Some riders hang up their bikes when it rains, but for others, riding in rain (even snow!) is a way of life. Bicycle commuters, for example, who ride to work or school daily must be prepared for a large variety of weather conditions.
Getting your eBike and body ready for inclement weather can dramatically increase your chances of a successful rain ride. Here are some ideas for riding safely year round:
#1 Add fenders to your bike
If your eBike didn’t include fenders, adding them is a “must” for riding in the rain. Fenders reduce road spray from hitting both the rider and the bike. That leads to less wear and tear on your machine.
#2 Dress appropriately
To ride in comfort you need to stay warm and dry. If you’re just caught in some sprinkles, and the weather remains warm enough, you might get by with nothing more than a waterproof rain jacket. Riding faster, farther, and in more remote locations? Proper apparel is crucial:
- Full-finger, insulated gloves. High-tech fabric, like GoreTex, is useful in more extreme weather conditions
- Shoe covers
- Rain jacket and pants - made from water-repellant fabric
- A cycling cap (worn under your helmet) features a brim that can both keep the sun out of your eyes and reduce water spray
Dressing in layers allows you flexibility to add and remove clothing as needed as the temperature changes. You should avoid cotton, which insulates poorly when wet. Consider alternatives like wool instead which are safer when they get wet.
#3 Use waterproof bags
Shop for panniers, handlebar bags, and rack-top bags that advertise water-resistance, if not being water-proof. This is especially critical for for commuting to work or school, when you may need to protect a laptop computer, documents, and a change of dress clothing.
In a pinch? A black lawn or garden trash bag takes up almost no space when empty, and can protect sensitive items from unexpected downpours.
#4 Use appropriate lights
Proper lighting is a must on any bike, but especially so when riding an eBike in the rain. Many riders now use flashing red rear lights for safety, even on sunny days. You should always be prepared with lights in case you get caught out after dark or rain shows up suddenly.
Some eBikes have built-in lights, if yours does not, add high-quality, rechargeable front and rear lights instead. Modern lights are economical, lightweight, and incredibly bright compared to the lights from just a few years ago.
Lights serve two purposes:
- To see
- To be seen
In addition to being a best practice, the use of lights is the law in many areas.
#5 Use an appropriate tire pressure
Tires have a recommended pressure range for a reason - the ideal tire pressure varies based on rider weight, style, and terrain. There’s no “right” tire pressure that works for every rider.
Road surfaces can be slippery when wet, especially so immediately after the first rain. One way to get more grip is to lower tire pressure slightly. Doing so allows the tire to deform slightly, increasing the amount of contact patch touching the road.
Test it out (making sure to stay within the recommended range) and see if it works for you.
#6 Consider stopping distance
Just as with driving a car, stopping an eBike in the rain requires additional stopping distance. You’ll need to start braking earlier in the wet than when riding in dry conditions.
If it’s your first time riding a new bike in the rain, practice starting and stopping until you understand how the bike performs in wet conditions.
#7 Avoid painted stripes or debris on the road
Lane markers, reflectors, railroad tracks, and other road obstacles that would be no big deal in dry conditions can be extraordinarily slick when wet. Similarly, a pile of leaves can disguise other road debris and be slippery themselves.
- Avoid them entirely, when possible
- Slow down
- Cross railroad tracks at a 90 degree angle