By Marc Lindsay
In certain parts of the country, avoiding the rain isn’t an option. And while riding in the rain may be slightly less enjoyable and a bit more difficult than cycling in sunny weather, it isn’t impossible.
Instead of letting the rain keep you off the bike, use these seven expert tips for bike handling on slippery surfaces to keep you safe and upright in foul weather.
Tip #1: Lower Your Tire Pressure
Bike handling in the rain is tricky because slick surfaces decrease your traction and make turning and braking more difficult. To combat wet weather, decrease your tire pressure by 10 to 15 psi, or around 85 to 90 psi on a normal road tire. This will put more tire on the road, improving your grip to make handling your bike less risky.
If you ride in wet weather frequently, you may also want to consider a wider all-weather tire designed to improve traction on slick surfaces.
Tip #2: Stay off White or Painted Lines
While the road will generally be slick everywhere when it’s raining, there are certain parts of the road where your traction will be even worse. Painted white lines that separate the road from the bike lane or shoulder is one area you’ll need to try to stay away from—especially when turning or braking.
Other spots you want to be careful of are patches of oil, cobblestones, and anything metal, such as railroad tracks. When encountering these obstacles, keep your center of gravity over your back wheel and steer in as straight of a line as possible, avoiding any sudden accelerations.
Tip #3: Give Yourself More Time to Brake
Because traction and grip is decreased, you’ll need to give yourself more time to brake than you would in dry conditions. Begin to brake at twice the distance you would normally, and feather the brakes lightly instead of grabbing the brake levers with a tight squeeze. This will help to clear water from the braking surface of the rim and give your more stopping power.
When approaching a corner, be sure to slow down to a safe speed before you begin to turn. If you try to brake as you negotiate the change of direction, you’ll be more likely to have your tires slide out from under you. Instead, it’s always a better idea to use your brakes while you’re traveling in a straight line to maintain your traction.
Tip #4: Don’t Lean in Turns
Turns or sharp corners on descents can be particularly problematic in the rain. While you might normally enter a sharp corner wide and lean into the apex on dry roads, doing so on a slick surface can be trouble.
In the rain, decrease your speed and take a more conservative approach to cornering. Don’t lean into the turn and keep as much of your tire in contact with the road as possible. Try to maintain your center of gravity over your back wheel to improve your tires contact patch with the road. As you exit the corner, get back up to speed slowly and avoid sudden accelerations that might cause your rear wheel to slip.
Tip #5: Choose Your Brake Pads/Rims Carefully
Unless you have disc brakes, your braking power will be significantly decreased in the rain. To make matters worse, some rubber brake pads will deteriorate very quickly on aluminum surfaces. If you use rims with a carbon braking surface, your stopping power will be even worse.
Since maintaining a safe speed is a key to bike handling, you’ll need to choose your wheel/brake pad combination wisely. An aluminum braking surface with a brake pad designed for wet weather is your best option for anyone without disc brakes. The Swiss Stop Green GHP II brake pads is one that’s well known for their performance in foul weather.
Tip #6: Stay Seated on Climbs
The power you’ll need to produce on steep climbs can cause your rear wheel to slip on slick roads. Because of this, try to stay seated as much as possible. Keep your weight over your back wheel as much as possible, which will help you maintain your center of gravity and improve your traction.
Be sure to keep off the painted lines on the road when climbing too, as the combination of a slick surface and increased wattage make your chances of losing control of your bike more likely.
Tip #7: Slow Down
There are certain times when interval or other high-intensity training isn’t recommended. When riding in the rain, safety should always be your top priority. Riding too aggressively when its unnecessary increase your chances of being involved in an accident. While you may not want to miss a hard day of training, getting injured because of a crash could result in additional time you have to spend away from the bike and ultimately be more harmful to your training plan that skipping a day of intervals.
Instead, choose the indoor trainer for high-intensity workouts when conditions are unfavorable outdoors. When you do head out for a ride, decrease your overall speed to give yourself more time to react to obstacles and make safe braking easier to manage.