Weekends with Womack

The Case for Riding in the Rain (at least in summer)

This week I was about to depart for a road ride, when I looked out the window and the weather looked downright unpromising—gray, some storm clouds, a little breeze, and very humid in that it’s-about-to-rain sort of way. There was a weather advisory, predicting thunderstorms after 3pm. And it was 12:45pm already. Hence my dilemma:

stay-go

But then I thought, you know, there are a bunch of reasons to embrace riding in the rain. So, in accordance with Samantha’s rule of six, herewith six reasons to ride in the rain (at least when it’s warm outside).

Number one: Riding in the rain is badass.

badass

This fact is documented in The Rules for cyclists. I quote from their explanation below:

…Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work.

Number two: Riding home in a rainstorm is likely to increase your speed, provoking an impromptu high-intensity workout.

cover-rain

On my rainy ride this week I totally hauled it both out and back. On the way out I was trying to get to my turnaround point before the first drops hit, and then on the way back was trying to see if I could beat the rain home. I didn’t, but by then I was in the mood for some serious cranking, so I got a most excellent workout.

Number three: If you’re a) not in a hurry, and b) into accessorizing, riding in the rain presents you with intriguing gear options.

There is a saying (which the internet says is either Swedish or Norwegian) to the effect that “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing (or bad gear)”. In addition to the usual rain pants/rain jacket combos around, I found a number of rain-protection garments and accessories for those willing to stand out in the commuter crowd. You can be little red riding hood in this:

cycling-hood

Or you could try this:

rain-screen

And of course, for those rain classicists, there’s the handlebar-attached umbrella.

unbrella

She doesn’t look very dry, but it’s quite the snazzy setup.

Number four: Riding in the rain gives you an opportunity to engage in exercise of attitude adjustment through force of will, a skill that will come in handy in other situations.

Life presents us with lots of irritations and minor challenges: traffic, noisy neighbors, extra work assignments, clogged sinks, etc.  Raining on one’s bike parade seems like one of those irritations. Especially on a long ride, it can feel like this:

negative

Of course sometimes the rainy weather really gets out of hand. My friend Pata blogged here about a particularly wet and muddy trek on her 2012 cross-country ride with her partner; here’s what she faced that day:

pata

However, barring washed-out non-roads and torrential downpours (by the way, they got saved by a good Samaritan in a red pickup truck), a rainy ride can be rather pleasant.

positive

Number five: Riding in the rain is easier than riding in the snow.

Now that we’re well into June, many of us may have forgotten this:

snow

That’s actually a picture of a side street in Boston in February. There was no bike commuting, much less road riding, for weeks, except for a very few intrepid (read foolhardy) folks with studded tires or fat bikes. So in comparison, a little rain is nothing to fuss about. And remember, it’s warm outside…

Number six: Riding in the rain is a good excuse for singing in the rain. This is guaranteed to make your day sunnier, no matter what. What’s good for Gene Kelly is undoubtedly good for you, too.

gene

8 thoughts on “The Case for Riding in the Rain (at least in summer)

  1. This reminds me of the bike rally last year which involved rather a lot of riding on the rain! Also, if you’re going to race you should train in the rain a few times at least do if it’s raining on race day it’s not unfamiliar! My bike challenge is my glasses and I usually end up just taking them off. I also try to remember to let some air out of my tires for more traction. And check frequently for glass and gravel. Flats are a lot more common on rainy rides.

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    1. Yes, I didn’t mention some of the downsides, but fogged or streaked glasses are a hindrance. If I’m riding in serious rain, I end up taking off my cycling glasses (non-prescription), but that’s both not an option for everyone and also not an optimal solution. And a big YES to reducing the tire pressure for more traction. Also, road plus oil plus water really don’t mix– it can get more slippery out there, so reducing speed and increasing braking distance are both musts.

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  2. On the other hand, slick tires can get slippery in the rain! I had a bad crash a few years ago due to slippery conditions — I tried to make a turn on slicks on a narrow bike path going too fast, hit some pea gravel from an adjacent playground, and slammed directly into a picket fence — and since then I’ve been very leery of sand, gravel, rain, and ice.

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    1. Ouch– sorry to hear about the crash. Yes, water can make things more slippery and also make longer braking distances necessary. I’ve certainly slid out on wet and slippery and gravely surfaces.

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  3. I lived and biked in Vancouver year round for 8 yrs. There’s lots of rain from late Oct. to early Feb. Maybe beyond.

    It’s relentless at times….5-6 hrs. of steady grey rain.

    Be a Vancouverite!

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  4. This is truly an insight into the ‘Diaries of a Cyclist’. I loved the way joy of riding is analysed and portrayed to the readers. Well its just the last December me and my friends rode thru Miami Streets. Memories got freshened up.

    Bravo!

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