Quick Tips: Riding in the Rain

Whether you get caught in a sudden downpour or you put on your waterproof gear with a smile, eventually we all end up riding in the rain. It’s not all bad, a pleasant summer shower can be quite refreshing after all, but a few practical riding tips will make sure that you end up at your destination damp but happy.

Ride Safe

If you’ve driven a car in the rain, you know that the roads are very different when they’re wet, and with bicycles, the situation is pretty similar. Here’s what to do when you’re riding in the rain:

  • Go slow – Wet tires + wet pavement + wet brakes = much less stopping power. The slower you’re moving, the faster you’ll stop when you have 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.
  • Light it up – Visibility is reduced in the rain, so use extra lights, reflective material and bright clothing. Cars can only avoid you if they can see you.
  • Take the lane – When you control the lane, you make sure that you are visible and like we just said, visibility should be one of your priorities.
  • Traction control – Road paint and metal are very slippery when wet, so try to keep clear of manhole covers, grates and crosswalk paint, especially while braking and/or turning.
  • Wait it out – If you’re at all unsure of riding in the rain, find a cozy cafe somewhere and wait it out. You can always put your bike on the bus or metro, too. (See Metro’s rules about bikes here)
  • Be prepared – A small investment in the right gear now can save you some rain-soaked misery later. Check out the gear tips below.
  • Don’t ride through floods – You never know what’s under standing water—dangerous currents, potholes, sinkholes, broken glass, loch ness monsters. If the road or trail you’re on is flooded, find another way around.

Gearing up

First, of all, whenever you suspect that your future may be wet, pack along a good waterproof rain shell just in case.

Next, think about investing in a set of fenders. Not only will the rear fender prevent the dreaded “skunk stripe” of dirty water up your back, but the front fender will help keep your shoes dry.  Which brings us to…

Waterproof cycling shoes exist, but for most people who don’t ride in the rain regularly, they’re on the expensive side. Biking in regular rain boots or waterproof hiking boots is a good option if it’s cold out. If it’s warm, consider just letting your feet get wet—pack some light shoes and dry socks and change when you arrive. Sandals can be a good option too – your feet are already waterproof.

Tip-within-a-tip: After you remove those wet shoes, stuff them with crumpled up newspaper and stick ’em near a radiator. By the time the workday is over, the newspaper will have sucked the moisture out of them and they’ll be dry and ready to get soaked all over again.

With a little bit of thought and preparation, riding in the rain can actually be fun! Enjoy the ride out there.

Bike to Grad School Too!

Read the other entries in our Bike to School Day series here and here.

Betsy Bagioni is the Coordinator of Women & Bicycles, and a doctoral student in Psychology at GWU. She balances school, work, and life… literally, since if she overpacks one pannier, her bike falls over.

Biking to school sounds like a great idea… but what happens once you hit grad school and the size of your books equals the size your tuition? A typical day for the average grad student can include work AND school AND fun. Is biking even possible?

Pack your stuff

The first reality of grad school is that books can get very large and very numerous. Most of us also have to haul a laptop. Try using a tablet to put as many of your texts and articles into electronic form as possible, but at some point, you’ll have to pack some actual books. A good backpack or pannier is essential. I found I had to upgrade to a “bike specific” backpack (a regular one was just too floppy for comfortable biking) for days when my pannier was just out of space or when I was opting for bike share. Oh, and waterproofing is a must (found that one out the hard way!) if you don’t want your computer or your midterm paper for Psychodynamic Psychopathology to get soggy.

What I like:

Dress the part

Most of us in grad school are simultaneously working or doing internships, so we still have to look professional (on a budget!). A second pannier (or a larger backpack) can hold spare clothes. Often just a change of shirt can be enough. I might wear a t-shirt to ride and change into my nicer top once at work. Careful folding or rolling reduces wrinkles.

Given that I’m sometimes at as many as four school or work sites in one day, that’s a lot of off-and-on the bike. I’m finding that a little padding in the rear is much more helpful than when I had a 3.6 mile out-and-back commute. Let’s just say that when when I have my specialty bike undies and hit one of those famous DC potholes, my tush appreciates that extra cush.

