The News-Press, June 18, 2020
by Ken Gooderham
Right on cue, the summer skies have opened and routine (and often rambunctious) rains are back.
For those of you new to cycling and/or Southwest Florida, adjusting your cycling habits to accommodate inclement weather can be challenging. (As for runners, the higher temps should have already driven you either earlier or inside, so thunder and lightning should be less of an inconvenience… as least compared to heat and humidity.)
The first step is to coping with the cloudbursts is to avoid them, if at all possible. Riding early in the day improves the chances of
missing the downpours (not to mention offering lower temperatures in the morning hours). Since on most summer days the storms don’t start rolling in until after noon, making sure your ride is done by lunch should keep you dry (at least from rain).
If your schedule is not your own and the chances of you being on a bike as the chances of rainfall increase, the best response is to be prepared. Wear clothes that dry quickly (which is a good idea in summer, rain or not), and have a packable water-resistant jacket at hand that you can easily include when the risk of rain rises.
Make sure said jacket is brightly colored (to make you more visible) and has a hood if possible (that fits either over or under your helmet). If you really want to stay dry, think waterproof (which can cost more and be less packable) rather than water-resistant and – for the serious cyclist – you could look into making more of your attire waterproof… such as shorts, pants and even gloves and shoe covers. That’s a serious financial commitment, so decide how dry you really want to be. (Also note that any attire sealed enough to keep water out is also sealed enough to keep perspiration in… so use accordingly.)
What if you have no choice about riding in the rain?
Then it comes down to choices: How wet do you want to get? How heavy is the rain? Where are you riding? How much traffic (primarily motor vehicles) will you have to interact with? What if there’s more than just rain?
Tackling those in order:
- Wet: Most riders will brave a sprinkle, but draw the line at a downpour – and rightly so, as being pounded by raindrops and drenched to the core is pretty uncomfortable. Lightweight and quick-dry clothes will help (as opposed to water-absorbing cottons, let’s say), but your “damn the raindrops” attitude may change the first time you get really soaked and try to keep on pedaling.
- Heavy: See above, with the additional admonition that heavy downpours not only cut your ability to see but also to be seen, which can be a major problem. Downpours also can flood roads and paths fast, making forward motion more treacherous.
- Where: How much and what kind of traffic will you share the road with? Walker, runners and other riders will avoid the rain, so you might be OK to keep going on a bike path… but riding along a road full of fast-moving vehicles may be more dangerous than you’d want.
- Traffic: Speaking of which, drivers will keep moving forward despite the rain (and be nice and dry), but their ability to see other traffic is diminished in a downpour – especially cyclists, bright colors or not. Street flooding is also a risk, both due to what is obscures (potholes and debris, for example) and what it creates (a lot of wake and spray as vehicles push through the puddles). Finally, water and any traffic markings on the pavement are a dangerous combination, turning them slick enough to slide on with the slightly swerve.
- Beyond rain: By this we mean the thunder and lightning that often accompanies summer storms. If that starts where you’re riding, take shelter immediately – preferably in a building or other solid structure. Don’t hide out under trees and, if you don’t have anywhere else to escape, then avoid being the highest thing around in case a bolt of lightning is looking for a place to land.
In all the talk about keeping you dry, don’t forget your bicycle – since water is not a friend to moving parts. If you’re caught in the rain there’s not much you can do… but when you get home, be sure to dry everything out and lube all the essential parts – chain, brakes, gears and shifter, etc. – ASAP before rust can set in.
Rain riding is also a good reason to have plenty of lights (front and rear) to be more visible, and perhaps even fenders (either permanent or snap-on) to keep the spray where it belongs (not on you).
Summer rains may be inevitable, but they don’t need to be completely inconvenient. Just be flexible and be prepared, and you can keep on riding regardless.
Ready to ride or run?Nothing new on the race calendars, just virtual events and the promise of racing to return come the fall (Covid willing). Keep checking the usual websites for updates… be prepared to sign up, but also be prepared to deal with postponements if the rules on gatherings don’t change.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDE:Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.
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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, 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 online at www.BikeWalkLee.org.