Riding in the Wet

Living in Florida has many perks, particularly if you are a cyclist, as you can ride year round. Sure we might have a rare cold day or two, and the wind can be challenging at times, but in general, we pretty much have 365 days of ideal cycling weather…save for that occasional hurricane, although cycling on the downwind side of a category 1 storm would be ridiculously fun!

The skies were threatening early as we made our way up the Linear Park

The only real obstacle to our cycling utopia is the rain, and with summer coming up, we tend to get a lot of it, particularly the biblical-like, cat and dog, end of the world electrical storms that flare up nearly every day. Luckily, the storms are very regular and tend to pass quickly, so you can always find a window of opportunity to ride. But from time to time, a fast moving boomer can sneak up on you when you are out on the road, soaking you through and through in just seconds.

Now I’ll admit, I am definitely a fair weather cyclist when it comes to rain. I don’t really mind getting caught in a quick sprinkle when riding, particularly on an extremely hot muggy day, but if there is a strong possibility of a downpour at or around a rides start time, I will always pass and wait for the storm to blow over.

Investing in rain gear just isn’t worth it with our fast moving storms. In fact I don’t even bother to carry a light rain jacket, as it’s easier to just find quick shelter and wait a few minutes for the rain to pass, as we did on today’s ride. That said, riding in or after it rains does require that we all take some special precautions…

First and foremost, the road is slippery, especially just after it starts to rain as the oil comes out of the road’s surface. Watch for rainbow puddles, painted lines and metal manhole covers on the road as they are all very slick. If you have to cross them, slow down, relax and try to go in as straight a line as safety allows.

When your brakes become wet, stopping time increases significantly. Ride slower in wet weather. Feather your brakes on and off quickly just before you need to brake. This brushes the film of water off the rim and makes your brakes work much better. A rear wheel slide under braking can be controlled with practice.  However, a front wheel slide isn’t quite as easy to recover from. So take it easy on that front brake and use more emphasis on the rear brake.  If you’re on very slippery surfaces keep pedaling while you use the rear brake to prevent the wheel from locking.

Avoid sudden and abrupt movements on the bike. Accelerate, slowly, and corner smoothly. If you’re riding in a group or racing in a pack try to anticipate problems and avoid them gracefully, rather than trying to correct at the last minute.

Cornering in the rain can be tricky and dangerous. Cornering is a combination of the proper amount of lean and just the right amount of handlebar turning. When traction goes down, lean less and turn the bars more. Hold your bike up in the corners and keep pedaling through turns. If you slip on a coasting bike, you will go down for sure, but a driven rear wheel will keep trying to bite and you can skip and slide sideways and not fall.

What’s the best way to deal with the rain? Avoid it completely under a big umbrella at the local coffee shop.

Avoid riding through puddles as they can be surprisingly deep, and often conceal glass or other debris. This is just one more reason to ride a bit farther from the curb; about one yard  is recommended by many bike safety experts.

Stay alert, remember that motor vehicles also have less control and visibility in wet weather, so pay special attention to their behavior when it rains.

Most importantly, stay calm and cheerful. Don’t let weather conditions ruin your ride. Enjoy the cooling effect of the rain while riding or just take a break altogether and get under shelter until the rain stops.

When the rides over don’t forget to give your bike some love and attention. It takes at best  30 minutes of your time to clean up after a wet ride. Time well spent as it will extend the life of your bike and keep it riding smoothly.

Start by flipping your bike over onto it’s seat and handlebars. You’ll get a better view and access to all the grit  that accumulated during the ride.

Take a moist rag and slowly go over the bike removing as much grit and debris as you can. If there is an exceptional amount of grit, don’t be afraid to hose the bike down (low pressure) as this will prevent any scratching of the finish. Remember, any grit left on the bike is extremely abrasive, so be thorough.

Go over the gears and derailleur, then wipe down the chain and the rims. Open the brakes and get the grit out from between the rims and the brake pads.

Return to the chain and give it a vigorous rub with a rag to get as much grime off as possible. An old toothbrush can come in handy if you don’t have a fancy chain cleaner. If you have a degreaser, go ahead and apply it.

Lube your chain once you’re done cleaning it. If wet riding is more the norm than the exception, use a wet lube vs a dry lube. You might also want to apply a little lube to your brake cables to keep them sliding freely. Follow that up with some lube around the pivot point on the derailleur and any exposed springs on your clipless pedals.

Sooner or later, everyone will be faced with riding in the rain, but if you follow the points above and embrace the fact you have to get through the rain, you’ll at least be in a more positive state of mind before you reach home for that very welcomed hot shower.

Route: Pete’s Winding Route
Ride Time: 2:42:06
Stopped Time: 1:32:44
Distance: 41.28 miles
Average: 15.28 mph
Fastest Speed: 24.08 mph
Ascent: 1755 feet
Descent: 1744 feet
Calories: 2363

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