On sunny days, riding a bike feels like a simple affair. Clip on your helmet, hop on your bike and you're good to go.
But what about on rainy days, or as temperatures drop or wind picks up or daylight hours shorten?
You can still ride your bike for fun, exercise or commuting even in less-than-stellar weather conditions. Here are a few tips to get you started!
Plan a Strategic Route
Look for protected bike lanes and bike paths, even if it adds a bit more distance to your route. Not only will you avoid more traffic and potential interactions with drivers, but bike lanes and rail trails tend to be a bit more sheltered from the weather.
Avoid roads that have huge puddles on the sides and those that are more narrow. While sometimes, it's unavoidable—and you certainly have every right to be on those roads!—it's a safer and more enjoyable experience if you're able to comfortably pedal on a better-drained surface.
Run Front & Rear Lights
Whether conditions are stormy, dark, foggy or rainy, running lights on your bike ensure you're easier to spot on the road.
Front lights also help you see what's coming in front of you. It's amazing what we can miss in dim light if we don't have a front light.
Occasionally, you’ll even hear stories about cyclists smacking into porcupines or squirrels because it was too dark to notice them in the road.
It might sound obvious, but front and rear lights also help drivers more easily notice you. In fact, a 2012 study in Denmark found a 19 percent drop in all types of accidents and injury when riders used lights during the day and at night.
Be Highly Visible
Unfortunately, the worse the weather gets, the less motorists will be expecting to see cyclists on the road. That means it's time to break out the neon cycling gear!
The brighter you are, the easier you are to spot. If you can't stomach the neon colors for your jersey, at least consider it for your shoes or helmet. At the minimum, look for gear that has reflective strips built in.
You can also buy adhesive reflective strips and stick them on your jacket or backpack for cheap DIY visibility.
Check Your Rain & Winter Gear for Bike-ability
You don't necessarily need all cycling-specific winter or rain gear.
Oftentimes, rain jackets and winter coats for different sports will work just fine if you're not worried about being ultra-aerodynamic. But you do want to make sure that the clothing isn't flapping so much that it could catch on your chain.
You’ll also want to ensure that your gloves allow your fingers to comfortably grip the brakes, even when wet.
Safety in Numbers
Rather than doing all of your training rides in bad weather as solo missions, consider recruiting a few friends who are willing to ride rain or shine
Not only will you have some extra motivation and accountability to get you out the door when the weather is less than compelling, but a few cyclists riding together are more visible than a single cyclist.
You'll also have company in case of a slide out in an icy or wet corner, not to mention a few extra hands to help fix a flat if you need it!
Waterproof Your Valuables
While your safety is obviously the most important thing, don't neglect the safety of your more valuable items. After all, nobody wants to have their laptop completely soaked after biking to work.
Investing in a bag that's waterproof (or at least water-resistant) is crucial—as is ensuring that your bag is properly zipped and secured before your ride.
Even if you're riding for fun, ensure that your non-waterproof valuables are stashed in a plastic baggie within your hydration pack or fanny pack, since those packs are water-resistant but not fully waterproof.
Maintenance Your Bike Regularly
It sounds silly, but regular bike cleaning and quick maintenance can actually make your ride safer. The cleaner your chain, the less grimy your brakes. And the better maintained your bike is, the less risk you have of a mid-ride breakdown.
When the weather is getting chilly, there's not much worse than trying to fix a flat or repair a broken chain on the side of the road. And while bikes break down occasionally regardless of how well-kept they are, a bike that's cleaned regularly and has a freshly lubricated chain, as well as recently pumped tires, will be far less likely to stall you mid-ride.
Make It Playful
Riding in the rain can be a drag…. Or it can make you feel like a kid again! Often, all it takes is a small perspective shift to bring a ride from being a total bummer to playtime.
And in some ways, it can be safer. Rather than sharply swerving around that shallow puddle, roll right through it. You'll be safer from drivers who aren't expecting you to make a sudden move. Sure, you'll get a little wet, but look at it as an adventure.
In short, riding a bike in inclement weather doesn’t need to be unfun or even frightening. If you follow some simple steps, it can be a totally manageable, and even enjoyable, experience. Happy cycling!
Written by Molly Hurford for Matcha in partnership with OrthoCarolina.
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