A Cycle of Rain

Over winter it’s true that everyone loves sitting in front of a nice warm fire and staying warm.  Sure I like to do the same.  I just love riding my bike more!

If you live in Melbourne you can be used to experiencing four seasons in one day. If you’re a keen cyclist, a wet ride is unavoidable no matter how soft you are about getting your precious bike wet.  Let’s face it, cycling in the rain can be unpleasant, and can be downright horrible. 

Words - Brendan Edwards

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Love it or hate it, if you’re a mad cyclist you will get out and ride no matter the conditions.  Sure the weather forecast might say bright and sunny afternoon with a slight chance of scattered showers in the morning.  After five straight hours of riding in rain you’re forever cursing the weatherman.

Number# 1 rule: Never trust the weatherman

The Ride

Riding in the rain is not easy, and being able to go into your happy place is a good thing. You’re wet and cold and it definitely takes a fair bit more energy to keep warm.  Your rides will be effected by the elements and you will have to wear much bulkier clothing, which will slow you down, especially when they get water logged and coated in mud.  A mud guard would save you much discomfort, but most riders won't use one.

What’s the best clothing for cycling in the rain?

Be honest. You will get wet.  By all means purchase expensive waterproofs, but they will not keep you dry forever.  At some point in time they will become so water logged that you will become a drowned rat.  Water and mud will find a ways of getting in.  You will appreciate a good set of weather kit the more you ride in the rain and be prepared to fork out some of your hard earned cash.

Your shoes are the hardest part of your body to keep dry. Cycling shoes usually are designed with ventilation to allow your feet to keep cool on a hot summers day.  This may be great for a nice hot sunny day but when it’s raining provides easy access for water to get in.  Shoe covers certainly offer a measure of protection, but will eventually get wet.  You’re biggest worry is from water and muck flicking straight off the road into your shoes.  Gravity is also against you.  All that water hitting coming off your body will head on south down towards your shoes and there’s only so much protection your shoe covers will offer.

No product is 100% waterproof. Water will always find a way of finding a way in.  Getting the right kit is not about remaining dry for the duration of your ride, but it’s about making yourself less wet and more comfortable.

Bike maintenance after cycling in the rain

Finding time to maintain your bike over winter is a challenge. If you’ve just ridden through a storm the last thing that you’d want to do after arriving home is to give your bike a bath.  If you’re like me you’ll intend to leave it for the next day, and then forget.  When you next pull the bike out for a ride a see that its covered in mud you’ll curse yourself for not cleaning your bike.  For me this becomes a common pattern.

I will usually take my bike in to get serviced at the end of winter and have my mechanic always say the same thing; “what the hell did you do to this thing!”.

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1.  When washing your bike during winter, it doesn’t air dry that well and it’s important to use a dry cloth or chamois cloth to properly dry your bike off in order to avoid rust.

2. Keeping your chain oiled and clean to improve your bikes performance.  If you don't look after it will wear out your drive chain quicker which will ultimately cost you money.

3. If you are time poor and find it difficult to find the time to wash your bike, then consider washing it on one of your rides. Car washes actually do a good job of cleaning your bike and it will only cost you $2

Be aware of the dangers

Descending in the wet is dangerous, and cornering may become a matter of survival. All sorts of muck can be thrown onto your brakes, which reduces their effectiveness.  With less traction, no matter how skilled a descender you are you will need to slow down.  With reduced visibility, and needing to concentrating much harder on the small piece of road in front of you, adds to the risks. 

Arguably of equal danger is cars. A motorists once pointed out to me that no sane individual would be voluntarily out riding their bike when it’s raining if they could avoid it. I hate to admit it but I see his point.  We all want to get home safely after a ride, and its up to you to invest in some good lighting, and to wear hi-visibility clothing to make it easier for motorists to see so on a rainy day.

Tip:   Choose your route carefully.  There are enough roads out there to ride on that you can pick a route which allows you to ride on either a designated bike lane, or choose roads that you know won’t have much traffic on them.  Just be mindful that the more traffic, the higher the risk of an accident occurring.

To ride or not?

Personally I love riding over winter. As with getting out of bed on a freezing cold morning the hardest parts always the beginning.  Once you’re wet, you’re wet.  Harden the f@#k up and you may even find that you enjoy it.  Don’t look for excuses.  It’s easy to be deterred by the weather forecasts, but if you were that soft you’d never ride over winter.

So hybernation is an option. But it simply comes down to how much you love riding your bike…..

Tell us your 'hot' tips for surviving winter in the comments below.