Ah, the rain. A regular feature of the British climate which many riders hate with a passion. But riding in the rain doesn’t have to be miserable. Follow these easy tips, and you might even enjoy your wet weather rides.
If you want to enjoy a rainy ride, then your first line of defence from a soaking is stopping the cold, grimy surface water from spraying up from your wheels. It’s surprising just how dry a good set of mudguards will keep you but we do realise that not every bike can take full-length guards like these.
Chances are that the friends that you ride with do like you, that’s why they’re your friends. But give them four hours of wheel-spray straight to the face and you might not be flavour of the month.
Fitting a mudguard when you’re riding in a group isn’t for your benefit, but the benefit of the people behind you. It’s the courteous thing to do and with the number of solutions on offer, there’s not much excuse these days. Get one that will actually stop water from flying into the face of the following rider. A little flap that just protects your butt doesn’t count.
Being able to see where you’re going is a massive plus point in foul weather and while you might not look as stealthy, clear lenses are generally easier to see through when the rain is falling.
Thankfully, if a clear lens didn’t come with your favourite sunnies, the basic nature of the lens means that they’re usually a cheap upgrade.
Stopping the rain from hitting your sunnies is a good way to keep them clear and while a cap won’t keep the lens totally free of rain, the small peak will fend off the worst of the rain.
A casquette, as they’re often called, is a very simple cotton cap with a stiff peak that riders have been wearing for donkey’s years. The design has changed since they were adopted and they’re a staple of our cycling wardrobe.
For rainy rides, they not only keep a lot of rain from hitting your sunnies or getting in your eyes, but they also keep your head warmer when the weather is also cold. They’re cheap garments and come in an array of designs, so you can match them to your favourite kit, or get something jazzy.
One of the best clothing purchases that you can make is a packable, lightweight rain jacket. The one that I wear is from Gore and it’s their ShakeDry jacket. At over £200 it’s certainly a hefty investment, but this does more than just rainy rides for me.
From around September through to early May, this jacket will seldom be left at home. It either gets worn or gets rolled up and taken with me in my jersey pocket.
The shell beads water, so rain simply bounces off and with no lining, it dries quickly too.
Rain jackets are generally windproof too, so if you’ve got a chilly descent, or you’re waiting for a friend to fix a puncture, you can throw it on for a surprising amount of warmth.
When choosing a route for a rainy ride, I generally take one of two approaches. Sometimes, I’ll take more main roads in the hope that they’re better surfaced, less likely to be covered in standing water and should there be any standing water, less likely to have potholes lurking under the surface.
That said, main roads have more traffic and that creates road spray which can be very unpleasant. So sometimes I’ll head for the quieter back lanes and just accept that I’ll have to skirt around any standing water.
While I find road riding in the rain to be fine, mountain biking when there’s a properly rainy day is brilliant fun. A few hours of sliding around in the mud and staying close to home is often quite a bit nicer than churning out the miles on the road.
Just be prepared for a lot of cleaning when you get home.
Planning a stop on longer rides in the wet not only helps to break up the effort of the ride, but it’ll also give you the chance for your body to warm up and your stomach to get some hot food.
Riding in cold and wet conditions seems to make my body seize up, so a nice cosy pub lunch by a roaring fire is the dream, allowing me to not only have some food but also to stretch out cold muscles.
While you’re at your stop, it’s a great chance to pop to the loos and change into a dry base layer and cap. This is a top tip for keeping yourself from getting cold and it’s also just plain pleasant.
Just remember to pack them in a zip-lock bag to keep them properly dry.
While you’re on the subject of bagging things, delicate and expensive electronics like your phone hate nothing more than long periods of exposure to damp conditions, so for rainy rides, it’s a good idea to employ a waterproof phone case. Or you can just use a sandwich bag. That’s equally effective.
Gloves, caps, overshoes, socks, legwarmers and arm warmers all come in some form of waterproof or at least water-resistant varieties.
The idea here is to keep your extremities dry and while most work for a time, we find that even the best overshoes will eventually be foiled by rain water’s ability to seep in down socks or through cleat holes.
A lot of waterproof accessories are also very bad at letting water out. That means that you can quickly find yourself getting wetter from the inside than you are from outside, so careful choice of garments is needed.
Ok, the biggest and best tip that I promised you is also the simplest tip for loving a rainy ride and the one that always gets me out of the door is to plan to meet a friend for the ride. Generally, I’ll be far less likely to disappear back under my duvet on a rainy Sunday morning if I’ve said on the group chat that I’ll be riding that day.
My friends are also just as stubborn and stupid as I am, so with non of us wanting to be the one to suggest cancelling a ride, we’ll all just hope that one of the others will be the one to pull out first. It never happens and we all end up turn up at the meeting point.
Once we meet up, the rain never seems as bad as we’re usually focussed on the quality banter, the day’s route and who’s might have had one too many the night before. Riding with friends never fails to make a rainy ride more pleasant. That is, unless one of them turns up without mudguards!