What I like:

Fuel your brain (and your muscles)

Grad students (and college students, entry level workers, and non-profits employees) are often on a tight budget. From the first days of kindergarten, we learned that school equals snacks. Depending on which bike I have for the day, I may or may not have a front basket to toss my lunchbox in. Sometimes, I leave before 7 AM and it can be 8 or 9 PM by the time I’m getting home again. Making sure I have sufficient calories is one assignment I need to get at least a solid B on, so I can save more money for tuition.

What I like:

Bicycling every day?

WABA wants biking to be a comfortable, joyful activity. But the reality of grad school is that some days when I’m really tired, and my load is extra heavy, and it’s raining, and my tires are a little flat, and it’s uphill both ways, I just can’t find the joy. When those rare days occur, I mix it up with a multimodal commute (e.g. biking to Metro on my folding bike), or I might opt for an e-assist bike share to help me haul the heaviest texts up the steep hills of Northeast DC, or I might even take a day off.

You’ll have your own limits. Some days you’ll be stressed out, and you just won’t want to ride. That’s fine! But on other days, the physical activity will be just the ticket to get your mind into the sort of happy space you need to crush your exams.

What I like:

The links included are not affiliate links–these are actual products used by the author. If you are using Amazon to shop, please designate WABA as your Amazon Smile charity!

Biking on the 4th of July: Closures, tips, things to know.

Not recommended.

Biking is a great way to get yourself to and from your preferred fireworks viewing point this holiday. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Bikes aren’t allowed on Metro at all on the 4th. You can still use the bike racks on buses.
  • Capital Bikeshare will have corral service at 10th and Constitution NW. Some stations will be inaccessible throughout the day. More details here.
  • Bring your lights. It’ll be dark when you head home.
  • Don’t bike drunk. Seriously. Call a cab or put your bike on the bus.
  • Expect trails to be very crowded, especially along the waterfront. Remember that it’s nobody’s job to get out of your way. Be patient, negotiate space, expect to dismount and walk a few times.
  • Plan to walk your bike on the bridges over the Potomac. They get very crowded.
  • The National Park Service has a good rundown of road closures and a handy map of restricted areas and services:

AND REMEMBER: Bike to the fireworks, but don’t set off fireworks from your bike.


Commuter Bike Lane Glossary


Have you eve been chatting with another cyclist and hear them talk about how someone was salmoning up the street? Or maybe a disgruntled bicycling commuter who hates when people are shoaling? Or how about your friend who advises you to take the contraflow lane on G Street to get over to 10th and H Street NE? Any of this sound a little like Sanskrit to you?

Well this blog post is for you! Below is a breakdown of some common terms you’ve probably heard out in the bicycling world.

Let’s start with the easiest.

photo credit bikearlington.com

photo credit bikearlington.com

Bike lane–  A bike lane is a striped area on the roadway usually with a bike painted on it showing that is a lane designated for bicycles.  It is illegal for drivers to park in bike lanes (though that doesn’t stop some). If a bike lane is next to parked cars, be careful to stay out of the door zone (see below).





photo credit beterbybicycle.com

photo credit beterbybicycle.com

Door zone– The door zone is the area where you are riding and a driver can swing open a door and possibly hurt you. To be safe ride as close to the outside white line as possible to avoid being hit by a vehicles door.





photo credit brentadams.com

photo credit brentadams.com

Sharrow– A sharrow is a shared lane marking which indicates where a bicycle may be in the road and also alerts drivers that bicyclists will be sharing the road with them.





photo credit peopleforbikes.org

Protected bike lane or cycletrack- A protected bike lane is sort of like a sidewalk for bikes. The lanes are separated from the car traffic via a barrier, usually either a curb or plastic posts. Thevprotected bike lane in the photo at left is a bi-directional lane— it’s designed so that bikes can go in both directions in the protected space. Protected bike lanes can also be one way.





