If you are going to be a committed cyclist in the UK you need to be comfortable riding in the wet! Here are a few tips for staying safe and sound on those inevitable rainy days.
Wet weather brings a dull grey over our skies, and the low light conditions mean you need to work harder to be seen and stand out from the traffic around you. Brightly coloured waterproof jackets will help to keep you visible as well as dry. Even in daylight hours make sure you are using front and rear lights on your bike and dress brightly so you stand out from your surroundings.
Make sure your bike is set up for wet weather by checking your tyres and brakes are in good working order. Your choice of tyre tread pattern can make a real difference to how much grip you have in wet conditions, so ask your bike shop for advice. A right tyre will allow you to corner with confidence and most importantly, stop as safely as possible. When braking, squeeze your brakes slowly to come to a gradual stop, rather than grabbing your brakes sharply, as this cause your wheel to stop suddenly and slide in the wet. Bear in mind that wet rims, discs and brake pads will increase the time it takes to slow down. Remember that stopping distances are increased for everyone, so leave more space between yourself and others, particularly at junctions.
Be aware of the surfaces your wheels pass over, even the best tyres in the world won’t give you grip on a wet manhole cover. Anything metal such as grills, gratings or covers will be really slippery, white lines and road paint can also be hazardous, particularly when crossing them at an angle. Look out for puddles as you can’t tell what is hidden beneath them. You may not spot a pothole if it is filled with water, hitting it with your front wheel can cause damage to you and your bike.
Rain normally means more cars on the road and a reduced visibility means accidents are far more likely to occur. All of these factors, combined with reduced visibility, means cyclists need to up their own levels of awareness and anticipation.
Car drivers, secure in their climate controlled boxes may have less awareness of the problems cyclists have with puddles and standing water. Assume a road position that doesn’t force you to the gutter where deep water is more likely to build. Scan the road ahead so that if you need to move out to avoid a puddle you have plenty of time to clearly signal your intention to traffic behind.