining and visibility is even worse.
I know some cyclists who refuse to even ride in a bike lane because these lanes just aren’t as visible to motorists and many accidents still occur in bike lanes. Others feel that this is more likely to anger motorists, so they stay in the bike lane.
It’s important for you to be mindful, use judgment, and do what you think is best. Definitely weigh all of the pros and cons and make a conscious decision about where you want to be in your lane.
Tip #4: Prep Your Bike
You want to make sure that your bike is ready to go and in the best shape possible for a ride in the rain.
Consider Mudguards or Fenders
If you are riding on the road, you may find fenders to be helpful. According to Cycling Weekly they may be noisy/clunky and annoying, but they will keep the lower half of you more free of the water/mud that flies up.
If you don’t care so much about getting dirty then you might not want to bother with these.
However, if you are commuting to and from work on your bike and don’t want to arrive a hot mess, mudguards or fenders are likely well worth the investment/annoyance.
On a mountain bike or gravel bike, you likely don’t want to install full fenders, but smaller, lighter mudguards can be super helpful. These ones from MuckyNutz are what Femme Cyclist founder, Kristen, rides with. They attach with zipties so are super easy to take on or off.
Consider Lowering Your Tire Pressure
Cycling Weekly also suggests running your tires a little bit lower than usual (think maybe 5-10 PSI lower for a road bike). This can improve your grip on the road because more of the surface area of your tires will hit the road.
Definitely be careful with this, though, because when you have less pressure in your tires you are more likely to get a flat (if you’re running a bike with tubes). Be sure to take it slow and be on the lookout for potholes and obstacles, especially if you do opt to lower your tire pressure.
Take it Slow, Brake Early, and Be on the Lookout for Puddles/Obstacles
Not only do puddles give you an extra splash, but if they happen to be muddy you have no idea what they are hiding underneath. It could be a deep hole or something else that will puncture your tire.
Additionally it can be harder to control your bike when you are riding on a bunch of water.
A couple of years ago I got caught in a flash hail/thunderstorm on the bike and it was pretty scary! I found myself going down a huge hill with water rushing down right along with me.
Needless to say, I got soaked, of course, but I was a lot more concerned about losing traction and not being able to stop at the bottom of the hill.
I took it slow, and was able to get back to my car without incident, thank goodness, but I definitely had a crash course in cycling in the rain!
Finally, Consider Riding Indoors
Honestly, if I had been more aware of the potential for severe weather that day, I would have likely opted to ride inside instead.
When all else fails, if the conditions outside are just too nasty, definitely consider taking your riding indoors.
While riding inside is not nearly as fun, you can still maintain your fitness on a trainer/stationary bike and wait for a nicer day to be out on the road or trails. If you do venture out, though, having the proper gear and safety will ensure that your experience biking in the rain is the best time possible.
When you plan for the rain, prep your bike, and wear the right clothing, you can still enjoy a great ride outdoors biking in the rain!