How to ride in the rain
The hardest part about riding in the rain is simply getting out the door. It is never as bad as you think it is going to be while you're drinking hot coffee and looking out the window. I've spent hundreds of hours training, racing and now riding in the rain. Consider me your test who’s learned quite a few tricks and now it's time to pass them along so get out your notebook.
Rain can be a great excuse for a rest day but sometimes it rains a lot, for extended periods of time, so sooner or later you're going to go crazy right?
Let's start with equipment
The ideal set-up is a specific rain bike that is always ready and only ridden in wet conditions. The bike doesn't have to be anything special or expensive. The most important thing is that you can achieve the same position on it as your normal road bike. So make sure the size and geometry allow you to copy your measurements. You need to pay particular attention to the stack, reach and seat angle measurements to emulate the handlebar and saddle position.
Next you're going to want full fenders. When I say full, I mean the kind that have maximum coverage of the wheels. These are the fenders that not only bolt onto the brake bridge and the fork crown but have struts that attach at the fork and rear dropouts. They should bolt to the back of the bottom bracket/chainstay junction. The goal is to minimize as much continuous water spray as possible.
Disc Brakes and Tires
There's been a lot of controversy over disc brakes on road bikes but one thing everyone will agree on is that disc brakes in the rain are night and day better than rim brakes. Put on the toughest, most durable tires you can find because you do not want to be changing a flat in the rain, believe me it sucks. Oh and carry as much flat repair gear as you can as to not jinx yourself. Yeah, two tubes, a patch kit, a couple CO2s, a hand pump, a tire boot, a multi-tool and a couple tire levers should be enough to be your guardian angel. Get yourself a set of bright blinking lights for the front and rear of the bike to make yourself more visible to cars.
So if you're sitting there saying, "Do I really need another bike?!" I would say it definitely makes it easier to get out the door, it preserves your "good" bike and it really helps get that workout in. However, if a completely different bike is not an option, you can improvise by finding fenders that strap onto the frame and offer about 50-70% of the coverage of full fenders. They aren't quite as stable either so make sure you attach them well.
You can never have enough on! You should be overheating in the beginning of the ride because you will eventually start to get colder. If you dress correctly, you can survive the heaviest of downpours for at least 2 hours. I start with a long sleeve high neck wool base layer, thick winter bibs and windproof leg warmers or tights. I have thick wool winter cycling specific socks, a long sleeve jersey or jacket, a winter cycling hat or beanie, thick neoprene or winter/waterproof gloves, thick neoprene booties and of course a rain jacket. Mine is bright yellow so cars can see me in the darkened conditions. I also use one of those aero helmets to offer more protection and warmth. Clear lenses to see better are a good idea.
Plan on stopping as little as possible, it's ideal to never stop moving and try to ride at a good pace the entire ride. Do not go up a big climb because you will get cold on the descent and once you're cold it's really hard to warm back up. Don't forget to eat and drink, it's so easy to forget to drink enough in the rain, force yourself.
These tips will allow you to enjoy having the roads all to yourself and give you a sense of accomplishment because you're out there, rain and all. Maybe down the road I can do another post reviewing specific rain gear and let you know my all time favorite pieces of equipment or clothing during my career? What do you think?