A few additions to make your bike rain-worthy. Inclement weather can be rough on your bike. Moisture can corrode components, causing them to rust or seize. But with some prep it will be ready for the rainy season.
A few additional gear items will also make a world of difference to your riding comfort.
Like or loathe them, mudguards are designed to protect you from road spray from the wheels and can make a huge difference to preventing you getting soaked through. They may not look great, and they may rattle, but they are essential. You might get wet from the falling rain, but mudguards will prevent your feet, legs and bum getting a soaking when splashing through puddles. They will keep all that filthy water on the road off of your feet, lower legs and back (where un-guarded wheels will spray the water with carefree abandon). Even if you miss the rain, the roads will remain wet. That (dirty) water then gets flicked up by the wheels and makes you wet and cold. A flap added to the front guard will give you even greater protection.
Mudguards vary from simple plastic clip-on fenders, which offer limited protection but will fit any bike quickly and easily, to proper full-length mudguards. These offer the best protection, as they wrap much more of the wheel and track the front wheel when steering. Your bike will need mounts and adequate clearance between the tyre and frame to take them, though.
2. Use chain degreaser
Cover your chain in degreaser (WD40 or GT85 are both widely available). Use a heavier lube on your chain to keep moisture out (make sure to apply it when the chain is completely dry). Do this and it can double the chain’s lifespan. It’s a good idea to spray the other metallic moving parts too; front and rear gear mechanisms and brake callipers. Try to keep the degreaser away from the hubs, bottom bracket, wheel rims and brake blocks. If you want to take things even further, protect your cables by running full cable housing. You can do this yourself if you feel confident or have your local bike shop do it for you.
Whether it’s the droplets of water on wing mirrors or a steamed-up windscreen, driving standards drop drastically in the rain. It is well worth making yourself more visible when it’s raining, even in the middle of the day. There are plenty of good quality, lightweight, LED lights that can be discreetly clipped to your bike. If riding at night, lights that meet legal requirements are needed anyway. Flashing LEDs are a good addition. Be seen – fit some lights. A set of small blinking LED lights, either just a rear one of a front and rear set, can ensure that other road users stand a better chance of seeing you in murky weather.
4. Prep Your Pack
Waterproof panniers, frame bags and backpacks are all great options for protecting gear from Mother Nature. You can hack your own non-waterproof pack by lining it with a trash compactor bag; just make sure you secure the top of the bag to keep moisture out. Side note: Backpacks provide a surprising amount of additional warmth for your back.
5. Cover Your … Seat
If you have to leave your bike outside in the rain, cover your seat with a special seat cover, plastic grocery bag and a rubber band, or a shower cap. Your butt will thank you later.
The friendly roads you’re used to on beautiful sunny days might not be so welcoming when the weather takes a turn. Rain can transform metal grates and railroad tracks into slippery hazards, and iridescent oil patches lurk where you least expect them. Deep puddles can disguise wheel-snagging obstacles. Be extra cautious, particularly when cornering and riding unfamiliar streets, and give yourself twice as much braking time as usual.
1. Avoid standing water
Steer clear of it. Standing water not only gets you wet, it can be incredibly dangerous as you never know what’s lurking beneath. It might just be a puddle, but then it could be a wheel smashing pothole.
2. Check your tyres and reduce the pressure
Rain water washes all sorts of muck on to the roads, and when your tyres are wet they pick up more of it than usual. Avoid punctures – change your tyres. Getting a puncture isn’t much fun but it’s even less fun when the rain is pelting down on you. Swap your lightweight race tyres for durable all weather tyres with a puncture belt and you’ll lessen the risk of getting a puncture. You’re more likely to puncture in the rain because debris gets washed out of the gutter into the road, and water acts as an astonishingly good lubricant for sharp flint and glasses to slice through a bicycle tyre.
Some tyres are made for the winter with a different rubber compound, intended to provide increased traction on wet roads. Ignore the tread pattern on a bicycle tyre, it makes no difference. Consider fitting the widest possible tyre your bicycle will accommodate. You can run lower pressures and benefit from a larger contact patch, increasing the traction. Running your rubber at a slightly lower pressure – by 5 to 10 psi – increases your surface area, and thus grip on the road as well as comfort.
After each ride take a quick look over your tyres checking for flints, glass and other debris. Also check for cuts in the tyre that could weaken the carcass or allow the inner tube to bulge through.
Leaving a bike muddy just means more work later. While your bike is wet, at least spray it down to get mud and grit off the frame, tires, chain, and derailleur before it dries and hardens. Even if you’ve been riding on the road, hose your bike down—it’s probably got a pretty hefty amount of grime on it.
Lightly rinse off your outerwear when you‘re rinsing off your bike. Dirt is abrasive and road grime is hard to get out, but spraying it before you bother with stain removers can go a long way. Getting a black stain out of a white jersey can be tricky, and once it sets, it’s likely stuck. So after spraying it down, pre-treat it immediately with a mild liquid detergent and let that treatment sink in before you toss it in the machine.
Of all the parts on your bike, your chain arguably takes the biggest beating in a rainy ride, so give it some attention. After you’ve sprayed it down, take a minute to quickly run a brush over it to get some of the grime off, then wipe everything dry so it doesn’t rust. Before you head out on your next ride, make sure you lube the chain so it’s good to go!
Now that your bike and kit are taken care of, don’t forget the smaller stuff: your shoes and your helmet. Spray down shoes with the hose if they’re grimy and give them a quick wipe down. Again, it’s easier to clean while they’re wet versus waiting until they’re dry. Stuff them with newspaper and put them in a warm spot so they dry faster.
As for your helmet, make sure the pads inside are clean, and leave it somewhere warm where the pads and straps can dry out. It’s minor, but it’s pretty darn unpleasant to put on a cold, soggy helmet the next time you head out to ride.