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Group of cyclists riding in the rain while spectators watch

How To Get Yourself and Your Bike Safely Through a Rainstorm

If you’ve been cycling long enough, you’ve probably been there. You didn’t see rain in the forecast, but halfway into your ride, you’re caught in a downpour. When it happens, you must be ready. 

Once you’re dealing with wet pavement, you can’t just keep pedaling along as you were. You’ll have to adjust get through the rest of the ride. Otherwise, you could be in for some serious issues — for yourself and your bike.

Longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie has lived in San Diego for a long time, so he may not see rain often. But when he does, he’s prepared for it. Here’s a look at everything he does to get himself, and bike, safely through a rainstorm. 

Plan for Your Safety

Let’s get one thing straight first. The problem with riding in the rain isn’t that you’re going to get wet. That’s an inconvenience, but it’s secondary.

Riding through water and riding on water requires skill,” says Coach Darryl. The big issue is riding on wet pavement, and the danger and safety issues that are involved in riding on wet pavement.”

There are quite a few things to keep in mind when you’re cycling on wet roads. Consider this your wet-ride checklist:

  • Let some air out of your tires. Reducing the pressure in your tires increases the surface contact area with the road, providing you with more traction.
  • Slow down and brake early. Especially on downhills and turns, the wet pavement can be treacherous. Your brakes won’t be as effective. Don’t rush it and start braking sooner than you normally would.
  • Keep off the white and yellow road paint. The lane lines can be especially slick when wet, so it’s best to avoid them entirely.
  • Put your feet at three and nine on the downhills. When you’re going downhill in the rain, balance is critical. Keeping your feet level at three and nine on the clock ensures that you’re not putting too much weight on either side of the bike.
  • Unclip your feet. If you fall on wet pavement, you’re most likely to have the bike slide out from under you. Unclipping your feet will help you quickly throw a leg out and stop your fall before you go all the way down.
  • Don’t lean into turns. The turns, especially on downhills, are the spot where your bike is most likely to slide out from under you. Instead of leaning your bike into the turns, try to stay as upright as possible. If you need to lean, try to lean only your body while keeping your bike upright.
  • Slide your glasses down your nose. The damp air and temperature changes are likely to make your glasses fog up. If that happens, just slide them slightly down your nose to let some air flow around them and clear your view.
  • Watch out for potholes. When these fill with water, it’s impossible to tell how deep they are. Avoid puddles entirely so you don’t end up in a wreck. 

If you keep these things in mind when you’re caught in a rainstorm, you should be able to navigate home safely.

Don’t Neglect Your Bike

That said, your safety isn’t the only thing to think about when you ride in the rain. After you make it home, your bike will probably need some attention, too.

On your car, you dont have to worry about water getting into places where it can cause damage,” says Darryl.

That’s not the case on your bike, though. If you ride through heavy rain, there are a few spots you’ll want to check on.

Your Bottom Bracket

Some of these have drainage holes, but not all of them do, and water can collect inside. If you’ve been riding in a heavy downpour, it’s a good idea to open up the bottom bracket by taking the crank off. Darryl recommends having a mechanic do this if you’re not comfortable with it. 

Your Headset

This is the internal steering mechanism where your handlebars and fork meet. If this repeatedly gets wet, it can rust and corrode, eventually seizing up. Like your bottom bracket, it’s a good idea to have a mechanic open this up and dry it out after a wet ride. 

Your Chain and Drivetrain

Here, the concern isn’t so much the rain as all the grime and dirt that’s kicked up from the wet roads. When this settles on your chain, it begins to grind away at your drive train and wear down the teeth on your cogs. That’s why you should always clean your chain after a wet ride — before you ride again.

Your Saddle 

It’s especially important to be mindful of your saddle during a wet ride. If you have a saddle with padding underneath, it can be especially difficult to dry it out. Make sure you keep it in a dry area and allow it to dry fully. If you have one of our tensioned leather saddles, you can protect it from rain damage by applying our saddle sauce and even covering it with one of our waterproof rain covers

Your Cycling Bag 

Your cycling bag is your go-to spot for storing everything you’ve been carrying on the ride. But, after a wet ride, everything you had on you is now soaked. Give all of it time to dry out before you return it to your cycling bag. 

Try To Avoid the Rain 

Being mindful of all these issues will help you get through a rainy ride with yourself and your bike intact. That said, the best way to get yourself and bike safely through a rainstorm is to avoid those rainy rides in the first place.

Keep your eye on the weather and be sure you know which kind of route to ride if you think you may need to cut it short. That way, you can stay dry and avoid all that wet pavement.


Looking for more cycling safety tips? Follow our blog for more from Coach Darryl every week. Plus, you can always find more insights over at Coach Darryl’s website.

Photo by Florian Schmetz on Unsplash