Rain showers are inevitable in the UK. Here’s a selection of tips to keep you safe and dry throughout the year.
Improve your mudguards
Many mudguards are too short to stop road spray from soaking your feet or spattering the face of the cyclist behind. Mudflaps are the solution. You can buy them – for example, SKS XXL Mudguard Spoilers, available in various widths for a fiver each. Or you can make your own: cut out a section of plastic milk bottle, damp course membrane, or an old cycling race number, then cable-tie or pop-rivet it in place.
Keep your saddle dry
Don’t risk a wet bum if you have to park your bike in the rain. Pop a shower cap over the saddle. The cap’s elastic keeps it in place so it works better than a plastic bag. Some shower caps cost only pennies; others are free from hotel bathrooms! Leather saddles in particular need protecting.
Keep rain out of your eyes
Rain in your face is annoying and makes it harder to see clearly. This goes double for anyone with prescription glasses as the water droplets on the lenses distort vision. Helmet peaks can help but traditional cycling caps are better yet, as the peak can be positioned just above the eyes for maximum shielding. A cycling cap will fit under a helmet if you wear one – and won’t blow off like a baseball cap if you don’t.
No bike stops as well in the rain, partly because the tyres have less traction on the road. Water on the braking surfaces can be a problem too. It’s a bigger issue with rim brakes than discs. Feather these brakes before they’re needed to skim off water from the rims. Changing rim brake pads for ones with a softer compound can transform wet weather performance; try Kool-Stop Salmon pads. Disc brakes should bite quicker than rim brakes in the rain. If yours aren’t satisfactory, check the setup. Any pad type – organic, sintered, or semi-metallic – should work fine on a commuter, but quality varies between brands.
The ultimate waterproof
The most effective waterproof in sustained rain isn’t a high-tech jacket but a bit of old-school cycling wear that’s fallen out of fashion: the cape or rain poncho. Costing as little as £20, like the one shown from Decathlon, a cape works more like a tent or umbrella than a jacket. It protects your legs from the knees up as well as your upper body, as the front goes over the handlebar, with loops to hook it to your thumbs. Air can circulate underneath so you don’t overheat as easily.
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