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Biking in the Rain?

Old 12-06-16, 09:33 PM
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Biking in the Rain?

I really want to go riding, but it looks like rainy season has arrived here in Florida. Seems like it's either raining or there is extreme sun shining here in south Florida.

While I know it's not recommended to ride in the rain, I don't think I have much of a choice. It's not heavy rain; more like grey skies, drizzle with the occasional burst of rain.

Other than "wait until the sun comes out to ride", I would like actual tips / suggestions on riding in light rain / wet roads. Tires, special lubricants, etc.
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Old 12-06-16, 10:27 PM
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I commute by bike so I deal with rain:

Fenders, obviously. Otherwise rear wheel pumps a river into your crack.

I don't ride with lightning around. I am highly allergic to high voltage.

Weather radar in "animate" works good. We had heavy rain Monday morning in Houston but I saw a hole and used it to get to work. Light drizzle; had to wipe glasses a lot.

If you put a recharging light in a damp shoe it helps dry it out faster.
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Old 12-06-16, 10:40 PM
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I don't ride in heavy rain, but when it's possible, I'll usually pack my Vaude poncho - I think I've only used it a couple of times during downpours. All my bikes have bags to carry layers and shells.
Saddle cover.
Yes fenders if you're going out on wet roads.
I stick to greenways and rural, light-traffic, low-speed-limit roads when it's wet and generally avoid traffic. They have enough distraction in the wet.

It's come up before, and I'll show my fender setup on my CX frame, which has no bosses or holes for anything.

These are SKS Raceblade XL, which hold pretty firm with rubber bands and helicopter tape over the paint beneath the raceblade feet.
They're not full coverage, but I made them close-enough to full coverage by adding a PDW Origami (front) mudguard to the seat tube. (I trimmed the Origami down a bit and took some of the flare from the bracket with a heat gun).

Here's how much wet sand the Origami kept off the BB, crank and chain in its first ride.


Thanksgiving weekend we were on a light-rain ride in the hill country, and this setup worked great (again).
After you get these fenders adjusted properly, they're 2 min to install and 20 sec to remove.

Last edited by bulldog1935; 12-06-16 at 10:48 PM.
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Old 12-06-16, 10:47 PM
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I don't like rain, and still have no desire to just go out for a casual ride in it. That said, when I do it I don't hate it, and feel an odd sense of accomplishment when I am done.

Fenders are great. Take it easy on slick surfaces like pothole covers or other metal surfaces, painted lines on the road, and my personal nemesis, cobblestone/bricks. Wear hi-viz/lights, mist can obfuscate vision of motorists very easily. Shove a shower cap up under the seat, for when you get off the bikes and don't want the saddle wet. Also doubles as an impromptu helmet cover for really bad weather.
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Old 12-06-16, 10:56 PM
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50 years of riding condensed for your reading pleasure...

Front and rear fenders a must.
Don't wear anything cotton.
Breathable light jacket even if it's warm. Down your way you might be able to get away with a breathable vest though.
Tires with a tread. Yeah, yeah, many say that tread on a bike tire isn't needed. Well, that may be fine for dry road but a deep tread in the rain does help with traction.
Brake early and often.
NEVER go across train tracks in the rain. It just isn't worth it. Get off and walk. It's a really painful fall when your knee hits the cold steel rail.
Don't corner hard and never brake in a corner.
Cheap wrap-around safety glasses from Home Depot are great. Spit on the lenses and wipe off.
Oil-based chain lube is good but I've found that a molten wax treatment for a chain works pretty well to and it doesn't grab road grime like oil or make a black sludge like oil, or sling off the chain and coat your bike in black goo like oil. Personal choice.
Cover your head.
Water-proof booties help but don't keep your feet totally dry. Water drips down from your legs into the shoes.
Flashing lights on front and back (no need to start spitting out stats folks)
Don't ride in lightning. Humans are allergic to high voltage like flangehead said. Good advice there.
You are invisible to cars in the rain. Keep your head on a swivel.
Don't run red lights or stop signs. Cars really can't stop in time on a wet road. You won't make a pretty road-kill.
Cell phone goes in a Ziplock bag. Better yet, double-up with two Ziplock bags if it's a real frog strangler.
If you see a snapping turtle crossing a busy intersection, let him go. He knows what he's doing and it will only piss him off if you pick him up and take him across the road. And, you'll be lucky as hell if he doesn't latch onto your arm.
Keep a close eye on your headset bearings and no matter how tired you are, always dry your bike when you get home.
Carry a good attitude with you.
When it gets really bad out and you're miserable, smile...you really are nuts.


