Cycling In The Rain: 8 Essential Tips and Tricks

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Let’s face it: cycling in the rain can be pretty horrible.

However, often, this is because you’re simply not prepared for the wet weather. With a few tweaks to your habits and your kit, you can not only survive rainy bike rides, but enjoy them!

Cycling in the rain can actually be pretty fun – so long as you’re prepared.

When you’re not expecting rain or just not as prepared as you should be, cycling in the rain can be both miserable and dangerous.

Cold to the bones, drenched from head to toe, and feeling unsafe are not exactly qualities you’re going to be looking for in a ride.

But there are ways to remedy the situation. So, how can you enjoy your next outing in the rain on two wheels?

Don’t worry! In this article, we’ll give you our top tips for cycling in the rain, to ensure you get an enjoyable time in the saddle, regardless of the weather conditions!

Read on for our 8 essential tips and tricks for cycling in the rain.

Cycling In The Rain: Title Image

#1. invest in good waterproof kit

Now, this may seem obvious, but if you’re cycling in the rain, you’re going to need some good waterproof kit.

Getting wet not only feels horrible, but it makes you considerably colder on the bike due to the additional wind chill. Being drenched to the bone, making you significantly colder, will also mean that you use more energy per mile since your body has to keep itself warm.

So, in order to combat this, you can invest in some good-quality waterproofs. This means a jacket, trousers, overshoes, and gloves.

Many waterproofs are actually “water resistant”, which usually won’t hold up in a serious downpour while cycling.

A good thing to look out for is a waterproof rating of 10,000 mm or more, with high-rated breathability.

If you usually cycle with a backpack, then it’s a good idea to make sure that this is waterproof, too. If you keep your phone or any other electronics in a bag while riding, you risk serious damage to them if your bag isn’t waterproof.

An alternative option to buying a whole new backpack is using a dry bag inside your usual backpack. This can cost as little as $10 and will keep your stuff dry inside your bag!

An additional area to potentially save some money here are the gloves. Waterproof gloves are surprisingly expensive, but having completely soaked hands really isn’t a pleasant experience on a ride.

So, instead, you can use disposable rubber gloves underneath your regular cycling gloves. This will keep your hands dry very effectively. However, they’re not at all breathable and so they might get a bit hot and sweaty!

Close-up on the back wheel of somebody cycling in the rain.

#2. Layer Up Appropriately

Incorrectly layering can also make your ride significantly less enjoyable.

If you’re wearing too much underneath your waterproof, then even breathable waterproofs will have a hard time preventing you from overheating.

If you’re wearing too little, then you’ll likely still experience wind chill and get uncomfortably cold.

A good way to layer up is to wear a base layer, a jersey and bib tights, a mid-layer, and a waterproof. That way, you can remove or add on middle layers if you’re too hot or cold.

No matter how good your waterproof is, it’s also a good idea to wear materials that are naturally water-resistant. For example, a merino wool base layer is water repellant and also will naturally wick the sweat so that you don’t get too cold.

An added bonus is that merino wool is naturally odor-repellant, too. So, it’s unlikely to smell too much, even after a long ride.

A man on a black bike cycling in the rain.

#3. Bring a good set of lights

When cycling in the rain, you’re just not as visible on the road as on a clear day.

Even if it’s still light outside, the rain on the windscreen of cars and between you and a driver will obscure their vision.

So, it’s good to take some basic precautions to ensure your visibility, just like when you’re cycling in the dark.

The most important of these is a good set of lights.

Lights immediately draw the eye, and in the rain, in particular, they will illuminate the falling raindrops in front of you, forming a coherent beam that can be seen even from around the corner that you’re approaching.

Once again, however, the quality of your lights is very important. Poor quality lights that aren’t bright enough may fail to be recognized by cars, perhaps mistaking them for something else.

It’s a good idea to look for lights with 1000+ lumens as an absolute minimum.

A cyclist in a yellow coat rides in the rain.

#4. Wear reflective clothing

While we’re on the topic of visibility, there are other precautions you can take to ensure that you remain visible, even in the most torrential of downpours.

Wearing reflective clothing is another great way to keep you safe in the rain. A reflective jacket or helmet will immediately catch the light from a car and alert the driver to your presence.

Additionally, if you’re going to invest in a good waterproof specifically for cycling, then why not buy one that’s reflective?

You’re only going to be using it to keep you dry in situations in which you’re not as visible, so that’s a great way to make sure you’re always visible in the rain.

The same can be said for waterproof trousers or backpacks.

If you already own a good set of waterproofs that aren’t reflective and don’t intend to replace them, then are still other ways to ensure that you’re visible. For example, you could use reflectors on your wheels or perhaps a reflective saddle bag.

