Thursday, 4 August 2011

My cycling in the rain guide

Yet again I had the opportunity of cycling to work today - in the rain!  That seemed a nice idea after yesterday's oppressive heat; today things were cooler and fresh as I set off on my 13 mile ride.

What started as a bit of fine summer rain, quickly got heavier but that simply added to the enjoyment.  It made me feel ALIVE and invigorated and it seemed a bit of a challenge, in spite of have cycled this route so many times before.  It was nice having a feeling of independence in not needing my car no matter how bad the weather.

When I got to work, colleagues gave me that "polite because he's utterly mad" smile as I dripped through the general office.  I grabbed my office clothes and went to change.  Stripped off in the toilets, even my Y-fronts were soaked through - my Hummvee baggy shorts had wicked water up.  Naturally my socks were soaked right through but I had a spare pair.  Just as well I have an office to myself as I had my socks draped over the radiator and as for my Y-Fronts, I pinned these to the wall behind my desk where no one would ever see them!

So, cycling in the rain today was great.  If you're prepared it doesn't matter if you get wet because getting wet all adds to the fun.  If you enjoy riding in the sunshine, you'll enjoy it even more after riding in the rain.  In fact you might owe it to yourself to do it, go on, experience it!  In the right environment there is a real beauty in cycling in the rain, just like running, the spray from cars and the sense that no matter how awful it is, it's a brilliant ride and you won't be beaten by it.

Here's a few practical considerations:

Clothing.  You need a water proof jacket, preferably a breathable one that is highly visible.  Shorts are good in all but the coldest of days - wet legs dry so much faster than wet jeans and don't rub.  My Hummvee baggy shorts proved to be unsatisfactory by soaking up the rain, so maybe Lycra ones have some advantages.  My jacket is the Altura Night Vision jacket, in yellow, is fine.
Altura Night Vision jacket, supplied by Evans Cycles.

Web price (August 2011) from £55.99
I used to have a Madison cape which had some advantages but was also very quaint and old fashioned.  It was like cycling in a snug, cosy mobile tent.  I managed to lose it in a house-move and I've always regretted that.  Very effective at keeping you completely dry but a liability if there's a strong wind coming from the wrong direction.  Also a bit odd when worn off the bike.

Do not wear a hood.  If you must wear something on your head, make it a helmet and allow yourself to have wet hair.

Consider over shoes.  My Specialized cycling shoes are fine at keeping my feet cool but hopeless at keeping them dry.  So that's something I'm going to think about now. Why do they make you look so strange (like something out of Captain Kirk's star ship Enterprise)?

Bags need to be waterproof especially if you're carrying dry clothes for work and papers.  BAgs need to be equally waterproof all over as the rain will otherwise find a way in.

Visibility is reduced for everyone in the rain.  This morning I made sure my rear light was on, flashing at full power for extra visibility.  Secondly I rode a little further out in the road and swung back in when I sensed I needed to from the sound of the traffic behind me.  Always good to develop strategies for managing or controlling other road users but it takes some experience and confidence.  My yellow jacket, as above was without doubt, very conspicuous.  It is also too large, so it flaps around a bit.  But then, I bought it weighing 2 stone heavier!  I need a medium or perhaps a small size.

Cycling technique - a few things to bear in mind.
Puddles - be wary of these and go around them if you can, especially if they're big and you don't know the road underneath.
Grip between the tyre and the road will be much less, especially when cornering hard or stopping.  There is a danger of skidding.
Breaking performance will be much less in the wet, unless you have disc brakes.  I find that my rim brakes are less effective but improve when they've skimmed any water off.

Have I convinced you yet?


  1. If I may suggest a couple of tips from the days when I used to ride to work:
    1-You can use a bin liner in your bike bag as extra security against the wet.
    2-Dont bother wearing your 'Y's under your shorts.
    Stuff them in your bag along with a fresh pair of socks. You dont want to wear the same underpants possibly smelling of 'essence of Giraffe' after a sweaty,hot bike ride.
    I used to enjoy cycle commuting but had some close calls with cars/vans and the wear and tear on my bike was unbelievable.

  2. Proving once again the simple ideas are often the best.