-

Last edited by drlogik; 12-06-16 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 12-06-16, 11:03 PM
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wet wooden bridges are slick as baby snot
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Old 12-06-16, 11:05 PM
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I don't like rain but commute in it. Usually I am in the Velomobile so it doesn't bother me as much but the visor can be hard to see through sometimes and causes a slower commute. When I ride the DF bike I wear Frogg Togs and plastic bags over my boots and gloves (sometimes doubled or tripled depending on the temp) with rubber bands to hold them in place. Once out there its not bad at all but I still don't prefer to ride in these conditions but do it anyway for exercise and to get to work.
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Old 12-06-16, 11:22 PM
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In heavy rain, vents in your helmet will drain through your hair and into your eyes.
The burning in your eyes can be bad enough to temporarily blind you.
If I don't have my poncho packed, I'll have my Goretex helmet cover packed.

A halo sweat band can also divert the runoff from your eyes.
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Old 12-06-16, 11:23 PM
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Luckily you don't need to worry much about staying warm or hypothermia while riding in the rain. One thing out of the way.

Regardless of equipment...

On public roads ride in a tire track on wet roads. Those will be the cleanest, relatively free of oil and debris, and driest while it's raining. I usually ride in the rightmost tire track and then move to the leftmost tire track at intersections with stop signs or traffic lights. This is to discourage drivers from attempting to speed up and turn right in front of you while you're slowing down, or from trying to cross your path or turn right on red.

Be careful where you put a foot down at stop signs and traffic lights. If you ride and stop in a tire track your foot will tend to go in the middle or sides where the oil and debris accumulate. Done that and slipped when riding motorcycles, fortunately not while riding a bike. With motorcycles you can wear boots with slip-resistant soles, even lugged or metal-cleated soles. Not practical with bicycles. So be careful when stopping. Sometimes it's best to put both feet down in wet conditions.

If you're not comfortable riding in traffic or with people honking at you, either get used to it and ignore them, or don't ride in the rain or when streets are wet. Honking won't kill you. But if you try to ride outside the tire tracks you may slip and fall and get run over. That's not good.

Regarding equipment...

Fenders: Not always absolutely necessary, depending on the bike. My aluminum frame hybrid has one of those oversized oval downtubes. The downtube blocks most water from the front tire. The rear rack and saddle block the rear tire spray. After a year I've added a front fender to the hybrid to keep my feet drier. I'm only waiting for an order of stainless bolts to finish putting on the rear fender.

I've ridden my skinny tube cromoly steel frame bike a few times in the rain and the spray mostly got my feet, shins and a little on the tail of my rain jacket. The rear rack blocked most of the spray back there. The water bottle blocked some of the front tire spray.

You'll read hundreds of recommendations for tires. They're all pretty good. Personally I'm satisfied with Michelin Protek tires on my hybrid errand bike because they're about half the price of Schwalbes and have been perfectly satisfactory for me over a year in all kinds of conditions and rough roads with a lot of sharp debris. But for casual 8-12 mph riding on wet roads I'd prefer anything wide. There are some great values in wide Kenda tires too, and some folks I ride with in group rides are satisfied with their Kenda tires.

If you get new tires be sure to ride the "new" off them before tackling wet roads. Many tires have very hard outer skin that takes some riding to break in. If you don't have time to ride them dry during the break-in, you might consider scuffing the tread lightly with sandpaper. My Michelin Protek Cross Max tires felt a bit skittish on wet roads the first day last autumn, so I rode some local gravel and rough chipseal paved country roads for a week or two to break them in. They felt much more secure on wet smooth pavement after that.

I also like Continental Speed Ride tires on my rigid fork mountain bike for all terrain and all weather riding. They feel both more secure and comfortable while also being smoother, quicker and quieter than my Specialized Hemisphere and Innova all terrain tires.

But, again, choosing a safe line -- a tire track -- and pretty much any decent tire is more important.

I'd recommend a good bright blinky red rear LED light, including in daylight. There are many good ones for around $20-$30. I have Blackburn, Planet Bike and Cygolite. They're all good.

Hi-vis yellow or green helps to be seen in daylight, murky overcast and dusk or dawn lighting. Doesn't need to be expensive cycling oriented clothing. Champion and others make hi-vis yellow, orange and green t-shirts and long sleeve jerseys in poly wicking fabric for $8-$15. My local hardware store carries generic t-shirts made from similar poly wicking fabric from Africa and Asia for $5 -- they're almost as good as the Champion shirts. This fabric is comfortable soaking wet and dries quickly, and resists smelling funky like a wet dog. Much better than cotton t-shirts, IMO.

