How to ride in the rain with confidence
By Mon Garcia
What the rainy season means for cyclists is a whole lot more maintenance time. It also means we have to do a few adjustments to better handle riding in the rain. Whether you’re planning to continue riding or just looking to learn how to ride when caught in a downpour, here are some tips that could help.
Regardless of what rim and brake combination you have, rain and water are going to make it less efficient. This is especially true of earlier make carbon rims, which were notorious when braking in wet conditions. Hitting the brakes earlier is required not only because it takes that much more to stop, but part of that time is having your pads scrub off the grime that’s on your braking surface. Some experienced riders tackle the rain doing some “scrub braking” intermittently–that is, to lightly engage the brakes until they just skim the surface, allowing the pads to push away the sand, muck, and coagulated dust on the rims or brake discs so they have a cleaner surface when they really need to brake.
Stay Low on the Bike
While this can only be properly executed via a good bike fit, get yourself and your center of gravity as low as possible on the bike and as centered as you can between the front and rear wheels. Poorer braking and lesser grip on your tires are going to mess up your handling. Although not intuitive, getting low on the bike, by bending your arms or staying low in the drops instead of standing and hotrodding it like a BMX, actually gives you more control and stability. Only raise your butt off the saddle when you need to go over bumps and remain seated when cornering. Standing up in a corner when you have less than ideal grip is the perfect invitation to crash.
Reduce Tire Pressure
If possible, ride with less pressure in your tires. While this may seem to be an open invitation to more flats, lower pressure means a bigger contact patch (how much of your tire is in actual contact with the road). In the war for grip during wet weather, increasing the amount of rubber touching the road gives you more traction and control. Plus, since you’ll likely be sitting more, you’ll get better flotation and shock absorption for uneven road surfaces.
Ride Wider Tires
Personal preference usually has me on 21 to 23mm-wide tires, but if there’s anything that the current trend for wider tires accommodates best, it’s riding in the rain. The new crop of 25 to 28mm-wide tires gives you the contact patch and flotation needed for keeping upright and safe in inclement weather.
Equipment choice, proper bike fit, and learning new skills–these will help keep your skin once you find yourself out and about when the rains come. Stay safe and keep riding.