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Okay, Wisconsin has had some very weird weather this winter. Not so cold, little snow, but a lot more rain than normal. I have a lot more outdoor miles on than I would in a normal winter. We have also had very dry summers lately. So, I haven't had much experience riding in the rain.

My question: while I wouldn't ride in a downpour, how much rain is too much?Is it dangerous to ride on wet pavement?
And any tips for wet weather riding? Stopping, starting, etc. I do clean my bike after every ride, so that's not an issue.

For information purposes, I ride a Trek Madone 5.2, Bontrager Race Lite wheels, 700 X 28C, Ultegra.
 

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Downpours, whatever, I'll ride in anything that's not freezing to me, but you do need to be careful:

The 28mm tyres will help a lot. Consider a rain bike, especially if they salt the roads, and fenders are great.

stopping distances are increased, painted lines on roads and especially metal (level crossings, gratings, etc.) are extremely slippery. Visibility is reduced, so make sure you can be seen with bright colours and reflective stuff. Consider brake blocks meant for foul weather; I use Koolstop's salmon-coloured ones and they work much better than the black I had before.

Cleaning your bike after every ride is good, but know that you will need to replace chains, cogs, brakes more often, and it will decrease your maintainence interval for hub and headset servicing, that kind of thing.

Have fun out there!
 

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Contrarian view - drip dry

I'll post my typical contrarian view on this topic. Most post-ride cleaning of the bike does little to actually protect the bikes parts that are most affected by wet riding. Wiping down a painted bike frame, even a steel one, will keep it looking pretty, but is not necessary to protecting the bike against the elements.

If you want to protect the parts that are affected by rain, you need to wipe the chain & gears, oil the chain, wipe the inside or each bolt head in the stem, crank, brakes, etc., remove the seat post & hang the frame upside down. No-one will suggest that you touch your hubs, bottom bracket, or headset, so all those moving parts are left on their own for water protection. For all this work you will prevent one or two bolt heads from developing rust over the next couple years, and you might get an extra 500 miles out of the chain... maybe. Wiping the frame protects nothing, and is arguably more likely to scratch the finish as you grind that grit across the frame finish.

Keeping the bike pretty is a laudable goal, but wiping it down after every ride is not necessary. Wiping & oiling the chain would be good, but the rest can just drip dry. Of course, don't store the bike out in the rain.
 

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I subscribe to multiple bikes. I have an old three speed with full fenders, chain guard, and slightly geared down to double as an urban assault machine. Inclement weather gives me a reason for selecting the appropriate bike, and saves my best road bike from exposure to the elements. My goal in winter is to enjoy riding, and still maintain most of the fitness that I worked so hard to develop during the optimal riding season. I have the 28c Race Lites on my Trek and love them. Seems like most folks attracted to that type of tire want the 25c or 23c for less rolling resistance so I can buy these for half price. No tread though so I wouldn't expect them to be a great rain tire. I got rained on a little today, but generally avoid riding when the rain is falling; however the three speed gets me onto wet pavement quickly, and keeps me dry when I run through puddled water. Plus the three speed gives me a chance look and feel old on a bicycle; sitting bolt upright with my visored helmet with mirror attached.
 

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Riding in the rain....

We get some seriously heavy downpours down here in the summer (Florida). When training for Ironman, I was doing a century every saturday. You never know how the weather would work out. I have been caught in downpours so heavy that cars were pulling over on the side of the road. Mostly I would just ride through it unless I was on a busy road. The rain is really not much of a problem. The only thing I worry about is cars seeing me if the rain is too heavy. That and you get more flats on wet roads. It is really no big deal. Like a friend of mine says, "It's only rain mate..."

Mike
 

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As a commuter the most frequent question I'm asked is, "What to you do if it rains?" The answer is easy. "I get wet." The asker usually says something like "Eewww!" I usually respond, "Yeah. Wet. You know, just like you did in the shower this morning. It's only water, and I'm going to shower as soon as I get home anyway." :rolleyes:
 

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I'm w/PdxMark--hose it down, bounce and drip-dry

Unless it's muddy, I skip the hose, but if I've covered the bike with crud, I generally wash it off with a garden hose, bounce it a few times to shake off the excess water and let it dry. Sometimes I wipe the frame if there's a rag handy, but usually not. The areas people mention as potential trouble spots--in the spoke holes, inside the chainlinks etc--are out of reach of wiping anyway. All you can remove is superficial water, which isn't going to hurt anything and will dry naturally.
As somebody else said, fenders are really nice. They'll fit on my everyday bike, but if they didn't, I'd look for a cheap used tourer with fender space to ride in the rain.
 