A rain-covered ride with forest on either side.

#5. Pay attention to the road in front of you

Now, this is necessary when cycling, regardless of the weather conditions. However, when it’s raining, new obstacles and potential dangers are introduced to the road.

One of the most important things to consider is that any smooth surface is going to become significantly more slippery due to the additional lubrication from rainwater.

For example, road markings can become particularly dangerous, especially if you’re making a sharp movement over them. The same applies to manhole covers or anything metal in the surface of the road.

Additionally, you should look out for puddles on the road.

Although it may seem pretty fun to glide through deep puddles on the road, it’s actually pretty dangerous. In particularly deep puddles, it is impossible to tell the true depth, and cycling into one could result in an accident.

Puddles accumulate at the lowest points on the road, and so a puddle can easily obscure a pothole. Cycling into a pothole can do some serious damage to your wheels, but more importantly, you can easily take a tumble.

Lastly, it’s important to leave additional stopping time when cornering, avoiding obstacles, or stopping at traffic lights. Your brakes may not work as well as in dry weather – particularly if you’re using rim brakes.

A manhole cover on a rain-covered street.

#6. Use The Right Lube

Keeping your drivetrain lubricated ensures smooth shifting of gears, no accidental jumping around, and prevents a horrible clanging sound every time you need to change gears.

However, if you’ve used “dry lube” on your chain, then it’s not going to be very effective in the rain. Although dry lube attracts less dirt to your drivetrain (which can degrade the components), it’s not water-repellant and so will be washed off when cycling in the rain.

Make sure you get yourself some wet lube – also referred to as “all-weather lube” for bike riding in the rain. It’s water-repellant and won’t wash off, keeping your drivetrain running smoothly in any weather.

Alternatively, you could consider waxing your chain, a process that many cyclists are switching to for the weather-resistance and efficiency.

A road stretches up a mountain in a torrential downpour.

#7. consider using a winter bike

Cycling in the rain has the potential to degrade your components and frame. Particularly if you’re riding a beautiful vintage steel frame bike – you’re really going to want to keep that away from water at all costs.

Even if your bike is aluminum or carbon fiber and therefore non-reactive, it’s likely that the components, lug nuts, or welds could be reactive and degrade when wet.

Also, using the same tires for summer and winter can be dangerous – a thicker tire in winter will be more likely to retain contact with the road and prevent you from sliding on the slick surface.

Additionally, water on the road means that more dirt and muck will splash up onto your drivetrain, which will grind against the moving parts and wear them out more quickly.

But it’s not only your bike that will get dirty – you could end up drenched, even if it’s not actually raining but merely wet on the road.

So, a winter bike might be kitted out with some lower-quality components that you don’t mind wearing out a little faster, an aluminum frame, thick, knobbly tires, and some fenders to keep you and your drivetrain clean and dry.

A mountain biker descends a hill with rain clouds overhead.

#8. Clean your bike afterward

Riding in the rain will result in a dirtier bike post-ride.

When the water splashes off the road and onto your bike, it carries dirt with it. The lubricant on your drivetrain will repel the water but absorb the dirt, which can build up over the course of a ride.

A really dirty drivetrain will not only degrade faster and need replacing more often, but it’ll also be far less efficient, and you’ll be using more energy to travel the same distance or speed.

Make sure that you clean your bike thoroughly after a particularly wet ride to ensure that your components live as long as possible and that you’re as efficient as you can be on your next ride.

After cleaning, remember to reapply your lube!

Found this guide to cycling in the rain helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Jack is an experienced cycling writer based in San Diego, California. Though he loves group rides on a road bike, his true passion is backcountry bikepacking trips. His greatest adventure so far has been cycling the length of the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia, and the next bucket-list trip is already in the works. Jack has a collection of vintage steel racing bikes that he rides and painstakingly restores. The jewel in the crown is his Colnago Master X-Light.

1 thought on “Cycling In The Rain: 8 Essential Tips and Tricks”

  1. I always wear waterproof trainers with gaiters this combination keeps my feet dry. I know a lot of cyclists use cycling shoes so this isn’t an option but if you want good waterproof trainers Asics do some great ones and they work really well. You can wear them all day then too. Clearly a waterproof trouser and fluorescent jacket top off the outfit and I find if you wear the coat sleeves over the top of your gloves (waterproof gloves) they stay dry too.
    I had a car deliberately splash through a puddle to soak me years ago it washed straight off not a dropgot through as far as I could tell. I am 56 and don’t drive so I have learnt through a lot of trial and error what works.


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