Tips for Biking in the Rain

Whether you’re an occasional cyclist or a daily commuter, a little wet weather shouldn’t scare you off your bike for the season. Keep your ride streak going with these tips and hacks for biking in the rain, and turn a dreary forecast into a bearable commute. Bonus: The bike lane will be way less crowded.

1. Hit the Brakes

Oddly enough, the first tip is … to not ride in the rain, at least on the first really rainy day after a dry spell. Roads are slickest during the first downpour. Give it two to three days for accumulated surface oil to dissipate.

2. Weatherproof Your Ride

Inclement weather can be rough on your bike. Moisture can corrode components, causing them to rust or seize. But with some prep it will be ready for the rainy season. Use a heavier lube on your chain to keep moisture out (make sure to apply it when the chain is completely dry). If you want to take things even further, protect your cables by running full cable housing. You can do this yourself if you feel confident or have your local REI bike shop do it for you.

Applying chain lube

protect your cables by running full cable housing

A few additional gear items will also make a world of difference to your riding comfort. Fenders are a must to keep nasty water from splattering your clothes. You can buy fenders to fit your bike here. Or learn how to make your own fenders with our step-by-step DIY guide. Wider winter tires add much needed traction on slick wet roads (decreasing tire pressure a bit also increases traction), and their extra durability helps protect against potential punctures.

3. Fingers and Toes

Hands and feet need extra love in cold, wet weather. Insulated, waterproof gloves and booties will keep fingers and toes toasty and dexterous. Learn more about different options here. If you’re going to be riding for more than two hours, it’s a good idea to pack an extra pair of gloves in a plastic baggie to swap out. If shoes get wet, stuff them with newspaper at work or overnight to absorb moisture (you may need to replace it after a few hours). Shop REI’s selection of bike accessories.

Bike gloves in a plastic bagIf shoes get wet, stuff them with newspaper at work or overnight to absorb moisture

4. Layer It On

Spending time in the elements requires proper layering technique. Soft merino wool base layers help regulate your temperature even if you get wet, and unlike synthetics, the natural fibers resist smelling funky. Protect your neck and chin from wind and rain with a neck gaiter. Don’t forget to factor in temperature when choosing your layers; you don’t want to end up soaked from the inside out because you didn’t wear breathable rain gear. Get outfitted with our selection of bike clothing.

5. Prep Your Pack

Waterproof panniers, frame bags and backpacks are all great options for protecting gear from Mother Nature. You can hack your own non-waterproof pack by lining it with a trash compactor bag; just make sure you secure the top of the bag to keep moisture out. Side note: Backpacks provide a surprising amount of additional warmth for your back.

6. For Sight

Staying aware of your surroundings is critical, but can be difficult with rain flying in your face. Some cyclists wear clear glasses, but droplets on the lenses can be just as bad as no glasses at all. Try a brimmed cap, or add an extended visor to your helmet for more coverage. Whether you wear glasses or not, this will help keep vision clearer.

7. Road Wise

The friendly roads you’re used to on beautiful sunny days might not be so welcoming when the weather takes a turn. Rain can transform metal grates and railroad tracks into slippery hazards, and iridescent oil patches lurk where you least expect them. Deep puddles can disguise wheel-snagging obstacles. Be extra cautious, particularly when cornering and riding unfamiliar streets, and give yourself twice as much braking time as usual. Rim brakes, in particular, lose performance when wet.

Paved rode with two yellow stripes

8. Cover Your … Seat

If you have to leave your bike outside in the rain, cover your seat with a plastic grocery bag and a rubber band, or a shower cap. Your butt will thank you later.

Plastic bag covering a bike seat

9. Light It Up

It’s important to be as visible as possible during bad weather. Keep front and rear lights on any time you’re riding. If you have rechargeable lights, set a reminder on your phone to charge them overnight so you never run out of battery in the middle of your route.

Re-chargeable bike light

10. Time for a Change

Cycling to work generally requires a change of clothes. At some point, you’re going to forget something (probably on a day when you have an important meeting). Save your future self by keeping an emergency outfit at work. Whether you get soaked and need a dry shirt or forget a pair of underwear, you’ll be covered.

11. Keep It Clean

Grit and grime love to stick to wet components. Keep a sport top water bottle handy and give your bike a spritz after each ride to rinse off road dirt. Pay particular attention to rim brakes and the chain. And always wipe everything down when you’re done riding for the day. Check out our overview on how to clean your bike.

Co-op cycles bike