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One thnig I diden't see mentioned, be sure to use extra care on your wheels, water will be driven into the gaps at your spoke heads by centrifical forse. If you get into hevey rain be sure to drain your wheels, best way for good wheels is to remove tirs and drain and dry out. If you whip up some commuter wheels you can be much less concerned about the enevitable distruction. Going upside is very good to drain the bottom bracket, if you pain to rain ride a lot and you frame dosen't have a drain hole you could have someone with a lathe drill a small hole in your cable guide retaining screw (.030") is a feaseable size, this allows the area to drain while upright and in use. All great advise on caution, one to add watch "painted" lines they are very slippery. --- Bill
 

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agree--stopping times and be careful on corners

is the main concern with rain. car drivers are a separate problem--make sure you have a good flashing red light and assume you are not seen by cars in driveways, intersections, etc

if it is not super hilly where you ride, then consider a SS bike. i just got a nice aluminum SS cross bike on ebay and it is slower do to 37mm tires, but i can bail off the road if needed and the v-brakes stop me great when wet. plus no gears to fiddle with or worry about and i think it would take 47 years for the massive chain to rust away if i never oiled it.

i don't have fenders, but only ride solo--i find my downtube keeps front wheel spray off me, and my goretex jacket seems to handle rear wheel spray just fine.

jim
 

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Fenders

jimcav said:
i don't have fenders, but only ride solo--i find my downtube keeps front wheel spray off me, and my goretex jacket seems to handle rear wheel spray just fine.

jim
Ah, but fenders aren't for you--they're for your bike. A good set of fenders (with mudflaps, if necessary) will keep most of the ground-effect junk out of your drivetrain, and that makes a huge difference. A few years ago, I was on an extremely rainy ride through northern Illinois, down through Wilmette and Evanston to Chicago. Ugh. Nobody had fenders, and it was hijous.

When I got my first brand-new frame in 25 years, I put Gilles Berthoud stainless steel fenders on it...and now rain isn't a problem. The stuff that comes down is generally clean as anything you're going to run into--the stuff off the road is carrying bike-eating grit. Also, having fenders means I can ride my Brooks saddle in the rain without concern, and I can use a raincape--which is much cooler (admittedly only in the temperature sense) than any rain jacket.

Of course, as others have mentioned, lights are also important--and fenders are great places for mounting rear lights and reflective material.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
JJCole said:
Okay, Wisconsin has had some very weird weather this winter. Not so cold, little snow, but a lot more rain than normal. I have a lot more outdoor miles on than I would in a normal winter. We have also had very dry summers lately. So, I haven't had much experience riding in the rain.

My question: while I wouldn't ride in a downpour, how much rain is too much?Is it dangerous to ride on wet pavement?
And any tips for wet weather riding? Stopping, starting, etc. I do clean my bike after every ride, so that's not an issue.

For information purposes, I ride a Trek Madone 5.2, Bontrager Race Lite wheels, 700 X 28C, Ultegra.
Thank you all.
So, I think what you are saying is get a beater bike - one that I won't care about so much and ride that in inclement weather. I should not be riding a high end carbon frame in bad weather. I am thinking of branching out into mountain biking anyway. I will always be a roadie, but a little change of pace is nice. I have a lot of friends who do both.
I heard Gary Fisher say last year say he used to clean his mountain bikes by throwing them into a river and retrieving them down stream after the mud had been washed off. So, I gotta believe that mountain bike with slicks on it would be the way to go for bad weather.
And, there is a great article in the most recent issue of Silent Sports about making knobbies into snow tires. So, there is really no reason to ever ride inside.
 

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JJCole said:
Thank you all.
So, I think what you are saying is get a beater bike - one that I won't care about so much and ride that in inclement weather. I should not be riding a high end carbon frame in bad weather. I am thinking of branching out into mountain biking anyway. I will always be a roadie, but a little change of pace is nice. I have a lot of friends who do both.
I heard Gary Fisher say last year say he used to clean his mountain bikes by throwing them into a river and retrieving them down stream after the mud had been washed off. So, I gotta believe that mountain bike with slicks on it would be the way to go for bad weather.
And, there is a great article in the most recent issue of Silent Sports about making knobbies into snow tires. So, there is really no reason to ever ride inside.
Nonsense. If your prized bike is intended to be a showpiece, then by all means leave it inside. However if you like to ride your bike, then don't worry about it in the rain. As someone else said, it's only water, and any maintenance needed after a ride in the rain is a doddle.

Also, some people are feeding you bad info on tires. First all tires have tread. Tread is the rubber that is designed to contact the pavement. Second, there is grooved tread and non-grooved tread (i.e., slicks). On a bike, grooved tread serves no purpose other than a marketing purpose. Studies show that a bike CANNOT develop the wedge pressure needed to hyrdroplane until well after 60 mph (actually, one study puts the speed at 100+ mph). And since the slick tires won't hydroplane, they provide the greatest friction since the put more surface into contact w/ the road than grooved-tread tires.

Aside from being seen by cars, the greatest concerns should be watching yourself 'round painted markings on the road (they become very slick w/ rain) and paying heed in a light rain. In a heavy rain, after 10 minutes or so, the grease, oil, and other slick detritus from cars gets washed away, but in a light rain it remains and in combo w/ the water gets very slick.
 

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Fender are your friend. They keep the crap off you and your bike. It's great to get home and not have your cycling clothing covered in sand and dirt.

Having a rain bike is also great if you can justify it.
 

