Dealing With the Weather



Dealing With the Weather

suggestion box

We were recently contacted with the following question

Could any of the seasoned bike to work group provide some suggestions on how they are dealing with this crappy summer weather?

I’m sure we all feel like we’ve been living in Seattle for the last month.  So what are you doing to deal with it?  Any tricks to keep your spirits up?

UPDATE: I received another email from this person and he is a new bicycle commuter and interested in pointers on how to keep it up, even though the weather is less than ideal.


  • Dennis
    Jul 8, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Ride when you can. I ride to and from work so its automatic. I keep my bike ready to roll so that if there's a break in the rain I can capture the opportunity.

  • Jul 8, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    I don't know about others, but when I became serious about bike commuting, I had to just ignore the weather. With the exception of dangerous lightening, I do my best to ignore what's going on outside and just plan to ride. You might be surprised, it can be somewhat fun to ride in rain, heck I even know one person who loves to ride in the rain. That said, here are a few tips that really helped me become an all season rider:

    1) Fenders are worth their weight in gold (good thing they don't weigh much 😉 Seriously, while I still get wet on a rainy day, I no longer get completely grimy. My feet still get a little gritty, but that's about it. My upper body stays clean.

    2) Waterproof panniers or a bag are a necessity. I've pretty much adopted the philosophy that there is nothing I can do to stay dry while riding on a really wet day, but when I get where I'm going, I can insure I have dry cloths to change into.

    3) Just because I get wet, doesn't mean I have to be cold. Wool is your friend. If money is no option, then by a complete wardrobe made out of smartwool. For the rest of us, getting to know your local Salvation Army or thrift shop is a great deal. You can often find wool clothing for a rock bottom price at these places.

    4) When it's rainy out, don't forget that you are less visible to automobiles. If the cars around you are running their lights, you better be running some as well.

    5) Realize riding in the rain is going to either a) require you clean your bike drive train a lot more frequently or b) just accept the fact that you are going to go through parts faster. The simple fact that sand sticks to your drive train more when it's wet, means it's more likely to collect and wear out moving parts. Given the money I save by bike commuting and my complete lack of time to thoroughly clean my bike every time it rains, I've taken the later approach. My bike is a working bike and I'd rather spend time with my family than be meticulous with my bike.

    Hope this helps some. If you have specific questions, just post a follow up comment and we'll be sure to do our best to address them!

  • Alan Barta
    Jul 8, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    I have a chapter in my book about weather. Some pointers:

    a) Big M-frame glasses sheet water droplets better than small. A helmet with a visor helps.

    b) Rainy days are when cross and mountain bikes shine; can't go as fast anyway on slick pavement, so skinny tires not much advantage.

    c) Surface water can completely obscure cracks, grates and potholes; aim for high ground in lane.

    d) Wash entire bike after outing with soap & water to remove grit; allow to dry and lube chain.

    e) Watch for floods in swales (depressions in road); slamming into deep water is like being hit with a firehose.

    f) Wring out wet clothes after morning commute, hang, and they may be dry enough to use again by quitting time; clammy is a acquired sensuality.

    g) You may get soaked, then hyperthermic, but it's only water, after all, something you shower with; a warm shower restores core.

    Unfortunate phrase: "Cars around you are running their lights, you better be running some as well," suggests running red lights. Be more careful than usual around intersections.

    Some of my best rides were on rainy days; there's not that much difference between soaked with rain or sweat except temperature. Just know when to pull up, grab a hot drink, and wait out the heavy stuff and lightning.

  • Geoff
    Jul 9, 2009 at 8:14 am

    It is the time of year where you generally have two choices:

    A) arrive at work/home soaked from sweat

    B) arrive at work/home soaked from rain

    Personally I prefer B because it doesn't leave ya all sweaty and salty and sticky.

    Less to clean up.

    Most important things:

    1) Fenders. Even if you only have a rear clip on, it is better than nothing. But absolutely best is full coverage fenders with some nice mudflaps. The difference is amazing. Dry feet (or just damp instead of soaked from the front wheel), and clean legs (no spray from the rear wheel bouncing off the seat tube all over your shins).

    Planet Bike makes some of the best and they are a great American Company giving back to the cycling community more than most.

    2) And maybe should be #1. Get some cycling clothes. Don't commute in your work clothes in the summer. Even if you are going a few miles, changing into something light weight and quick drying makes a huge difference. It essentially negates the weather (rain or heat specifically). And if you don't have a place to let them hang and air dry during the day, bring a second set and stuff the stinky wet clothes in a plastic bag to wash when you get home. Not much worse than changing into wet clothes at the end of the day. However. If it is still raining you won't even notice the wet clothes after about 30 seconds of riding.

    Seriously. This makes all the difference. And sure some people don't feel comfortable in spandex/lycra/bike shorts. There are plenty of baggy options out there to fit all shapes and sizes that are designed for cycling.

    3) Be familiar with your route. Most of us Commuters take pretty much the same route home and back. Pay attention when the roads are dry to the dips and the holes and the cracks and the pot holes. Remember where the pot hole is so if it is covered in water you won't go blasting into it and get a flat tire. Pay attention. Riding a bike isn't like sitting in a car. In a car you might as well be watching TV for as much as you are aware of your surroundings. Us the bike to practice paying attention to the little stuff around you.

    When it rains the more familiar you are with your route the less likely it will adversely impact your commute.

    4) Chain Lube. That dry stuff doesn't work in the rain. Period. At all. It just doesn't. Semi-dry lubes like T-9 (boeshield) build up when applied more frequently. Use a nice wet lube and just wash the bike more often. As long as the chain isn't making noise you are okay. Best lube/$ is 1 gallon of mineral spirits (hardware store ~$10-12) and 1 quart of motor oil ($0.50-$5), pour out 1 quart of mineral spirits (into a glass or metal container and use to clean really stubborn grease stains) and replace with the motor oil. Shake up and put into the old empty lube bottles you have stashed around. 1 gallon should last a long time. Put it on AFTER your ride. Wipe the excess off and you have a chain impervious to rust (just be sure to wipe the excess off so you don't get too much build up).

    Cleaning a bike is important. But more than once a week or every couple weeks is a lot. Too much for me. But if you have the time great. Most importantly is that you make sure the bike is quiet and well lubed.

    there are many of us who ride no matter what the weather is doing. Snow, rain, sleet, hail (ouch), winds, fog, ice (yeah even ice). We are out there getting to and from work. If we can do it, so can you! This is New England, not Florida, harden up and embrace this great climate! 😀

  • Michael Snyder
    Jul 9, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Check or some other animated weather radar website to plan when you ride so you can either avoid or dress for the brunt of the storm. I can often time my rides to fit in between the storm bands.

    Almost 4 years ago, I just removed any alternatives. I got rid of the car and forced myself to bicycle or take the bus. It worked.

  • Alan Barta
    Jul 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    "Yet as the heavens opened to turn Stage 6 [of the 2009 Tour de France] and the roads of northern Spain into a sodden passage of tarmac treachery, [Lance] Armstrong wondered – for a few fleeting moments – just what he is doing here. 'There are not many days when I have regretted my decision,' he said. 'But maybe that was one of them. Maybe I’m being facetious, but it wasn’t a lot of fun. There were dangerous downhills and some crashes. The only way to describe days like today is scary.'” – Martin Rogers for Yahoo Sports