Riding your bike in the rain may be a scary proposition. If you haven’t done it much before, you have some things working against you; in addition to the lack of experience, you may be lacking some confidence. Hesitation can be the difference between wiping out and a good ride. That being said, if it’s not lightening or flooding out, next time it rains, follow this advice and get your experience so you have confidence in a race – and you can actually use the rain to your advantage.
1) Tires: deflate them by about 10 psi. This gives your tire a little more contact with the road.
2) Wheels: Most beginners and many intermediate/advanced use “Clincher” tires, which means you have an inner tube inside of their tire with an aluminum wheel. The other setup is the “Tubular” tire, which means the tire is the tube. It is glued onto the carbon wheel. Brake on carbon is not as effective as brake on aluminum. If you have both options and know ahead of time that it will be raining, you should seriously consider swapping your carbon wheels out and putting your aluminum wheels on. And don’t forget, you’ll need to switch your brakes too: Brakes for aluminum wheels don’t mix with carbon rims (and vice versa)!
3) Turning: Take extra precaution here by slowing down before the turn. The way you turn is different too. Where you place your center of gravity will affect the turn significantly. When it’s wet, try to get the bike to stay perpendicular to the ground! Your body can tilt into the turn, but get off of your seat and keep that bike vertical! That keeps the maximum contact with the ground, you don’t disrupt the forward motion of the tire and most importantly you are pushing the center of gravity upright, keeping the weight on that same plane of motion. This differs from turning on dry roads, where it’s good to lean your bike and body into the turn. But try the wet turn when it’s dry and see how it feels. You’ll notice the stability.
4) Path: Try to avoid riding on oil patches and slick, painted lane markers. Don’t follow the person in front of you as closely as you might normally. The spray from their tires will decrease your visibility. But do try to follow in their tire tracks. They usually clear some water for you so you have a little less water between your tires and the cement.
5) Gear: You will get wet. If you have rain gear, great! But you’ll still get wet. You may opt for unshaded eye protection; since it’s usually darker and tinted sunglasses will reduce visibility. Try not to wear white – unless you like the brown trail starting at your bum and working its way up your back – not to mention the inevitable jokes you will be subjected to it if you’re riding with friends who care about you. 🙂
6) Post-ride: Don’t forget to clean and dry your bike afterward. And tilt you bike so the water that got into your frame has a place to drain out! Water sneaks into the frame from the cable holes and seat post. You’ll want to be diligent about taking these measures to protect it from rust and early corrosion.
7) Rain bike: If you really get serious about riding in the rain, you can always convert an old bike to a “rain bike” and give it some fenders.
If I missed something about riding your bike in the rain, please add it to the comments below! I hope this helps you get out there next time. No matter your experience, take it slower than normal and get the experience under your belt.