photo credit envisionbaltimore.blogspot.com

Contraflow lane– A contraflow lane is a bike lane that goes against the flow of the surrounding traffic. Great examples are G and I Streets in Northeast DC, which offer a lower stress alternative to riding on the busy H Street NE.





photo credit urbansimplicity.net

photo credit urbansimplicity.net

Salmoning– Salmoning is riding your bike against the direction of traffic, either in a bike lane or a general travel lane. We don’t recommend it.






photo credit www.citylab.com and Paul Krueger/Flickr

photo credit www.citylab.com and Paul Krueger/Flickr

Shoaling- Shoaling is riding up to the front of the line when other bikes are waiting at a light. It’s considered bad bike etiquette. If you do need to pass another bicyclist, wait until you are moving.







Now when someone tells you to take G Street NE, but says you won’t have to salmon because there’s a contraflow lane, you’ll know what they’re talking about.


Women & Bicycles is proudly supported by The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club; hosts of the region’s most robust all-level group ride calendar and bike tailgates, Chipotle our delicious dinner party sponsors, and we’re supported by all our friends who donated through the Hains Point 100 ride.

chipotle-logo waba_women_logo_commuter potamac pedalers logo


Hey. Come ride with us!

Take on the fall with WABA’s education ride series!

When it comes to learning about biking, nothing beats real-world experience, so we’re embarking on a series of four rides — each covering a different topic or theme that will help you get around the city.

Our rides are certain to be a good time, but they’re also a safe space to practice riding with people who live and breathe (and teach) this stuff every day. Come to tour DC, come to ride, come to ask any of your deepest, darkest, secret-est bike questions, and come to have fun.

Still not sure? Did we mention that each ride will end at one of DC’s premier taco establishments?

Click on a ride below to register — advance registration costs 10 bucks a person, but you can join us for free on the day of, providing we still have space. Bring a bike, wear your helmet, and read the fine print here.


First up, we have our Ch-ch-ch-changes Ride on Wednesday, Sept. 17th! This ride is all about preparing for what comes next when you’re on your bike. We’ll be riding from trails to roads, from bike lanes to open lanes, and from Northeast to Northwest, all while summer changes to fall around us. Get ready to reinvent yourself and change the way you ride!

Starts at 6:30 p.m. @ M Street NE, between 1st Street NE and 2nd Street NE, in front of the NoMa Metro station

Ends at 8:00 p.m. @ Taqueria Nacional (14th and T Street NW)

Every other Wednesday, we’ll be setting off to explore riding in DC. And these rides are just the beginning. Next year, we’ll have a whole new series!

Check ’em out:

On Wednesday, October 1st:

gotta get up to get down

And on Wednesday, October 15th:

bike lane blitz

And finally, on Wednesday, October 29th:

round round get around


Women & Bicycles Tip: Your Helmet May Not Be Protecting You

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series,  part of WABA’s initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes.  These posts aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming.
Click here to learn more and get involved.

We recommend and teach responsible, predictable, confident biking. We teach you to bike where you are most visible,  bike in visible clothing, and bike so that other road users can predict your behaviors.

We also teach that helmets are really your last line of defense on the road. So we definitely recommend them. But there’s a good chance your helmet isn’t protecting you at all, because so many people don’t know how to fit them properly.

If your helmet is not fit to your head properly, it’s not doing you any good.


Six Common Helmet-Fit Problems:

Helmet 11

Problem 1.)  You forget to buckle your helmet!
If it’s not buckled, it’s the same as wearing no
helmet at all.

Problem 2.) You have not adjusted the helmet clasps
(the plastic piece that joins the two straps on one side)
to fit below your ears. This woman’s helmet clasps are
nearly below her chin.

Problem 3.)You have not shortened the helmet straps
to sit snug around your face so that the buckle
sits securely below your chin. The straps should
be tight enough such that you can only fit two fingers
between your chin and the buckle.

Helmet 3Problem 4.) You’ve adjusted your helmet properly,
but you put it on backwards, a mistake countless
bicyclists in the D.C. area make every day.