Regarding chain lube, I noticed only coincidentally that the Park CL-1 I've used for more than a year actually seems to get better when a dirty chain has been ridden through a downpour. I tend to clean my errand bike's chain only once a month at the most. I actually look forward to downpours because it cleans the chain and makes it quieter.

Turns out some fairly methodical tests showed the Park CL-1 has good wet retention lube qualities, and doesn't wash off easily. So I've begun using less degreaser in the rotary brush chain cleaning tool reservoir -- just a little Dawn detergent to get the gunk out between the chain links and outer plates, without stripping the lube from the rollers.

One of my friends and all weather cyclists swears by paraffin. I'll try it someday.

Last edited by canklecat; 12-06-16 at 11:27 PM.
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Old 12-06-16, 11:32 PM
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I've gone to Molten Speed Wax on my chains (I run Wippermann stainless chains). MSW looks expensive, but if you start by cleaning your chain bright every time (I use the ultrasonic at work), a half pound can be re-used 8 times (i.e. lubes 8 chains). It also lasts 500 mi, even in the rain.


The cooled half-pound of wax lives in this 4" sauce pan

Last edited by bulldog1935; 12-06-16 at 11:41 PM.
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Old 12-07-16, 12:52 AM
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Originally Posted by drlogik View Post
50 years of riding condensed for your reading pleasure...


NEVER go across train tracks in the rain. It just isn't worth it. Get off and walk. It's a really painful fall when your knee hits the cold steel rail.


-
Thanks for adding that in.
I avoided the other slick/possibly slick things while riding in the rain a couple weeks ago but I went over the tracks about 6 times without even thinking about it. I'll have to remember this next time.
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Old 12-07-16, 05:49 AM
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OP,
I don't know who recommends not to ride in the rain. In 40+ years of bike riding, I've never received that recommendation from anyone. Ever. Riders ride.


All I'd add to the excellent discussion above, is that you have to choose your route accordingly. A heavy rain might be the time to ride on a multi-use path or on back streets, trying to stay away from drivers whose visibility is affected.


Also, add fenders to your bike. You'll be glad that you did. They help to keep the frame and drivetrain cleaner, spray off of your lower legs, butt and feet, as well to limit spray back for the rider behind you.


BTW, I was so soaked from last night's return commute, that I had to drive today because all of my gear was still soaked through...
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Old 12-07-16, 06:16 AM
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Riding in the rain is a normal thing to do in NW Europe, where we have plenty of cycling and rain.
Fit fenders. This will keep dirty road spray off your clothing.
Take care on slippery surfaces.
Punctures are more common in the wet, so use a modern puncture resistant tyre, but note that the most resistant models such as Schwalbe Marathon Plus are not as grippy in the rain as the standard Marathon version.
In warm rain use a hi viz jacket with plenty of venting inc a back vent.
Use lights in flahing mode during daylight rain.
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Old 12-07-16, 06:32 AM
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tire wipers on your fenders really make a difference in flats.
Michael is correct that flats increase in the rain, because the water film wets and carries small shards of glass around your tire. The debris gradually works its way in from repeated rolling. Tire wipers flick it off on the first trip and you're good to go.


As far as tire composition and tread go, I stick with my soft sticky rubber tires - the compound is stickier when wet.
My buddy runs all city tires and he gets 4-5 times as many flats as I do, including his Marathons, and he rides only half of my miles.
Maybe I don't ride so close to the curb and watch more often where my front wheel goes.
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Old 12-07-16, 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by bulldog1935 View Post
wet wooden bridges are slick as baby snot
I dismount and push across them. Just be careful doing that, I've almost fell while pushing...slick as ice!
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Old 12-07-16, 08:07 AM
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gotta want it, want it bad
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Old 12-07-16, 08:10 AM
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My two cents: Long, long front fenders with a flap that nearly brushes the ground. Been commuting regularly for 24 years including some rain, but when I switched to long, long front fenders, my feet stayed much drier, my bike stayed much cleaner than with moderate length fenders.
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Old 12-07-16, 08:19 AM
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Honjo or VO



SKS also makes Longboard fenders https://www.amazon.com/SKS-Longboard.../dp/B004I8XS18


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Old 12-07-16, 08:50 AM
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If it hasn't been said yet, some safety advice. Slow way down in the rain, for too many reasons to list. If you have greenways or paths in wooded areas, just stay out of them in heavy rain with wind. Painted lines are like ambushes, you'll go over one 100 times with no problem but then the next time it's slick as ice. Don't go through puddles where you can't see the ground if you can avoid it.

