EC Notebook #32: Just Ridin’ In the Rain

by Officer Gary McGlaughlin, IPMBA PCI, Sacramento (CA) Police Department

Like it or not, we all have to ride in the rain. Our job doesn’t stop because of water–and if you fall in the rain, you will likely slide with only minor damage to your body. The following information should help you prepare for riding in wet weather.

Cornering. Rounded, sweeping turns will be the safest type. Always use gradual, not jerky movements. During the turn, move your pedals to the 12 and 6 position and press harder on the outside (6 o’clock) pedal. This will do two things: one, it will lower your center of gravity, two, it puts more weight on the tire which gives you more rubber on the surface for better traction.

Brakes. Because of water on the rims, it will take one to two or three revolutions to clean and clear the rim and brake pad. Prior to these revolutions, this could potentially make your quick stops and speed reduction twice as long.

Urban Dangers. If you work in city areas, there are dangers that off-roaders don’t experience. These dangers come in the form of obstacles such as any painted surfaces, lane lines, and crosswalks. They create an enormous hazard for bikers, since the paint is extremely slick.

Other things to watch out for are metal items and railroad tracks. Should you get caught on a slick surface, straighten up your bike, then once you’re back on a better surface, lean it over and turn.

Riding with your partner. Try to ride side by side, otherwise, you’ll be subject to the rooster tail from the rear wheel. As your speed picks up the rooster tail gets bigger, throwing up water and road debris. This also occurs with the front wheel. which will soak your shoes and lower pant leg. No shoes on the market will take this kind of soaking and keep your feet dry. You should have full size rear and front fenders to avoid water being thrown onto you.

Sprint. If one must sprint, don’t put too much weight on the front wheel or it will wash out. Try to keep a little weight on the back but remember that too much weight on the back will also cause the wheel to become too light, then washout. As stated under “cornering,” use smooth movements and don’t jerk the bike around.

Rainy Day. Don’t use the rain as an excuse to get a motorized vehicle. Of course, there will be times that you want such a vehicle. But it is a good idea to ride in the rain and travel from call to call to learn how to keep the rubber side down. As you work on your speed, listen to the bike: if the tires start to squirm, that means you’re approaching the limits of traction.

Recommendations for wet weather riding:

  1. Practice in wet weather–try to schedule a training day in the rain.
  2. Have full size rear and front fenders to avoid water being thrown onto you.
  3. Always remember to use smooth movements and don’t jerk the bike around.
  4. Remember that it will take up to two or three revolutions to clean and clear the rim and the brake pad of water.
  5. Keep an eye out for painted surfaces and metal objects.
  6. Listen to the bike–it will warn you before you fall.
  7. If you can, use soft rubber tires. Also, reduce your tire pressure somewhere between maximum and minimum, but watch out for pinch flats!

Reprinted here by permission of Bicycle USA Magazine. Bicycle USA is a member benefit of the League of American Bicyclists. For further information on the League go to www.bikeleague.org.

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