Sunday, May 10, 2009

Riding in the Rain

One of the most common questions I’m asked by women new to our bicycling tours is, “Do you ride in the rain?” The easy answer is that it’s always a choice to ride. Whether it’s rainy or sunny, it’s always your personal decision. However, peer pressure can take over and before we know it, the whole group will be bicycling in weather that individually none of us would have chosen to do on her own!

So the next time peer pressure gets the best of you, be sure that you’re prepared for it. Don’t let improper clothing or technique ruin your rainy ride.

First, invest in a good rain jacket. It should be a bright color, so it’s highly visible on grey days. Look for a jacket made of a waterproof but breathable fabric and is unlined, so you won’t roast in it. It should have a back vent and zippers beneath the arms to help let your body heat out as you ride. It should have a high neck and a low back, and its hood will either detach or fold up to get out of the way.

According to women on a cross-country tour who got caught in hurricane-like winds and rain, the Showers Pass Elite jacket is the best jacket on the market. Good rain jackets aren’t cheap but they’re worth it.

If there’s a chance of rain, you may also want to start your ride by putting a blinking red light on the back of your helmet or bike seat so you’ll be more visible. Wear wool socks to keep your feet warm even if they get wet, and a helmet with a visor to keep your eyeglasses streak-free. Stuff a hotel’s shower cap into your pocket to throw over your helmet if there’s a downpour. On colder days or in the hardest of rains, consider wearing rain pants and shoe covers to keep your legs and feet dry.

Once you find yourself in the rain, ride cautiously. Roads are especially slick at the first sign of a light shower. The little water can cover oil spots on the road and make them treacherous, so be especially careful. Remember that it takes longer to slow down when you brake on wet rims. Leave more space between you and the rider in front of you. Walk your bike over all railroad tracks, metal bridges and steel grates. They’re slippery when wet and have caused many a cyclist to go down! Avoid riding over wet leaves and through puddles. It’s hard to tell how deep a puddle is and what lies beneath its water’s depths.

If you’re careful and wear the right clothing, riding in the rain can be exhilarating. Colors take on a muted, surreal look. Smells become heightened and sounds louder. It can feel as if your senses have come alive. So the next time it rains this spring, don’t run for cover. Suit up and enjoy it!

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