Riding in the Rain


Eventually we all end up riding in the rain, and that’s OK.

These practical riding tips will make sure that you end up at your destination dry(ish), safe and happy.


Safety Considerations

Be visible. Make sure you have working lights or reflective material on your bike or yourself.

It’s ok to take the bus. There’s no shame in not riding! Find a cafe or library where you can wait it out, or take your bike on the bus or metrorail. (See Metro’s rules about bikes here).

Don’t ride through floods. Seriously! It’s dangerous. Don’t be the person that the Park Service has to pull out of the Potomac River with a helicopter. Find an alternate route or hop on the bus.


Bike Handling

Roads are very different when they’re wet. Here’s what to do when you’re riding in the rain:

  • Take it slow. Wet tires + wet pavement + wet brakes = your bike will take much longer to stop. The slower you’re moving, the faster you’ll be able stop when you need to.
  • Feather your brakes. When you know you’ll be stopping soon (at all red lights and stop signs, of course), take a moment to tap your brakes lightly a few times to dry off the surface of your brake pads.
  • Claim your space. When you ride in the the middle of the lane, you’re more visible, and you give yourself more maneuvering room to dodge around puddles or other obstacles in the road. Just make sure you have lights and/or reflectors.
  • Pay attention to the road surface. Road paint and metal are very slippery when wet, so avoid manhole covers, grates and crosswalk paint, especially while braking and/or turning.

What to Wear

Real talk: you probably can’t stay 100% dry on your bike, but with a little bit of preparation you can stay about as dry as you would walking to your destination from the bus stop. Here are some gear-related things to think about:

Temperature

When it’s cold, wet clothes can make you feel much colder very quickly, so make sure you’ve got enough layers, especially on your toes, fingers, ears, and face.

When it’s hot, waterproof gear can keep your sweat from evaporating, causing you to end up soggy from perspiration rather than rain. For hot weather rain, consider packing a towel, a dry shirt, and your shoes in your backpack or purse, and just ride in sandals, shorts, and a t-shirt.

Simple Gear

Below are some simple items that you may already have that can help you stay dry on your bike:

  • Any light raincoat or poncho.
  • A visor on your helmet, or a baseball cap under it, can help keep the rain out of your face and eyes.
  • A plastic bag to cover your saddle can help keep your butt dry if you’re leaving your bike outside in the rain.
  • Rain boots or hiking boots can keep your feet dry.
  • Or, plastic bags to cover your socks.
  • A plastic bag to keep a clean, dry layer in your backpack or purse.
  • Gloves! Even when it’s not very cold, the combination of wind, wet, and metal brake levers can make your fingers very cold very quickly.

Bicycling Specific Gear

If you want to invest in some rain gear designed for riding bikes, there are plenty of great options out there:

  • A bicycling specific rain shell will usually have longer sleeves and a longer back to keep you dry while you’re leaned over the handlebars. It will also usually have some strategically placed vents to help keep you from getting too sweaty.
  • Rain Pants or neoprene tights can keep your legs dry. Bicycling specific rain pants usually taper around the ankles to keep them from getting caught in your chain.
  • Waterproof cycling shoes or neoprene shoe covers can keep your toes dry.
  • Bar Mitts, or pogies are big waterproof shells that attach directly to your handlebars. They allow you to wear lighter gloves, or no gloves, so you can manipulate your brakes and shifters unimpeded.
  • Helmet covers are waterproof sleeves that cover the vents in your helmet to keep the rain off your head.

Fenders

We are unapologetically #teamFenders here at WABA. They keep your feet and back dry, and minimize the amount of gross road water that you’re spraying onto the people behind you.

Fenders range from simple plastic clip-on affairs to fancy full coverage metal fenders for both wheels.

Your local bike shop can help you decide which fenders are best for your needs.


Last updated by Colin Browne on April 21, 2020.