This week's column provides tips for how to bike when it's raining--things to think about before you leave, during your ride, and after your ride.
In our dry season, long steady rainfalls are a rarity – so wet weather earlier this month may have caught winter bicyclists by surprise. But the year-round riders (undeterred by the daily threat of summertime soakings) were no doubt ready for whatever rained down on them.
When faced with the impending prospect of precipitation, many bicyclists simply skip their ride. But the hardy (or foolhardy) may bravely bike forth, or a ride that started out sunny may turn stormy before you reach your destination, so here’s ideas on how to get through a storm safely:
Before you leave:
• Throw in a water-resistant jacket. It won’t keep you dry in a downpour but it may stand up to a sprinkle and will certainly be better than nothing at all. (Also a wise idea on those days where the temperatures might be a little dicey as well.) When picking your attire, be prudent … make sure it won’t impede your bicycling range-motion, get caught on inopportune items by accident or cause you to get overheated once you start exerting yourself.
• Check your gear. Always a good idea, but even better when you think how much fun it will be if you break down and do it in the rain. Plus, extra lube on your chain before the rain might help keep the water from doing as much damage (see below).
During your ride:
• Find shelter and wait it out. If a rainstorm rises up unexpectedly (and you don’t have somewhere you really need to be), look for someplace dry and wait for it to pass.
• Be extra careful. If you have to keep going – or even if you’re riding post-rain in wet conditions – be “extra”… extra-careful, extra-visible, extra-predictable and extra-observant. All the issues you have as a motorist in the rain – bad braking, slippery roads, poor visibility, etc. – you’ll have on your bike, and then some. Worse, you may be sharing the road with drivers who are having all those problems too, so you’ll need to be extra defensive.
• Watch your surfaces. Add a little water to many road or path surfaces and the terrain can become treacherous. Particularly bad are painted lane lines or crosswalk markers, areas near intersections or anywhere where oil can build up, and metal surfaces or grids (such as manhole covers and bridges).
• Go slow and easy. Water makes braking and turning an adventure in a car, and even more so on a bike. Keep your speed in check, approach curves with caution and avoid puddles … not only do you not know what’s under that water, but the resistance can slow you down unexpectedly.
• Stay dry. Seems self-evident, but it bears repeating. Getting soaked can sap your energy, make you chilly and make your ride uncomfortable (think wet clingy cloth and tender skin). You’ll want to keep your eyes covered (since watery eyes aren’t happy eyes) and your head covered (see, another reason to wear a helmet).
After the ride:
• Dry yourself. Get into dry clothes ASAP and hang everything up to air out (or be prepared to find interesting things growing in and on them later).
• Dry your bike. Water and metal never mix well, so wipe everything down with old towels thoroughly, in preparation for…
• Lube, lube, lube: Not only to reduce friction but to drive out moisture. Target the chain, cables, bolts, seat post and other exposed metal surfaces. While you’re at it, clean off the brake pads and wheel rims to dislodge any grit the water may have washed in there.Water may not be a wintertime challenge very often, but there’s always a chance for rain in the subtropics. Better to be ready than to be rained out.
— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background at BikeWalkLee.org.
• Saturday Feb. 22: Swamp Stomp 5K. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
• Sunday, March 2: Hooters Half Marathon, Fort Myers. 7 a.m. (hootershalfmarathon.com)
• Saturday, March 29: Scope for Hope 5K, Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
Cycling and other events:
• Sunday, March 16: Royal Palm Classic, organized by the Caloosa Riders. Details at www.caloosariders.org
• Saturday, March 29: Walk, Wheel, & Wobble for Ataxia, Florida Gulf Coast University. 10-, 30- and 62-mile rides, 5K run (http://knowataxia.webs.com/)
• Sunday, April 13: Immokalee Ride for Literacy, 15-, 30- and 62-mile rides (caloosariders.org/)