Summary: Rain can be a significant barrier to making a trip by bike if you are going to get soaked, get your clothes dirty, feel more unsafe or just not enjoy it. However, you can avoid getting wet by using a rain radar app, being flexible about when to ride, wearing a rain jacket, having fenders and falling back on public transport where needed.
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Tejvan Pettinger
> See the "comfort" category of this blog.
1. Use rain radar and weather apps to determine when it's best to ride
- An effective rain radar smartphone app is the most useful technique to avoid getting soaked. I use Rain? in Australia to check on rainy days when the best windows of opportunity for riding are. I typically find that there are frequent, sufficient breaks in the rain over the area I need to ride in. In very rainy cities like Portland, smartphone apps like Dark Sky are popular for their location-specific push alerts on the best times to ride.
Rain? show the current rain situation, direction its coming from and the gaps
2. Design your circumstances so you can be most flexible about when you need to travel
- If it's raining right when you want to ride, waiting 5-20min is often enough for a pause or for the rain to become much lighter. So if you're flexible in when you can leave this really helps.
- Flexibility in when you travel is particularly important for routine destinations like your workplace. Since I've taken up riding to work I maximise use of my flexibility in when I arrive at work (between 8am and 10am) and when I leave (4pm to 6:30pm). And I can legitimately work from home until the weather clears up. Not all jobs and workplaces enable significant flexibility but 21st century knowledge workers should be choosing jobs with flexibility as a priority. And in your current job, flexibility is something you can ask for and make work to at least some extent.
3. Wear a rain jacket, hood or cape
- Rain jackets (with hoods if you don't use a helmet) can be very effective at keeping out the rain and wind. Rain capes and pants can also be used. If you commute to work regularly, it's handy to either carry a rain jacket that wraps up tightly and can fit in a saddle bag or to keep one at work so you don't get caught out.
4. Install fenders or mudguards on your bike
- Fenders or mudguards protect your back and legs/shoes from being splashed by water spraying off the tyres. If you don't want fenders on your bike all year round there are readily detachable plastic mudguards that can be clipped on in 30 seconds. See: Finding effective fenders that fit your bike
5. Be prepared to use public transport where needed
- You can ride to the train station and use the train to cover most of the journey. Or you can leave your bike till the next day and just use the best public transport option available (tram, bus).
- Many regular cyclists do not ride beyond a certain level of discomfort or inconvenience due to the rain. However, for necessary trips, like commuting to or from work, you need to ensure you have a reliable fall-back option.
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6. In most cities you won't actually get wet often anyway
- Based on both my experience and weather statistics from some cities, it's surprisingly rare to get caught in moderate or heavy rain as an urban cyclist. For example, see this Danish weather study which concludes the probability is < 3.5%. In Melbourne, I get caught in heavy rain 0-2 times per year and moderate rain 3-6 times a year.
7. Riding in light rain isn't really that bad
- With a rain jacket and fenders, light rain is often not an issue. I walk in light rain often without an umbrella and don't find it a problem. With time and experience, most transport cyclists aren't bothered by light rain and some even enjoy it.
8. Adapt just like you do as a pedestrian
- On foot you already experience rain often and take measures to adapt (clothing, seeking temporary shelter, adjusting plans/timing, etc.). You can do the same when using a bike. Remember that via other modes of transport (cars, public transport) some exposure to rain is inevitable.
9. Take temporary shelter from heavy rain
- Sometimes you will be riding when heavy rain starts to fall and this can be unpleasant, inconvenient (re your appearance at your destination) and unsafe. However, in most temperate climates, heavy rain doesn't last long. Hence, rather than suffer through it, if you can find shelter for 5-15min till it passes this will be much more enjoyable.
- A few times on my work commute, I have set off in light rain and then had heavy rain start up. For the first few years I just used to ride through it. Now I stop and take shelter under shop awnings or next to buildings. I have never had to wait more than 10 minutes for the rain to ease up and this slight delay was far preferable to getting soaked.
The City Fix: Rainy Day Blues? Tips for Riding in the Rain
Bike Portland: Day without the bicycle follow-up: How to make 1/3 of Portland’s bikers vanish