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Wet pavement under a cloudy sky on a remote county road

How To Get Your Ride in When Bad Weather Is Looming

No cyclist likes to have their ride plans ruined by the weather. Especially if you’ve been looking forward to a nice weekend ride, those ominous clouds can be a dispiriting sight.

If it hasn’t actually started raining, you face a dilemma. Do you risk attempting a ride or not?

You could end up 20 miles away from your starting point when the downpour begins, leaving you to pedal that whole stretch back under a deluge. And you may end up more than soaked — a rainy ride means you have to take extra time to clean your bike. You could even ruin some clothing and expensive bike parts.  

Even our friend and longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie, who rarely sees much rain in San Diego, has to take a moment to consider the threat of a wet ride now and then.

“The less rain you get, the less you want to ride in it,” he says. But he’s also perfected how to get a ride in even when bad weather is looming. The secret? Knowing how to plan a bike route in accordance with inclement weather conditions.

The Worst Routes To Take in Bad Weather

Knowing how to bike in the rain is a skill that all cyclists should learn so that bad weather doesn’t stand in the way of accomplishing their ride. The solution doesn’t have to be intricate, either. In fact, you may just need to bike in a way that lets you return to the starting point quickly if the rain starts pouring.

However, there are two types of cycling routes that are particularly bad choices when you’re facing the possibility of bad weather.

The Out-and-Back Ride

For this route, you ride to a certain distance from your starting point, then ride the same route back to double your distance. So, if you want to ride 20 miles. You start at point A, ride 10 miles to point B, then turn around and ride 10 miles back to point A.

When rain is threatening, the problem with this is obvious. You could end up as far as 10 miles away from your car or house when the downpour starts. That makes your risk of a good soak significant.

The Big Circle

This one is a bit less obvious because not all circular routes are poor choices for bad weather. The problematic “big circle” is the route you take around an area that doesn’t allow you to cut through the middle.

So, for example, Darryl recently rode around a nature preserve. It made for a beautiful, scenic ride, but if it had rained, he wouldn’t have been able to cut across the preserve for a shortcut back to the start. 

In that case, you’re basically in the same situation as you would be on an out-and-back route.

The Best Cycling Route for Bad Weather: The Bow-Tie Route

There is a much better cycling route to take when you’re worried about bad weather. It’s what Darryl calls a “bow-tie route.”

On a bow-tie route, you’ll choose a central starting point and pedal short out-and-back rides in two different directions. For instance, on a 20-mile ride, you would pedal 2.5 miles north, then turn around and pedal 2.5 miles to the start. Then you’d pedal 2.5 miles south and return another 2.5 miles back to the start. Repeat this cycle, and by the time you’re done, you’ve ridden 20 miles, but you were never more than 2.5 miles from home base.

“Your objective here is not necessarily to go out and do a wonderfully scenic ride,” says Coach Darryl. “Your objective is to get your miles in.”

And, if it does start to rain, you got in at least some of those miles without too much risk to your equipment and clothing.

Some Considerations

The bow-tie route is definitely the best choice for cycling when bad weather is possible. But there are a few other things to consider when you plan your bike route.

  • Topography: Bow-tie routes work great as long as you choose relatively flat terrain. You don’t want to get caught pedaling two miles uphill in the rain.
  • Traffic lights: You also don’t want to end up with a bunch of stops if you’re trying to rush back to home base. Make sure you plan your path somewhere you can ride mostly nonstop if you need to hurry back.
  • Clothing: “Now is not a good time to wear your white socks inside your black shoes,” says Darryl. You can still get wet on a bow-tie route, so avoid wearing anything that could get ruined.

You can’t achieve your cycling goals without a little perseverance. Besides, learning how to bike in the rain is the perfect chance to build upon your skills as a cyclist.

Next time bad weather threatens to cancel your ride, consider trying a bow-tie route so you can still get those miles in. This also works great for cold rides or if you’re recovering from an injury and unsure how long you can pedal.

Stay dry out there!

Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Photo by veeterzy from Pexels