If you’ve invested in an eBike, you obviously want to get as much use out of it as you can. In many cities, there’s a defined riding season, but pushing your boundaries to ride outside of the nice weather often involves getting rained on.
If you’ve chosen to make bicycling your primary mode of transportation, it’s important to know how far you can push it. Can your eBike hold up in wet weather conditions? How should you adapt to wet weather conditions while riding? Read on as we dive into everything you need to know about taking your eBike out in rough weather.
Can I Ride My eBike in the Rain?
In short, you absolutely can! Most eBikes are designed with wet weather conditions in mind, and shouldn’t have any issues getting sprinkled on.
When designing an eBike, most quality bike brands are sure to limit the points where water can get into important components of your ebike, like the motor and battery. These components will have hard casings designed to keep out anything that could clog or short the system, whether it’s dirt, dust, or water.
That being said, there are definitely some downsides to consistently getting your bike wet. All the external components, like the chain, derailleur, and freewheel or cassette, will have the oil that keeps them moving smoothly gradually stripped away as the rain washes it off. If you don’t take care of your bike during this time, you run the risk of issues with reduced shifting quality or chains breaking. Bicycles ridden in the rain require more consistent maintenance to stay in peak operating condition. If you follow our eBike service guidelines, you may want to perform some of the suggested intervals more frequently than on eBikes ridden only in dry conditions.
While the frame of the bicycle should be fine, it’s important to recognize that your bike also doesn’t like to be wet all the time, and take extra steps to keep your bike well-maintained while the weather is worse. Increasing the frequency of lubricating your chain, as well as keeping a sharp eye out for the beginnings of rust on any component of your bike, will ensure that your bike will last you through the rainy season and beyond.
How Are eBikes Rated for Water and Dust Resistance?
The standard measure of how we rate electrical systems for their water and dust protection is called the ingress protection (IP) rating. An IP rating is a two number classification that tells you just how resistant to water and dust a given eBike motor system is, like many other products that use IP ratings.
Most eBike batteries have an IP rating of five or six against dust protection, and 4 to 6 for water protection. According to the IP rating system, that means that most eBike motors and batteries are either mostly or completely protected against dust. You won’t have to worry about your motor being damaged by build up unless it’s sitting in a garage for years. You'll see these products labeled as "IP56" for example, which means a level 5 rating against dust and debris, and a 6 rating against water.
When it comes to water protection, most eBikes are resistant to a direct splash of water, at the minimum, and to a water jet being pointed directly at it in the best case scenario. Rain, even in a heavy dose, should be easy for your eBikes to handle. The only situation that you should try to avoid is actual submersion, whether it’s a deep puddle on the side of the road or a surprise flood in your garage. Avoid blasting your eBike with high-pressure water (like from a car wash hose) as that could force moisture past the seals and into bearings or electronic components.
What do the IP ingress protection numbers mean?
The ingress protection rating is a 10 point scale with 0 being the least (no protection) and 10 being the most (maximum protection). Higher numbers are better - to a point. Adding more ingress protection increases cost and complexity, so there's no point adding more protection than is needed. For example: medical equipment in a clean room environment or components on the space shuttle might require an "8", or "9" rating, but such a level of protection serves no purpose on a bicycle. You'll find components rated around 5 are common on eBikes.
It is worth noting that while most of the major eBike brands have adopted motors and batteries that meet these high standards of safety against water and dust, some brands simply ignore this issue entirely. We must recognize that if you go with a cheap, untested eBike brand, this high level of protection may not be the case.
Let this be a reminder, then, to purchase a quality bike that will keep you riding safely and quickly for years to come. If you're unsure, you should check specifically with your eBike manufacturer to confirm the specific level of dust and water resistance they used, if any, to make sure it matches up with the conditions in which you plan to use your eBike.
Best Practices for Riding in the Rain
Riding in the rain is very similar to riding in any sort of inclement weather, in the sense that the simple answer is to slow down and give yourself more time to correct for any hazardous conditions that you come across. Riding in the rain can be uncomfortable for multiple reasons, mostly all having to do with getting wet, but there are a few hazardous conditions that it creates as well.
Rain spraying directly into your eyes can cause them to blink rapidly and try to clear the water, making it harder to keep your eyes on the road. The wet surface of the road and potential puddles creates an environment for hydroplaning and poor brake function, making intersections and car interactions more dangerous. You’re not the only one dealing with the disadvantages of the rain: all the cars on the road are compensating for their lack of visibility and potential for danger as well.
In tackling wet weather riding, there are two separate approaches that should both be accounted for: your personal preparation beforehand, and tips for when you’re out there.
Before you even get out there, it’s important that you have the right gear to handle wet weather riding. You’re going to need:
- a good raincoat
- and rain pants if you want to keep completely dry.
- An all-weather visor or glasses are very helpful for keeping the rain out of your eyes, allowing them to stay open and alert.
- Waterproof gloves also help keep up the chill.
- Ensure that your brakes are working fine, and that you feel confident about the condition of your bike in all respects before you get out on the road.
- As you pull out into the street, make sure that you have a good quality set of lights on your bike, as it may be difficult for drivers to see you in the rain.
If you ride regularly in the rain, you'll want to use fenders, which can keep the road spray off both you, and your bike. Some eBikes include fenders, while they can be added to others.
Once you’re out there, ride at a slower clip than you normally would. Rain often brings the worst out in drivers, and the low visibility may mean they don’t see you coming. Avoid large puddles and anything that could get you any wetter than the rain is already making you. If there are downed trees or any other weather-related hazard, take extreme care while going around.
While eBikes have their advantages, in an inclement weather situation there are numerous hazards that are more difficult to navigate for bikes than for cars. If conditions are just too rough, get to a safe location and wait out the storm. Even if you’re running late for something, it’s not worth risking your safety to race against the clock in a heavy storm.
Do’s and don'ts of wet weather riding
- Prepare accordingly before you head out! Make sure you have high-quality rain apparel, multiple layers, gloves, and a helmet with a visor, or cycling cap with a brim for your journey.
- Take it slower than you normally would. Riding in the rain raises the risk of dangerous situations, so give yourself time to react to unexpected issues.
- Keep your bike in good condition during the rainy season. Make sure that you lubricate your chain regularly, keep your bike in a dry environment we’re not riding, and fix any small issues you’re having with the brakes or drivetrain.
- Dry your eBike off when you're done. You can "bounce" it to remove most of the water, then dry what's left with with a soft cloth.
- Go out on a bike unless you’re completely confident with its condition, or on a bike with a faulty electrical system. While most quality eBikes are well protected against water, cheap or poorly maintained eBikes run the risk of major issues when going out in inclement weather. Water and electricity don't mix.
- Ride in the rain unless you have the right gear and level of expertise to handle difficult writing. While an eBike it makes it a breeze to ride in plenty of tough conditions, it’s not worth it if you’re going to show up to work wet and unhappy, or not make it there at all.
- Leave your bike out in the rain, or neglected after you’ve ridden in consistently wet conditions. Rust can contribute to the breakdown of the shifting and health of your bike, so make sure you’re staying on top of your maintenance.
EBikes, on the whole, are high-performance machines, designed to take you safely and effectively from A to B for thousands of miles. While most rainy days are nothing to worry about when riding, be sure to always be prepared and follow best practices on days with worst weather. Remember, you’re not made of sugar, and you won't melt!