Cold winter rain is tough on bikes and riders. The roads are slick, visibility is low and after the ride your reward for getting soaked is a big bike-cleaning project. No wonder most cyclists hate to ride in the rain.
The biggest obstacle is getting out the door in the first place. It’s warm and dry inside; cold, wet and nasty on the road. The couch is much more appealing.
If you live where winter means rain, don’t let it defeat you. Most of us know it’s way worse imagining a rainy ride than it is actually doing it. In fact, it can be downright fun once you’re underway.
To make it so, you need the right equipment, clothing and attitude. Here’s an overview:
—Beater bike. Don’t subject your good machinery to rain and grit. We can’t blame you for not wanting to do that. If you don’t have an old bike, invest in one or build one from recycled components and a used frame. As long as it’s safe, reliable and you can get your correct position, what it looks like doesn’t matter. Be sure to mount fenders. They’ll keep you and the bike (and anyone riding behind you) a lot cleaner.
—Rain jacket. The best ones are made of waterproof fabric and have an effective means of allowing air flow (open cuffs, armpit zips, front zipper, back vent). It should also have a long tail that covers your butt and saddle. It should be brightly colored and have reflective material so drivers will see you in low-light conditions.
—Leg protection. Full rain pants can be overkill, making you too warm. They also tend to be blousy and noisy as they rustle in the wind or against the bike. We’ve found a good alternative in chaps-like Rainlegs, which protect quads in the worst conditions.
—Foot protection. Shoe covers are a must. They probably won’t keep your feet dry in a downpour, but they can hold in some warmth. Your shoes will stay clean too. Gore, Showers Pass and others make waterproof rain socks to help keep your feet dry inside your shoes.
—Hand protection. Hands are hard to keep dry and warm. Gore Tex gloves work for a while but eventually soak through. Same for neoprene. One solution is to top whatever you wear with a waterproof shell designed for skiing.
—Eye protection. Use clear or amber lenses to aid visibility and stop rain from stinging your eyes.
—Flahute attitude. Belgian roadies who train in the abominable conditions of the northern European winter and spring are known as flahutes (flah-hooties). They’re out there in rain and sleet on roads ladled with a treacherous mix of mud, cow manure and grimy grit. (Talk about a clean-up project!)
Get a couple of posters of mud-encrusted flahutes hammering the slimy cobbles in the European spring classics. Put them near your bike. When rain is streaking the windows and your resolve falters, turn to the posters.
Compared to those conditions, what’s the problem?