April has been a really crap time for riding and blogging. The combination of bad weather and an early Autumn cold has me off the bike and off my game. I wasn’t able to do the MS Melbourne Cycle weekend either. Bother…
This morning was the first longish ride I’ve done since returning from holidays and it was a sodden and cold 34 km, with the last 7 km into a driving headwind. I don’t know how the Dutch and Belgians ride in these conditions in the lowland classics. Breakfast at Balderdash has never tasted so good.
Notwithstanding a pretty slow and miserable ride it made me thing about my personal safety and what I should be doing while riding in the wet. I figured that would be a good topic for an Autumn blog entry. It is also revisiting a topic I wrote about back in August last year after seeing Chris Froome bow out of the Tour de France.
So here’s some on tips on wet weather riding:
- Your tyres only provide traction for one activity at a time: braking, steering or accelerating. Don’t risk losing traction by braking or sprinting around bends. Brake on the approach, flow round, ride away.
- Avoid riding through puddles, particularly if you can’t see the bottom of them. They could conceal shards of glass, potholes and slippery surfaces like painted lines or ironworks.
- Your brakes will be a lot less efficient in the wet, especially if you have rim brakes and are on very wet roads. This means your stopping distance in the wet is greatly increased so you’ll need to leave plenty of room to slow down and stop. You may need to “pump” the brakes a little to dry the rims. In addition, don’t forget to give your brakes a really wipe to remove all the grit that’s splashed up during your ride. An old toothbrush is perfect for this.
- A back wheel slide under braking can be controlled with practice. However, a front wheel slide isn’t quite as easy to recover from. So take it easy on that front brake and use more emphasis on the rear brake. If you’re on very slippery surfaces keep pedalling while you use the back brake to prevent the wheel from locking.
- Drivers may have problems seeing through wet or steamy windscreens when it’s raining. This means you need to take extra care to be visible with front and rear lights on your bike and helmet. Bright clothing high visibility clothing and pannier covers will also help.
- Pedestrians are doing their best to get where they’re going in without getting wet. They may have rain hoods up or have visibility shielded by umbrellas. This will means they may not see you coming so you have to be extra vigilant (and visible) and be prepared to avoid them.
- In low light, clear or yellow lenses for eye protection are critical. When riding in the rain, normal sunglasses cut out too much light and can make road obstacles hard to see.
- Warm and waterproof clothing will make you much more comfortable so you can concentrate on riding safely. Wear good gloves and overshoes as well as a waterproof jacket. If you wear glasses consider wearing a hat with a peak to help keep the rain off of them.
- Newly laid tarmac may be greasy and slippery so you need to be extra cautious on new roads.
- If you’re a regular commuter consider fitting mudguards for the winter season. They will stop the spray into your face off the front wheel and the wet strip up your back from the rear wheel.
- Avoid these slippery things where possible: Painted markings, metal drain covers and manholes, metal studs and cats eyes, rainbow coloured oil splotches, wet leaves, wooden surfaces, mud.
- Even when running good tires, traction on wet roads is hard to come by. An easy way to increase traction on wet roads is to lower your tire pressure. A drop of just 5-10 psi could improve traction noticeably.
- When riding with others, it is best not to ride directly behind the rider in front as this throws up spray and grit. Also, stopping distances will be affected in the wet so it is best to keep a safe distance apart to avoid collisions.
See you on the roads.