Hey, it’s raining

Life in the Bike Lane

By: Tom Frady
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The astute reader will recognize it has been raining around here. 

While I don’t recommend that anyone start a casual ride in the rain, I have certainly set out when the roads were still wet after a storm or knowing it might rain on me before I got home. 

I can think of some scenarios where one might need to head out in a storm but not many (commuters, maybe serious training).

I have mentioned these in prior columns but let’s go over some tips and ideas for riding in the rain, shall we?

First, and most obvious, slow down. Your tires will have less traction and your brakes won’t work as well.

If you can, go to a slightly wider tire, plus reduce the air pressure just a little, maybe 15 pounds psi (per square inch). 

While we are on the topic of traction, we know that roads tend to be extra slippery after the first rain as oils come to the surface. 

Also pay attention to leaves and white lines as each will be a bit slick.  In fact, a rider in my group went down last week on a bike path after his bike slipped on a painted line.  And it wasn’t even raining at the time.

Railroad tracks, metal grates and manhole covers will be extra slick, too.

Don’t make any sudden or fast turns or slam on your brakes.  In fact, do your braking before you turn.  If you are already going more slowly, you should have time to anticipate turns or get around puddles or pot holes.  Don’t ride through puddles. 

Whether you are a recreational rider or serious cyclist, invest in an inexpensive rear fender.  They are about $20 and pop on and off easily.  If you commute in the rain, consider more permanent options.  Fenders not only keep you a bit drier (and cleaner) but any rider directly behind you will appreciate the lack of a rooster tail coming off your rear wheel.

For about $20, there are waterproof emergency rain jackets that can fit into your under-seat bag or back pocket.  I carry one this time of year.

If you’re going to be out in wet weather for more than a couple of hours, you might want to carry an extra pair of gloves (in a plastic bag) to switch out during the ride.

If it’s going to be wet and cold, a base layer (next to your skin) of Merino wool will keep you warm even when it’s wet.

Glasses are a good idea but not too dark.  In fact, clear or yellow lenses are best.

If you ride with panniers or some sort of frame bag, be sure it’s waterproof or you can pack your gear in plastic bags inside. 

Regular readers (five) know I recommend bright lights fore and aft, even on sunny days.  They become even more important if you get caught in the rain.

Be sure to at least hose down your bike when you get home.  Dirt and grit will stick to wet components, wearing them out faster.  Pay particular attention to your brakes and chain.  If your shoes get wet, stuff them with newspaper to absorb moisture. 

I don’t mind riding in the rain, if I am prepared for it, especially having a rain jacket.  We might even get rained on tomorrow.  Cycling on public roads can be tricky even in good weather.  Please be careful.  Slow down.  Be visible.  Come back from your ride. 

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.