When you see traffic making a big splash up ahead, don't trust them to slow down when you get there. Double up the caution at intersections because some drivers just lose control. Good lights are more important in the rain.
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Old 12-07-16, 09:14 AM
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I like riding with a MTB helmet with a visor, it helps keep some of the rain off my glasses.


In addition to keeping your chain lubed (to prevent rusting), when you get to your destination bounce the bike a few times to knock as much water as possible. Porch, vestibule, or garage are good places to do this.
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Old 12-07-16, 02:08 PM
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Excellent advice here ... but I feel the need to validate myself by posting anyway ....

Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Don't go through puddles where you can't see the ground if you can avoid it.
This is a big one. I have and will ride right down the Left side of a lane to get around a really deep puddle. You have No idea what is at the bottom---a sandbar, a branch, leaves, lawn clippings, beer bottles, rocks---and when you fall over the cars who are passing at 50 mph and cursing you become the cars rolling over you at 50 mph.

I used to leapfrog---ride the middle of the lane when needed to avoid the water, then pull over when a long enough line of PO'd cars built up, then do it again. It is a balancing act---wait too long and some stupid driver will try to squeeze between the head-on traffic and the cars waiting behind you, and cause a catastrophe, but don't wait long enough and you quadruple your commute time. Count on taking half again as long anyway, since you will be riding more slowly and braking earlier all the way there.

I did about 15 years of Central Florida commuting---it can be done safely, and can even be exhilarating for brief moments. I always got a little pleasure from knowing that the drivers were thinking about how terrible conditions were ... and then they saw me riding down the side of the road with a big smile.

Oh, also ... I never used eye protection and I think that was an error. Hard, wind-blown rain coupled with your speed of travel can really sting, and squinting and blinking compromises safety. I second the idea about trying different cheap clear or yellow wrap-around safety glasses.

Glad to know you will be carrying on the proud tradition of nut-job bike commuters battling hurricanes. I pass the mantle to you gladly.
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Old 12-07-16, 02:21 PM
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Mud Guards and a Rain cape work for Me I'm just 7 miles in from the Pacific Ocean and 2 blocks from the Columbia River ..

I have My Headlight and Tail Light low enough to not Have the cape drape over my lights.\

Its cold and wet, here for a few months..
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Old 12-07-16, 08:10 PM
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Thanks everyone! Fantastic tips I'll definitely be putting into practice soon. Today I went riding and surprisingly there was no rain. Maybe it didn't rain today because I was ready for it! ☺

I have an old cruiser I will be using for rainy days. It already has the fenders, all I would need to do would be to get splash guards. I'm guessing that the wider tires will do better in the rain as well. For the ocassional sunny days I'll stick with my hybrid.

Next question woyld be how to prevent it from rusting up after riding in the rain? I can dry it, but water will make it into hard to reach places. Any spray or lubricant suggestions?
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Old 12-08-16, 02:28 AM
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I don't aim to ride in the rain, but we do have scheduled group rides. All of us have rain bikes. Many do in the PNW.
A well set up rain bike has fenders and 'Buddy Flaps'. If you don't have fenders or long mud flaps, you ride to the rear.
It sucks when the non fender guys rotates through and is in front of you lol. A Specialized rain shell keeps the wet off and heat in. ...Good gloves & neoprene shoe covers and a cap under the helmet. Oh, and certainly a flashing tail light.
My Buddy Flaps had Yosemite Sam and 'Back off' on them lol.
I just took my fenders off my rain bike (Giant Defy) and gave that bike to my kid - guess I'm done riding in the rain!



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Old 12-08-16, 04:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Nikon Fan View Post
Next question would be how to prevent it from rusting up after riding in the rain? I can dry it, but water will make it into hard to reach places. Any spray or lubricant suggestions?
I use my aluminum frame hybrid for rainy days. And I've swapped out any questionable bolts, nuts and fasteners for stainless steel (apparently the fenders came with carbon steel fasteners with a thin chrome or some other silvery finish, but they rusted badly).

For the chain I've used Park CL-1 oil, which doesn't wash out completely in rain or plain water cleanup. I use it on cables and derailer pivot points too.

After the Park CL-1 runs out I might try Chain-L lube for the rain/errand bike.
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