It's spring in Canada. For many communities across the country from coast to coast, that means... rain! For all but the most die-hard cyclists out there, conventional wisdom suggests stay inside and hit the trainer, cross-train, or just watch some TV. For many of us, the thought of a thorough soaking while cycling in the rain doesn’t sound like fun…who wants wet cycling shoes and a grimy bike, right? Well, we’re here to say that it might be time to suck (or soak?) it up and give it a try.
While cycling in the rain may not be the most comfortable experience (though it is possible to dress for success), it does come with some benefits.
Benefits of cycling in the rain
- Improved endurance: Cycling in the rain can help to build endurance – certainly more than sitting on your sofa – as it requires more effort to pedal through the waterlogged roads. We tend to subconsciously ride our local sections of road with a similar intensity every time out but changing the conditions – think wind and rain - can mix things up just enough to provide different stimulus and help improve your overall fitness and stamina.
- Mental strength: Cycling in the rain can be mentally challenging – even just the act of getting out there - and overcoming this challenge can help to build mental toughness and resilience. How important is mental toughness in cycling? Well, you probably won’t ever race the Paris-Roubaix, but digging in when your slightly too fast group ride takes it up a notch can be the difference between getting dropped and hanging on to race for the city limit sign.
- Enjoyment of nature: Our personal favourite and the reason for the post about cycling in the rain! Rain can enhance the natural beauty of your surroundings. The scenery can look particularly lush and green, and the sound of raindrops on leaves can be quite soothing. For this writer, there has always been something incredible about venturing into the wilderness under one’s own power…and yes, rain seems to bring the wilderness closer to home.
- Quieter roads: It isn’t just cyclists who avoid the rain. When it starts to look dicey even motorists tend to stay in and avoid those scenic routes that you frequent on your two wheeled friend. And fewer cars on the road means a safer and quieter environment for cycling, which is always a win.
- Improved bike handling skills: Cycling in the rain can help to improve your bike handling skills, such as cornering, braking and balance, as you need to be more cautious on wet surfaces. It goes without saying but please remember to be careful!
- Sense of accomplishment: Completing a ride in the rain can give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, knowing that you've overcome the challenges of cycling in wet weather. In the first 10 minutes when the spray first hits, you will probably question why the heck you decided to venture out, but once saturated you may find it’s an enjoyable experience and realize a wee bit of cycling pride as people look at you like you’re crazy.
There are many reasons to get out there and ride and we strongly encourage you to do so, even just to see if you like it as much as we do. That said, we want you to be careful first and foremost. We would be remiss to not call out that cycling in the rain can also pose some risks, such as reduced visibility (for you and motorists) and increased chance of slipping. So, it is essential to take the necessary precautions, such as wearing appropriate rain gear and ensuring that your bike is equipped with proper lighting, to stay safe.
Safety tips for cycling in the rain
Cycling in the rain can be challenging, but with the right precautions, you can still enjoy a safe and comfortable ride. Here are some safety tips for cycling in the rain:
- Wear appropriate clothing: Dress in waterproof and breathable clothing. Depending on the temperature, this might be as simple as a good cycling rain jacket or extend as far as tights, rain gloves, and thermal accessories like neoprene toe or shoe covers. Choose clothing that is visible, brightly coloured or has reflective material. You don’t need to break the bank to get some solid wet weather gear, but it’s worth spending a bit more on pieces that are versatile. You can get a lot of use out of a rain jacket as it can double as a wind shell in cooler temperatures and usually doesn’t look ridiculous off the bike. Check out the Castelli Slicker Pro for a more serious commitment to getting out there in all conditions or the POC Splash Lite Jacket if you want to dip a toe in the water (pun truly not intended!) first.
- Use proper lighting: We are advocates of daytime running lights on your bike even in dry conditions, but as the weather takes a turn to the dark and gloomy, it becomes even more important to be visible. Make sure your bike has front and rear lights and if available, set them to flashing mode which has been proven to be visible from up to 3 times the distance of a steady light in daytime conditions.
- Slow down: Rain can make the road slippery and reduce visibility, so it's important to ride at a slower speed and give yourself plenty of time to react to obstacles. Particularly when cornering and navigating slippery surfaces, like large patches of road paint or railroad tracks, you need to be more vigilant in the wet.
- Be extra cautious at intersections: Rain can make it difficult to see and be seen by drivers. Be extra cautious at intersections and make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you.
- Easy on the brakes: Sudden braking can cause your wheels to slip on wet surfaces. Brake gently and early and try to avoid sudden turns or movements which can lead to sliding, fishtailing, or a nasty spill.
- Avoid standing water: Puddles can hide potholes and other hazards, so try to avoid riding through standing water if possible. The days of kicking your feet off the pedals and sloshing right through the centre of the biggest puddle you can find should probably be left to your training-wheeled, banana seat equipped, ride of yesteryear.
By following these tips, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable cycling experience as you get up to speed with the rigours and joy of rainy conditions.
Cleaning up the wet mess
Okay, so you did it! You took our advice and got out there in the wet for what was hopefully a rewarding and fun time on the bike that you will (nonchalantly) brag to your friends and family about. Now the unfortunate part – cleaning up the dreaded mess…oh come on – it isn’t that bad! Here are a few tips:
- Pre-ride towel prep: Make sure you have a towel at the door. You will be rather wet and you don’t want to track wet foot prints all the way to the bathroom that you’ll be stuck cleaning up later. Prepare ahead of your ride or bellow to your significant other and do your best to look like a sad drowning puppy when they see you on the step.
- Quick bike rinse: Your bike may need a full scrub, but you’ll find that you can accomplish a lot with a quick bout with the hose and a bucket of soapy water to get the worst of it off. Right after the ride is actually a great time to do it because you’re already wet and it goes faster when you don’t care about staying dry. After rinsing, bounce it gently a few times on the wheels to get the bulk of the water off and consider using a rag or shammy to clean up the drivetrain for a quick bit of lube. If you want to do the full job, you can check out our bike cleaning blog.
- Take care of your shoes: Hopefully you didn’t wear your expensive race-ready shoes for cycling in the rain, but either way, give them a rinse and pull the insoles out to assist with drying. Depending on the material of the shoe, it may be beneficial to stuff with paper towels or newspaper to clear out the moisture more quickly and have them available for the next day.
- Take care of your kit: Straight into the washing machine with all but the rain jacket and gloves, which can typically just be wiped down and hung to dry. We typically put all of our kit in the washing machine but hang most of it to dry. Of course, you should take a look at the label and follow the instructions there first.
- Finishing up: Have a shower and warm up for a bite to eat. You've earned it!
If you did take our advice and ventured out into uncharted rain territory – congrats, we hope you enjoyed it. And if not, that’s okay too as the indoor world has more to offer than ever. Ride smart and stay safe out there.