cyclists on rainy day

While it can be fun and exhilarating to ride in the rain, it can be pretty dangerous as well. From poor visibility to decreased traction, and everything in between, there is always some sort of hazard waiting to take you down.

So here are eight tips to keep you safe when you venture out in the rain:

1. Use Blinky Lights

The easiest way to make yourself more visible on rainy days is to install some blinky lights on your bicycle. To be safe, you could mount a small white headlight on your handlebar and a blinking red light on the back of your seatpost.

At the very least, clip a little light onto a jersey pocket. (Various cycling events will hand these out for free.)

2. Use Reflective Tape

Lighter in weight and less obtrusive than the blinky lights is reflective tape. This looks just like electrical tape, but when light is shone on it, it reflects a bright white flash.

You can put this on your bike and forget about it, but when a car’s headlights flash over it, the driver is more likely to spot you. My favorite way to use this is to put silver or black reflective tape on my crank arms. (The spinning motion makes the reflection even more visible.)

3. The Road Is Slippery When Wet

You can ride over most obstacles without thinking, if the road is dry. But when it rains, everything becomes a safety hazard!

You need to watch out for wet leaves, painted lines, railroad tracks, and metal grates or sewer lids. All of these surfaces are very slippery when wet, so it is best to avoid riding over them (or at least do so with caution.)

Also, the road itself can become quite slippery. When it starts to rain, motor oil and other substances coating the road are brought to the surface, decreasing friction even more than plain rain water does.

4. Pot Holes Are Deeper Than They Appear

Pot holes are always dangerous, but if you can see them, you can avoid them. Unfortunately, when roads are covered in water, pot holes can become hidden. Or at least, big pot holes will look smaller than they actually are.

If you see standing water or anything that looks like a pot hole, avoid it.

5. Use Good, Sturdy Tires

While you might not want to ruin your good racing tires by using them in nasty conditions, you don’t want to use a cheap or worn out tire.

Why? Because these tires will provide absolutely no traction on wet roads.

Use this test to determine if your tires have enough traction: Find a fairly steep climb where the road is nice and wet. As you climb, stand and sprint in a low gear, and see if the rear tire spins out.

If it spins or slips there, it probably won’t provide traction when you really need it.

6. Watch For Debris

You need to watch out because there will be extra debris on the roads. Rain is going to wash gravel, sand, and nearby trash onto the road. This could give you a rough ride, or worse, knock you down!

The shoulder is usually completely covered with junk, so if possible, ride towards the center of the lane. (If the rain was hard enough, there will still be dirt and gravel in the middle of the road as well.)

So make sure those tires are tough or you’ll be changing some flats!

7. Be Prepared to Brake

Wet rims and brake pads have virtually no stopping power. When you apply the brakes, the first couple revolutions of the rim will be used to squeegee water off the rim, and then the braking may take place.

So you should pay very close attention to situations where you may need to brake, since you’ll need to apply the brakes much earlier than you would on a dry day.

(If you’re running disc brakes, this won’t be as big of a problem, but keep it in mind.)

8. Run Lower Tire Pressure

Even when running good tires, traction on wet roads is hard to come by.

An easy way to increase traction on wet roads is to lower your tire pressure. A drop of just 5-10 psi could improve traction noticeably.

For a 150lb cyclist riding in the rain, 80-85 psi up front and 90-95 psi in the rear should be sufficient. (Experiment for best results.)

If you follow these tips (and dress appropriately,) you should have a fun, safe ride in the rain!

Photo credit: miks pix

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