Hints and Tips: Wet Weather Riding Preparation

Monsoon rain in Hanoi (Vietnam) - at least it's not that bad here!
From October to April, and in the UK it seems all year round, you are likely to encounter rain on your riding schedule at some point. There are three options when confronted with the wet stuff:

1) Bail (not really an option)
2) Get out the turbo (and get bored)
3) Man-up and go out riding

In my book at least, the third option is really the only one of these that appeals, even in a torrential downpour. So here are a few tips and tricks to make those damp rides a bit more manageable and enjoyable.



Prepare your bike:
  • MUDGUARDS! Get some! There is frankly no excuse to not have full mudguards on a bike in Autumn /Winter/Spring (when you're not racing). When you are riding on wet roads, about 80% of the drenching is from spray off your front wheel hitting your chest (just where you don't want it to) and spray from your back wheel showering your back and buttocks. If there is one thing that will improve your comfort in the wet, it's mudguards; you can now get ones that will fit any road bike pretty much, and although I've not had great experiences with the CrudCatcher RoadRacer ones, a lot of bike shops will fit either SKS Race Blades if you don't have eyelets, or you can use p-clips on the seat-stays to substitute for eyelets. If you're doing group riding there is even more reason to get mudguards, in fact a lot of sensible clubs will say that full mudguards with mud-flaps are compulsory in the winter. Keep the road spray off yourself and off those riding behind you, they might not look cool, but hypothermia isn't exactly the height of fashion either.
  • Get a good pump - This might not be the first thing that you think of when you think of wet weather, but having a good pump if you get a puncture in the rain is a real saving-grace. Lezyne make some fantastic pumps that I have reviewed on the blog (Link). I've just got their latest bit of kit, the High Pressure Micro Floor Drive, which I will review in a few weeks time when I've used it a bit more; but it seems to be the ideal replacement for a frame-fit pump and will pump your tyres up quickly and to a very high pressure; avoiding the frozen-hand syndrome setting in. 
  • Brake-Pads - This is a safety measure, I've had a fair few bad sets of brake-pads on my bike from time to time, and can vouch that you really can tell the difference in the rain. On my summer bike, I'm currently using KoolStop Salmon pads, and they seem to work very well in all conditions; when the current set on my winter bike wear out, they will be what I replace them with for sure.


Preparing yourself:
This section is essentially a kit list for wet weather riding; and what I use, and have found to work on those really damp days:
  • Shoes: Two options here, either you get some waterproof shoes, which will normally be mountain bike ones, similar to the Dhb M1.0 Mountain Bike Shoes I reviewed last week. Or you waterproof your road shoes. To do the later, make sure that any large mesh vents and breather holes are taped over with duck tape, and buy some overshoes. These ones from PRO are very good for all conditions: Pro Endure H20 MultiFit Overshoes.
  • Socks: To back-up the waterproofing of your shoes, a pair of waterproof socks are also a major asset; I use SealSkinz, which are both thick (and warm), as well as being waterproof. A little tip, if you want to make them even more waterproof, try taping up the cuffs around your calves, or using some neoprene bands, to fully seal them off.
  • Jacket: This is perhaps the most important bit of kit. A good, breathable jacket will make all the difference in the rain. Check out my Review of the Mavic Sprint Jacket as a suggestion.
  • Layers: It seems the trick in wet weather is to wear layers. That way if your inner layer gets damp from perspiration inside your jacket, or your outer layer from a bit of water ingress; then its not going to chill you right through. It also means that you can strip off a layer if it gets really soaked 
  • Gloves: Cold, wet fingers are a serious problem in wet weather; mainly because you need them to work in order to brake and change gear. A good pair of waterproof gloves such as the Chiba Drystar Gloves will ensure your hands are kept warm and dry.
  • Cycling Cap: I've become a huge fan of cycling caps; in the summer they keep your helmet pads from stinking to high-heaven, and also keep the sun off your scalp. But in the wet they are even more of an asset; keeping rain and road-spray off your face, and stopping valuable heat-loss through your head. I really like the Assos Mille cap that features in my Stocking Fillers for Festive Cyclists blog, it's worth the few extra pounds because of its integrated sweat band and better quality.
  • Leg Warmers: Having a good pair of leg warmers or tights is another must in wet weather; more than anything to protect your knee joints, which need to be warm to operate properly. You can get sets with water-resistant front panels now, such as the Sugoi Subzero Leg Warmers or the Gore Bike-Wear Windstopper leg warmers. They are a very worthwhile investment that will improve your comfort enormously and help to avoid injury.

So there you have it, a few tips to make the drizzle a bit more manageable, and to keep you smiling...hopefully.


Comments

  1. It's funny isn't it how some of the 'old school' ideas such as mudguards and cycling caps really do work.....
    Maybe some of the ideas that oldies like me have been banging on about for years are not so stupid after all....I have never understood why mudguards are thought of as 'not cool'. I think they are far more cool than seeing a totally soaked to the skin rider with that tell tale muddy streak up his back...
    Another well written and informative post Tim...keep it up.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Have just fixed mudguards to my winter hybrid and noticed a massive improvemt..both for me and our OAP peleton! With old age comes thinning hair and so in the winter I am looking for a (skull ) cap to defend against the cold. Not convinced that a cap as reviewed would do the job, would it fit under a helmet?

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