Bike riders choose to commute to work on their bicycles for various reasons. For starters, pedaling to work saves money, increases fitness, and significantly decreases stress levels.
These benefits continue even when the weather turns foul. Still, many bike commuters decide that the risks of a bike accident or the anticipation of an unpleasant experience are enough to keep them out of the saddle. However, it is possible to bike commute in bad weather safely and sanely with a little extra preparation.
Pick the Best Route to Cycle
When commuting on a bike in the rain or other bad weather conditions, it is important to choose your route carefully. While the shortest route leaves you exposed to the elements for less time, that route may not be the safest for bike riding. Consider factors such as:
- Which streets have dedicated bike lanes? If bike lanes are not available, wider streets provide a larger buffer zone.
- Where will you encounter less traffic?
- Does the route include hazards? If you need to steer around potholes, that could put you in the path of an oncoming vehicle.
- How is the road surface? Rain can make many surfaces slick but easier to ride on soft surfaces such as a sandy parking lot.
- Are there usually parked cars along the route? People getting out of cars in bad weather are less likely to watch for cyclists.
You can find the best route in many areas by using an app or software that helps bike riders select the optimum route for different conditions.
Wear the Right Gear for Inclement Weather
Both comfort and safety are important factors to consider when dressing for a bike commute. In fact, staying comfortable can even help you stay safe since you will be more focused on the road if you’re not distracted by rain in your eyes or water in your shoes.
Invest in high-quality waterproof gear, including a good jacket and coverings for your legs and feet. It is also a good idea to have a hat or helmet cover. If possible, all gear should be brightly colored or highlighted with reflective trim to make it easier for motorists to see you when visibility is poor. It can be a simple matter of adding reflective tape or piping to your existing gear.
Finally, even when the sun is not shining, it is helpful to wear glasses that can cut glare and protect your eyes from rain, wind, and debris.
Adjust Your Biking Riding Style to Suit Conditions
We all develop habits during our regular commute, but adjusting some of those habits may be necessary in bad weather. For starters, you may need to reduce your speed to give others on the road more time to recognize and react to your presence. Reduced speed also gives you greater control of the bike.
Avoid riding on painted lines in the road. These surfaces become slick and dangerous when they get wet, even from a light rain or heavy fog.
When biking in bad weather, take wide turns to avoid slipping. Before trying to come to a complete stop, feather the brakes to clear water from the rim surface, then apply the brakes again. Both of these techniques require you to allow more time for turning and braking. One of the most significant adjustments you may need to make is to leave earlier so that the extra time on the commute does not leave you feeling panicked or tempted to rush.
Set Up a Bad-Weather Bike for Commutes
Many cyclists invest in top-quality bikes that are more dear to them than most of their family members. This bike is probably not the one you want to ride in the rain, where the water and grit can cause serious corrosion and other damage.
Instead, consider setting up an older or less expensive bicycle as a designated bad-weather ride. Preparation could include installing:
- Brake pads that are designed for wet weather. Normal brake pads can disintegrate quickly in the rain, but wet-weather pads are designed to withstand conditions.
- Wider tires. Larger tires with more tread may not be the best choice for a fast commute, but they improve traction and balance in bad weather.
- High-quality lights. Bike lights come in a range of styles and brightness. Go for a permanent installation that gives you the best visibility on the road while making you more visible to others.
- Fenders or mudguards. Getting splashed or trying to avoid getting splashed can be dangerously distracting. Avoid this problem by keeping fenders or mudguards in place.
- Flat pedals. If you typically ride with clipless pedals that attach to your shoes, you may want flat or platform pedals for your foul-weather bike. These make it easier to start and stop in traffic. Flat pedals with an extra-grip surface often work well.
Having a dedicated bad-weather bike may be ideal but not feasible. In that case, you can add equipment such as fenders or extra lights as needed for commutes in bad weather.
You’ll Still Need a Backup Bike Route or Mode of Transportation
Even with the best preparation, there will be times that commuting by bicycle is simply not safe or even possible. If you have a couple of other options, there’s no need to stress.
It is especially important to have a plan for what to do if you commute to work on your bike and the weather changes, leaving you unprepared. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Find out in advance whether you have public transportation options that allow you to bring your bike onboard or whether any of your co-workers could give you a ride home.
Preparation Allows You to Commute Safely by Bike in Many Conditions
The key to safe and sane bike commuting in bad weather is to plan ahead. If you know the best route, bring the right gear, and practice safe techniques, commuting on your bike can be a breeze, even in extra breezy weather.
Remember, however, that even the best preparation is sometimes no match for mother nature. Nevertheless, knowing when and how to travel on a bike can prevent injuries and keep your commute a positive experience.