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My pain with rain

I have prescription glasses and, brother, I need them. My problem with riding in the rain is the buildup of spray/splash/drippy-drops such that I am looking through a kaleidoscope.

Does anyone know of a good lens-cleaning method or material that you can use while riding?

Ken
 

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contact lenses

KenS said:
I have prescription glasses and, brother, I need them. My problem with riding in the rain is the buildup of spray/splash/drippy-drops such that I am looking through a kaleidoscope.

Does anyone know of a good lens-cleaning method or material that you can use while riding?

Ken
I live in the Pacific NW, rain every day since Dec 19 except for two. I used to live in a dry climate and I used prescription glasses or sunglasses with clip-in prescription lenses (Bolle). When I moved here, I found out quickly that having 4 lens surfaces to get wet was not good, and even just regular glasses didn't cut it. I finally tried contact lenses, and they make it so much better. I usually wear sunglasses with clear lenses on rainy days, but if they get too wet I just take 'em off and put them in my helmet vents and go au natural.

FWIW, I have -4.0 to -4.5 diopter correction and astigmatism as well. I wear monthly disposable toric lenses, 30 wears and chuck 'em. The daily disposable toric lenses don't quite cover my prescription requirements.

Regarding the original poster, there isn't much to be afraid of. Your stopping time is increased and cornering traction is decreased. But you'll never notice the cornering unless you are really approaching the limits of traction anyway. Beware of white lines, wet leaves and manhole covers in the rain especially in cornering. Also avoid riding through puddles because you never know what is in there (pothole with a nasty lip for instance).

Bike maintenance is what you make of it. The more the better, IMO. I have a winter bike set up with fenders for rain and while I do not baby it, I do hose it off, drain the water from the rims, clean the rim sidewalls and brake pads and lube the chain after every rainy ride. I generally get more mileage out of my rims and drivetrain than my training partners who don't perform any maintenance other than chain lube now and then. Since you are on a Trek OCLV frame, consider pulling the BB cable guide screw and your seatpost to get rid of water inside the frame/BB shell. Those Treks take on a lot of water into the seat tube.
 

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KenS said:
I have prescription glasses and, brother, I need them. My problem with riding in the rain is the buildup of spray/splash/drippy-drops such that I am looking through a kaleidoscope.

Does anyone know of a good lens-cleaning method or material that you can use while riding?

Ken
Believe it or not, gel toothpaste is a great anti-fog, anti-wetting agent. Wipe it on, polish it off. And it makes your lenses smell minty fresh. Cat-Crap also works.....usually sold at backpacking/climbing stores.
 

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another cold wet morning in the DC area

and i have to say my SS cross bike is the perfect rain bike
aluminum, no gears, beefy bmx style chain
if i used my geared bike i'd probably get fenders, but my mtn bike has served me well thru years of streams and sand etc sans fenders and all you need is to clean things weekly and you should be okay

best of luck riding
jim
 

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Rain-X is good for wet glasses. It comes in a little yellow bottle, & you can find it at the drugstore, grocery store, auto parts store, etc.

It's also great for use on your car. When it's raining hard & other cars have their wipers on high, I'll have mine on intermittant. One caution...make sure you polish it off thoroughly.

This stuff is magic.
 

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I live in the NW too and it has been an unusually wet winter even by our standards this year.

The one thing that hasn't been talked about is the length of ride when riding in the rain.

I regularly do 4 to 5 hour Saturday rides in the cold wet windy rain and sometimes in downpours. This is not your typical hour to 90 minute daily training ride, so I wanted to give a few more tips regarding this. A summer shower in Florida is a significantly different kettle of fish than a Western Washington Rain when it is 40 degrees and wind blowing.

First, you can actually get more dehydrated from evaporation in the wet cold than on a hot day, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids while riding.

Second, getting wet is one thing, but on a longer ride, you will get cold if you don't keep yourself warm in our climate. While we all know that getting cold does not give you a cold, it can weaken your immune system even further making you more succeptable to catching a bad cold. So I make sure I keep myself protected from the elements on a longer ride. I opt for the plastic rain pants velcrod over my neoprene booties to keep the water out of my shoes, water proof gloves, helmet cover with a skull cap underneath and I usually use a craft rain jacket that does a pretty good job of wicking moisture while still keeping me warm and dry. There is nothing as misearable as when you are cold and wet and you have a 1.5 mile descent into the wind to make you think twice about riding in the rain. Bottom line, it is not as important to stay dry in the rain as it is to keep your body warm. Find the combination of clothing that works in your elements.

Third, I keep my stops to a minimum. Just enough to get some more fluids, quick bathroom break and back on the road.

Fourth, I highly recommend fenders with mud guards on both fenders. On the rear to keep others dry if you are riding with other cyclists and on the front fender to keep the muck off our your drive train and keep your feet drier.

Otherwise, it is just rain as everyone else has said. I usually undress and get into the shower as quickly as possible after I get home to warm up the core of my body again. Then I will lightely hose of the wheels and frame and wipe down. Dry the chain and regrease.
 
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