You live in the Northwest. You ride in the Northwest. Unless you plan on moving to Florida, you’ll soon be riding in the rains of the Northwest, too.
While cycling in the Northwest during the beautiful late spring, summer and early fall months is hard to beat, you don’t need to stress about a little (or a lot) of rain. To continue riding safely, however, you need to pay more attention and make a few modifications.
For starters, use extra caution at the front end of the rainy season. After a few months of dry weather, the first rains tend to flush out oil in the pavement and can make for slick riding surfaces. Watch for rainbow patterns on the street, which are tell-tale signs of slippery spots to avoid. Likewise, slow down when streets are wet, especially when taking corners or heading downhill, and watch for metal and painted surfaces. Those all tend to be slipperier when wet.
Invest in Fenders
If you don’t already have fenders, invest in a pair for your ride. They’re not too pricey, they’re easy to install and they make a huge difference. Not only do they keep that lovely stripe of mud and water off of your back, but they can help keep water from splashing up and impeding your vision. In addition, fenders are a simple common courtesy to other riders on group rides.
Dress for the Weather
Proper clothing for rainy cycling can make the difference between a smile and a frown. Wear a bright, breathable, waterproof jacket and pants over an under layer of wool or synthetic material to stay drier and warmer without overheating. Many cycling-specific rain coats have elongated drop-down tails to keep you drier and offer adjustable hoods to fit over bike helmets.
Let’s face it – no matter what you do, you will get a bit wet. That’s unavoidable. If you’re riding in to work, bring a dry change of clothes so you’re good to go once you get to the office.
Don’t Forget the Extremities
Be sure to invest in waterproof or even wind-resistant gloves as well. Many cyclists also put neoprene booties over their shoes to keep their feet dry. If you usually wear sunglasses while riding, switch to clear or yellow lenses to improve visibility. Also, consider a helmet with a visor or a cap under your helmet to help keep the rain out of your eyes.
Darker, grayer days make it harder for drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists to see you. Make sure your bike is outfitted with plenty of reflectors. At the very least, make sure you have a bright white light in front and a bright red one in back.
Are you a seasoned seasonal Northwest rider? What tips do you have for riding in the rain?