Problem 5.) Your helmet straps are too loose,
so the brim of your helmet isn’t sitting level across
the top of your eyebrows.

Helmet 6
Problem 6.) Your helmet straps and clasps are too loose,
so the brim of  your helmet is not just above your eyebrows.
This woman’s helmet is sitting at the top of her forehead instead
of just above her eyebrows.  Her forehead would not be protected in a crash.

Perfect Helmet Fit Looks Like This:

The helmet is facing forward and buckled
The helmet clasps sit right below her ears
The helmet buckle is snug below her chin
The helmet brim is level and  just above her eyebrows


To make sure your helmet fits properly, click here to watch a tutorial by the League of American Bicyclists.

And please remember, just because you’ve strapped a helmet, doesn’t mean you’re any more safe on our roads. Fit your helmet properly and attend a WABA class to practice visible, predictable, and confident biking (classes are $10 and hosted throughout the region).




Women & Bicycles Tip: Bring Back The Romper!

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series,  part of WABA’s initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes.  These posts aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming. Click here to learn more and get involved.


All the buzz  over the Penny In Yo’  Pants #CycleHack has me buzzin over my personal preferred bike-friendly feminine formal wear: rompers.

Rompers are lovely to bike in. I own six or seven. Rompers are like dresses except the bottom half is shorts or pants. They’re comfortable, lightweight, and dress-like plus you don’t have to worry about pulling a Marilyn Monroe or getting your skirt caught all up in yo’ wheel spokes.

So, yes, by all means continue rocking your skirts and dresses on your commute, and if you haven’t worn a romper since 1987, bring it back!





Are You A Bike Ninja?


Bike Nin·ja noun \ˈbīk\ˈnin-jə, -(ˌ)jä\

Definition of Bike Ninja: Bicyclists who ride unlit at night, or under low visibility conditions. They can go undetected by other bicyclists and motorists…like a ninja. This practice puts many people at risk, and should be avoided whenever possible.

On Wednesday, July 9th, Bike Ambassadors are riding to the NoMa Summer Screen viewing of The Muppets to hand out surprise goodies to people who biked.

This is a great opportunity to meet REAL LIFE Bike Ambassadors. We’re the folks out on the streets promoting respectful everyday biking, and we thank other road users who share the road with us. Talk to us, find out what we’re all about, and consider becoming a Bike Ambassador yourself.

Join us for a Bike Ambassador Orientation on July 15, at 6 pm at the WABA office. To find out more or sign up, click here.

Women & Bicycles Tip: Steer Clear of Streetcar Tracks

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series,  part of WABA’s initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes.  These posts aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming.
Click here to learn more and get involved.


DC Streetcars on Pennsylvania Ave

Image courtesy of Flickr user DC Streetcar

Even though  Streetcar won’t be up and running until 2015 (at the earliest), people who bike along the H Street corridor interact with the system on a regular basis. These interactions are not always friendly.

Since the  installation of tracks along the H Street corridor, WABA has received many reports of bike crashes involving the tracks. Here are the three most important tips for avoiding hazardous encounters with streetcar tracks:

1. Never ride between the tracks.


Image courtesy of Flickr user SeguiMI

2. Always cross at a 90 degree angle.

Streetcar tracks

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jonathan Maus

3. Use alternative routes.  Contraflow bike lanes on G St. and I St. NE offer safe alternatives for bicyclists going east and westbound.

Women & Bicycles Tip: Approaching Kidical Mass


This entry is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. These posts certainly aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming and staffing. Click here to learn more and get involved.

Kidical Mass
Family biking is becoming more popular, more normal, more safe, and more fun thanks to the Kidical Mass groups forming throughout the United States.

Kidical Mass groups are volunteer-run initiatives that organize family bike rides for all ages and all experience levels. The groups find flat (or flattest), short, and scenic routes that start or end with treats.These adorable and lively events help demystifying family biking and encourage more Americans to take it on for recreation and transportation.

In just a few years we’ve seen a surge in these groups here in the D.C. metropolitan area. Find one closest to you, tell your friends, volunteer, start your own, join the ride!