Los Angeles is a great place to bicycle in because of our near-perfect weather. Still, we get about 34 days of rain every year, which doesn’t sound like a lot until it happens to be a day you’re going for a ride your bike.
Handling the water and even a heavy downpour can be manageable. All you need to combat the conditions is a little bit of preparedness and knowhow. Once you get the hang of it, bicycling in the rain can work for you; some people even enjoy it.
Here are some tips to help get your through those rainy days:
Avoid puddles. It may be impossible to circumnavigate the collections of water on the road, but be aware of what lies underneath. Puddles can hide such hazards as cracks, potholes, glass, and other debris that might compromise your ability to stay upright. Always think a couple of steps ahead.
Be seen. Even in the daylight, it’s best to dress in bright colored or fluorescent clothing. You should also have your lights on no matter what time of day to become more visible to the other people using the roadway.
Dress for the part. Make sure to purchase rain gear, such as a waterproof jacket, rain cape, or pants. Be careful about riding with a hood as you should hear what’s going on around you at all times. Also, make sure whatever bags you bring along keep the contents dry inside.
Braking will be different. With all that wetness, stopping your bike will take longer than you’re accustomed too. It’s very important to give yourself extra space in case you have to brake suddenly. Remember that other vehicles on the road will have the same issues stopping as well.
Know where to ride. It is important to make your presence known out on the street because rainy conditions can hinder other people’s awareness. Be confident in taking the lane to assert your place in the roadway. It’s good to make sure you have a buffer on all sides in case you have to make a maneuver.
Stay clear of paint stripes. Since it’s hard to identify cracks when the ground is wet, some bicyclists aim for the painted features in the street (lines, turn arrows, etc.), since it’s easier to visually assess their condition. You must beware that while these these markings look friendly, they are far more slippery when wet. Make it a high priority to avoid these surfaces, especially when you are making turns.
Channel water away. Once your tires start collecting water, the tire rotation will make it spray upwards leaving you muddy and distracted from sprinkles landing in your eyes. A good idea is to add fenders to your bike, but a cheap alternative is to add plastic mudguards that will affix to your saddles for a fraction of the cost. It’s also smart to wear some form of glasses to keep water coming from all directions out of your eyes.
Give yourself more grip. Since it will be far more slippery with all the water, a good suggestion is to ride with wider tires, especially if you’re riding with the narrow width that comes on most road and single speed bikes. Another tip is to deflate your tires 20%-30% less than normal to give you more traction.