Sam Bassetti races on the Herbalife 24 p/b Marc Pro-Nature’s Bakery Elite Cycling Team and is excited to leverage his experience and educational background to help you become a better cyclist.  In this article Sam shares some important tips on riding in the rain.

As competitive cyclists, our base training generally starts in November.  This means training through wet Northern Californian winters.  Fitting in a good base is essential to having a successful season, and in order to that, you will most likely be riding in some nasty weather.  Here are some tips for staying safe and warm during a cold and wet winter.

Choosing to ride

Planning and preparation are the most important aspects of winter riding.  When you are planning a week of training, be sure to take a look at the weather forecast so that you can decide ahead of time what your training will look like in relation to the weather.

If the week ahead looks clear aside from one or two days of rain, consider organizing your training so the shorter days of training will coincide with the rainy days.  Another option is to opt for an indoor trainer workout instead of riding in poor weather.

Pay close attention to the temperature along with the chance of rain.  When the temperature drops below 50 degrees with rain, it becomes more difficult to stay warm, even with good equipment.

Choosing your clothing

The number one rule for choosing rainy clothing is no cotton.  The second rule is there’s no such thing as waterproof clothing.  Finally, you should aim to keep as much skin covered as possible.  Here’s a rundown of what you should consider wearing.

Head

Keep your head covered with at least a cycling cap.  Use some sort of insulated cap that covers your ears when it is less than 55 degrees.  If you have an aero road helmet, or a helmet cover use it.

Eye protection is especially important since there’s a much higher chance of getting road grime or water spray in your eyes.  Choose clear or lightly tinted lenses so that you can see clearly.

Core

Having cold hands or feet is uncomfortable, but a poorly protected core can quickly lead to hypothermia.  Dress in layers so you can adjust your clothing throughout the ride if necessary.

Use a base-layer, a long sleeve jersey, or thermal vest/long sleeve.  Finally, choose an outer “waterproof” shell.  Most jackets will eventually soak through, but a good one will keep you dry for longer.  A cheap, clear plastic jacket can actually work as long as you have enough layers underneath.

Legs

Leg warmers or long thermal bibs are best here.  Knee warmers leave too much skin exposed.  Remember that embrocation will not actually keep you warm, it just makes you feel warm.

Feet

Remember, no cotton next to your skin.  If you have enough room in your shoes, you can try wearing a thick wool sock, otherwise, there are a number of thin wool socks on the market.  Next you can layer a couple pairs of shoe covers or use a thick neoprene bootie.

If you’re short on options, try using a plastic baggie over your socks.  Test out a few options and find what works.  Cold feet can make a wet ride extremely uncomfortable.

Hands

Find a pair of gloves that will stay warm when wet, usually these end up being fairly thick.  Another good option is neoprene gloves.  Try stuffing an extra pair of gloves under your jersey on long rides so that you can have a fresh pair for the last hour or two.  Cold hands can make even a short ride unbearable and unsafe, making shifting and braking very difficult.

Choosing your route

When you are deciding where to ride there are a few things to keep in mind.  Pay attention to the temperature and think about any microclimates you may encounter.  You may encounter snow at the top of some climbs so dress accordingly, or avoid especially cold climbs all together.

Consider choosing a rolling ride without big climbs.  This will allow you to avoid large body temperature swings from climbing then descending.  Another option is to find a short loop near your house and ride multiple loops. This will make it easy to bail on the ride if the weather gets significantly worse, or you discover your clothing choices were inadequate.   If you are using new equipment for the first time, choose the short loop option to make sure everything works.

Staying Safe

Road Hazards

When the roads are wet, there are many road hazards that you don’t normally have to worry about.  Thick paint lines, leaves on the ground, and cattle guards should all be avoided.  Avoid riding through puddles, as they could be hiding a deep pothole.  Also remember that drivers will have a harder time seeing you, a red blinking rear light and a highly visible jacket are a great idea.

Bike Handling

Riding in the rain will always be more dangerous due to less traction and poor braking.  You will have to approach corners more slowly.  It is also especially important to avoid braking in the middle of a corner, or riding over paint lines, manhole covers etc. while cornering.

If you do ride over any cattle guards, paint lines, etc, keep your bike completely straight.  If your bike is leaned, especially on a cattle guard, you can easily slide out.  Choose a wider tire if possible, and lower tire pressure to increase traction.

Taking care of your bike

Riding in the rain is much harder on your bike. Be sure to at least rinse off your bike after a rainy ride and re-lube your chain.  Keep a close eye on your break pads and breaking surface on your wheels as these will both wear out much faster while riding in the rain.

Be sure to replace your chain before it becomes completely worn. Using front and rear fenders on your bike makes a big difference by keeping groundwater off of you. There are many options for easily removable fenders that make riding in the rain more comfortable.

The hardest part about riding in the rain is getting started! If you are dressed right and plan appropriately, riding in the rain will be a much more pleasant experience.

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Sam Bassetti
Data Driven Athlete

Written by Sam Bassetti

Sam has been racing at the Junior, U23, Elite and Professional levels in the U.S. and Internationally since 2009. Relying on his experience and his degree in Exercise Biology, he currently coaches and trains cyclists for Data Drive Athlete and the Team Swift Junior Development Team out of Santa Rosa, CA.