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(Transportation Management Association)

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Bicycling in Rainy Weather

Cold weather windbreaker

You can be comfortable riding in the rain when you wear some rain-weather clothing, have the right equipment on your bike, and know the techniques of riding on wet, slippery streets.

Clothing for rainy weather

The type of clothing you wear depends on if you plan to accept that you’re going to get wet or do all you can to stay dry. Getting wet is best for quick trips, where you won't be out long, or long trips because your body will generate enough heat to keep warm. Either way, you must be able to warm up quickly after your ride so you don’t get a chill.

If you’re going to get wet, plan to wear the following:
If you’re trying to stay dry, wear the following:
Degrees of waterproofing.

Techniques for riding when it's wet, cold and dark

Bicycles almost never slip unless you turn too quickly or sharply, or ride across wet leaves or metal. Remember the following when riding when it’s raining or dark.

Getting your bike ready -- Equipment

It doesn’t take much to get your bike ready to ride in winter. Many people ride their regular bicycle in the winter and others get an old beater bike so they won’t have to worry about water and grime on the bike. Some people ride road bikes in winter, some ride a mountain bike. The important thing is to clean your bike after every ride. Give it a light shower with the hose and wipe it off.

You will want the following equipment:

There is no limit to how many lights/ reflective items you can have on your person or your bike. The main point is that they should be BRIGHT, so test them often. LED lights are very bright and work well as front lights. If you ride fast, choose a narrow beam. If you ride slowly, use a broad beam light. With a very bright front light you’ll feel more confidant and safe. You can also mount a light on your helmet which allows you to point a light at a vehicle driver that may not have seen you.

Use a bright red rear LED light. Have it in flashing mode at dusk and on but not flashing after street lights come on. (It’s harder for a car driver to judge distance when the light is flashing.)

Being “well-lit” means others can see you. If someone can’t see you they are limited in the amount of reaction time they have in interacting with you, passing you, etc. Being seen is especially important during winter months when the pavement is likely to be wet. If someone cuts in front of you because they didn’t see you, and you need to stop suddenly, you’re more likely to skid. If a vehicle driver can’t see you, they may be required to stop suddenly, endangering many.

Little red, flashing lights work great if you attach them to the back of your bike or even to your clothing, and you may have seen bicyclists that are very “well lit,” with a flashing red light on their helmet, their back pack, the back of their seat, and a rack in the back.

Lights are an investment, so keep them safe from theft, and dry, by taking them off your bike when you are inside.

For additional visibility, purchase reflective pant leg straps and reflective strips to apply to your helmet, bag, bicycle and clothing. You can also purchase a highly reflective vest/ jacket.

You’ll find the weight doesn’t really affect how your bike handles or the amount of work required to pedal the bike once you’re moving. Just make sure both the rack and panniers are attached securely and don’t sway from side to side. That will affect how your bicycle handles. Because there are so many options (price and style wise), it is best to talk with your local bike shop and decide what works best for you.

Getting your bike ready -- maintenance

Take extra care of your brake pads, chain and gear cables when you ride in wet weather. 

Clean the chain

You can use a device especially made to clean a chain. 
Description: Chain mateYou put degreaser in the machine, lock it over part of the chain and turn the bike pedal crank backwards several times.  Brushes inside the scrubber work the solvent into the chain and clean it.  A separate reservoir in the upper section allows clean fluid from the top reservoir into the lower cleaning section to replenish or dilute dirty solvent.

The on-the-bike system has the advantage that the cleaning machine flexes the links and spins the rollers. This scrubbing action may do a better job of cleaning the inner part of the chain than taking the chain off.

Lubricate the chain

Types of chain lube:

Five steps to lubing your chain:
  1. Cover the floor with newspaper (and cover the rear tire because petroleum-based lube will erode the rubber).  Shift the chain to the outermost chain ring on the front and back.
  2. Hold the lube bottle upside down close to the chain, over the rollers, and drip oil to each gap where two links overlap as you spin the pedal crank backwards. 
  3. Work the oil in by spinning the chain backwards rapidly for a minute.  You should see dirty oil begin to seep out near the edges of the links.
  4. Wipe a lot.  Using a paper towel or a rag, wipe the chain, rear derailleur pulleys (the two little wheels below the rear gears), and the front gear until the chain is quite dry and you pick up very little grime with each new wipe.

Don’t worry about wiping off the oil you just put on. It’s practically impossible to wipe too much. The parts of the chain that need lubrication are deep inside and plenty of lubricant will remain on them no mater how much you wipe the outside.  As long as you use an extremely moisture-absorbent paper towel, wipe more than you think is necessary.

  1. If you don’t need to ride immediately, let the chain dry for several hours.  The part of the oil that lubricates is usually a solid, suspended in a liquid carrier.  The more of the carrier that dries, the less it will attract dust and the less your chain will wear.