If you're committed to bike-commuting to work, the day will come (if it hasn't already) when you'll have to ride in the rain. Although it's not exactly the most pleasant time spent on two wheels, don't let wet weather stop your riding plans. With the right gear and a few extra precautions, you can arrive to work safely and mostly dry. Here's how.
1. Get good fenders. Fenders are one of the most important equipment pieces for keeping your feet and back dry and your bike relatively gunk-free. Full coverage fenders, which wrap most of the way around the front and rear wheel, do a better job than less expensive clip-on fenders.
2. Stay well lit. The lack of winter daylight means you'll usually have a dark commute. Front and rear lights are mandatory in the dark, both for seeing and being seen. When it's raining, front and rear lights help drivers see you any time of day.
3. Wear good rain gear. Quality rain gear makes the difference between showing up to work a cold, soggy mess and being ready for a morning meeting with the zip of a few layers. Bike-specific waterproof rain jackets are longer in the back so you stay covered when leaning over the handlebars. Rain pants have ankle straps to keep your clothes out of the chain. You may also want to invest in a helmet cover or rain hood and a visor.
4. Protect your work clothes. Store your dress shoes, accessories, and any change of clothes in a waterproof messenger bag, pannier, or backpack. If you don't have waterproof storage, keep everything in plastic bags. When you get to work, hang your rain gear to dry so it will be ready for a potentially rainy commute home.
5. Brake early. It takes longer to come to a complete stop in the rain. When approaching a red light or stop sign, apply brakes earlier than you normally would.
6. Reduce your speed. It's harder to see obstacles in the rain and easier to slide out around a corner. Allow a few extra minutes to get to or from work safely.
7. Watch for slippery surfaces. Metal manhole covers and paint used for lane demarcations get slippery when wet. Avoid riding over these when possible. Note: the green-painted bike lanes used around Oakland and other cities use embedded antiskid material, so you shouldn't slide.
8. Stay hyper-alert. Because of impaired visibility in the rain, drivers may have a harder time seeing you. Make sure your rain gear is reflective or brightly colored, use your lights, and make eye contact whenever possible.
9. Drivers: give cyclists space. If you encounter a cyclist when driving in the rain, give them more space than usual to allow for slower reaction times and so you don't soak them with road grime. Even with proper clothing and lights, it can be hard to see cyclists in the rain. You may even share the road with cyclists that have no lights and wear dark clothing. Yes, it's annoying, but better to stay hyper-aware and look for these commuters than get into an accident.
With the right gear, bike-commuting in the rain can be not only tolerable, but even enjoyable.
If you've taken all precautions and still get into an accident, contact a personal injury attorney right away for a free consultation.
Photo courtesy of Jamie McCaffrey, Flickr