You want to know don’t you? What’s the thing about cycling in the rain? Well, I’m sorry to bring this up, but it’s pretty enjoyable; don’t you think?
Having said that there is a proviso or two attached to the above assertion; heading out of the house for a ride while it’s already raining requires the mental fortitude of Jens Voigt; and it’s important to be properly prepared for the journey ahead.
The first proviso is easily dealt with; you either put yourself in a situation that forces you to get on your bike, or you head out before the rain hits and forget about what’s coming later. After all, once you’re 50, 60, 70 miles away from home, there’s nothing to do but cycle back again.
Take the example of a ride a friend and I completed on the bank holiday at the end of August. Deciding it would be a good day for cycling we booked two 6:40am train tickets from Bristol to Barnstaple, with the assumption that the weather couldn’t possibly have the audacity to attempt to wash us away.
Fast forward a few days to the evening before the ride and it was clear that it was going to piss it down all day. But the tickets were already booked. There was no going back; money would not be spent in vain. So, resigned to our fate we did the only sensible thing, clambered atop our machines and set off on a 140 mile epic along the north coast of Devon, over the Quantox and home via the Mendips (which seemed pretty much flat by that point).
Once you realise the rain isn’t going to let up, it’s very easy to embrace the damp feet, wet hair and sodden bib-shorts. You learn to appreciate the cooling properties of water; there’s no chance of you being cold if you’re cycling through Exmoor. Even the feel of the rain against your skin becomes therapeutic; just part of the experience.
However, cycling in the rain isn’t all about getting on with it and learning to appreciate an environment usually confined to your shower. There are, of course, ways and means to improve the experience and make proceedings that little more comfortable. Here are 5 of my favourites:
- Use the right tyres. Whether you’re cycling in the wet or cycling in the dry, the last thing anyone wants to do is play the leading role in a spectacular crash. Not only does rain make slipping and sliding around corners more likely, it also lubricates any grit, gravel or glass on the road, facilitating punctures. The solution? Choose a grippy, puncture resistant tyre you have confidence in. If you’re not already running 25c tyres, give it a shot for added grip and comfort.
- Get a jacket or rain cape. Your jacket is the most important item of cycling apparel when it comes to cycling in the rain, for obvious reason. Make sure yours is both waterproof and breathable; the last thing you want is to feel like boil-in-the-bag chicken as you tackle the hills ahead.
- Don a cycling cap. Despite being worn by fixie hipsters for no other reason than aesthetics, cycling caps provide a solution to two perennial problems. Your stylish cotton headgear will stop rain running uncomfortably down the inside of your helmet and onto your face and keep the rain and standing water out of your eyes as you struggle against the deluge. Vital.
- Avoid standing water. This one’s obvious; who’s to say what lies beneath the surface of a puddle? Sidestep the problem encountered by Doctor Foster upon visiting Gloucester. Wet drain covers should be similarly avoided.
- Lights. A bright red light fixed firmly to the rear of your bike is indispensable during wet weather cycling. It goes without saying that visibility on the road is reduced to a minimum during heavy rain. Never assume the car behind you can see clearly. A flashing, clip-on LED or similar is your best bet.
Above all, remember that being wet and cold means that you get to warm up, dry off and put your feet up when you reach your destination; is there a more attractive feeling? If after reading this you still consider yourself a ‘fair weather cyclist’ then my only suggestion is for you to take up residence in Spain between October and April.