Given all the rain we have had recently here in the Mid-Atlantic, the choice either is to ride in the rain or stay home. And those of us who do extended day bike-packing trips understand that not every day is going to be 65 degrees and partly cloudy.
So either by choice or circumstance, riding in the rain is not the end of the world….if you are prepared.
Regardless of the time of the year, bike fenders will always help. All my hybrid bikes have them and I have found in addition to performing wonderful in wet weather, they
also keep the trail dirt and grit off me and my bike in dry weather. I recommend full coverage fenders for optimal protection. Fenders are inexpensive and easy to install.
Seat. The key hear is to have a seat that has minimal seams, so as to not absorb and soak up water. And the fancy leather seats sure look nice but require a cover during inclement weather. When your bike is parked and exposed to the elements, cover your seat with a plastic shopping bag
Visibility. While I am blessed with two great trails (C&O and the GAP) near my home, I rarely ride the roads. For those of you less fortunate, or who prefer to ride roads, good lighting and high visibility clothing is a must! Bike reflectors and clothing with reflective material also offer a nice edge to staying alive. And, remember to carry extra batteries for your bike light!
Clothing. For most of us in the Mid-Atlantic the climate can be varied. I have been on the C&O in July, caught in a rain storm with no extra clothing or rain gear, and damn near froze. However, for most summer rides, wearing rain gear, even the breathable type does not work. Your body simply generates more sweat, than what can evaporate through your expensive Gore-Tex clothing, leaving you as wet on the inside as you are on the outside. But, as noted before if it is cool, although wet, you will be warmer. For most of my summer rainy rides, when it rains…I just get wet (and muddy). For rides where it is cooler, a bike specific rain jacket in a high visibility color with venting to help keep you from overheating work well. And for really cool, wet days, I often find a pair of lightweight wool gloves works great. Wool insulates even when wet and is remarkably comfortable. Cotton however does not insulate when wet and takes forever to dry out.
Feet. I am not a bike shoe, clip-less pedal type of person. Yes, I know there are some
virtues to this as there are some negatives. For me, having another pair of shoes to deal with is one more hassle in life that I do not need. My Nikes just get wet. And if cold…wool socks! For those of you who are averse to getting your shoes and feet wet shoe covers are available. They don’t last long, and you cannot walk around much in them.
Riding in the rain does require additional caution. Puddles can hide potholes and other obstacles. Trails and roads can be slick. And rain can obscure our vision and cold can dull our reactions. Take it slower and embrace the solitude as most riders will be home having a beer.