Tips for Biking in the Rain

Wet conditions can actually be a lot of fun if you embrace the challenge and adapt your technique to make it safe.

Don’t let rain get in the way of a good ride. Wet conditions can actually be a lot of fun if you embrace the challenge and adapt your technique to make it safe. And even if you don’t head out in the wet, you could be surprised by an unexpected storm or an overzealous lawn waterer. Whether intentional or not, if you find yourself in slick conditions, stay upright with these tips for both road riding and mountain biking.

Road Riding

Slow Down

A slick road surface and wet brake pads—combined—are a recipe for losing traction and sliding out in corners. Give yourself plenty of room to slow down before entering a turn. 

Go Wide in Corners

Try to keep your bike more upright when cornering by taking corners at a wider angle. If you are able to, cheat into the center of the lane to prevent yourself from having to turn too tightly. Tighter turns require you to lean the bike over more, and a bike has less traction if it leans. 

Beware of Paint

Painted lines, like bike lanes, crosswalks, and stop lines, can be slippier than the road surface when wet. 

Avoid Debris

Leaves and loose trash can be extremely slippery. Loose sand, dirt, and gravel can turn into slick mud once wet. Look ahead and pick lines that take you down reliable, clear asphalt. 

Wash Your Bike

A wet road surface can splatter your bike with junk like oil, dirt, and brake dust. This can make its way into components like your drivetrain and cassette, causing faster wear if you don’t clean it. Immediately after a ride, wipe your bike off or spray it down with a garden hose. While a full clean is best, just getting the mud and dirt off before it cakes will save time later. Make sure your chain is dry so it doesn't rust and be sure to re-lubricate it before your next ride. 

Get Equipped

Love rainy day riding? Gear up. A cycling cap keeps your head dry and shields your eyes, a waterproof jacket keeps your core warm, and waterproof shoe covers keep your feet toasty. 

Light Up

Even in daylight, rainy weather can limit visibility. Use front and rear lights (a flashing red one in back).

Two people biking in the rain Photo: Scott Dickerson/TandemStock

Mountain Biking

Check the Rules

Make sure the trails you want to ride are open. If a trail is too wet, a mountain bike tire can cut deep ruts and cause lasting damage, so some trail managers prohibit riding in wet conditions. The composition of the dirt greatly affects how well (or poorly) a trail handles rain. If you're unsure of a trail’s status but see yourself leaving deep ruts, it’s best to wait until the trail dries out.

Brake Early but Carefully

Go slower on downhills, break early into corners, and feather your brakes in loose conditions. Feathering is slowly applying brake pressure, sometimes in light pumps, to slow your bike down while you maintain traction. If you feel your wheel slip out, let off the brake and feather again.

Favor the Rear Brake

Your front brake can skid out of line if you brake too hard while on a slippery surface. Rely more heavily on your rear brake. 

Go Through the Water

Pedal smoothly and consistently straight through puddles rather than going around them. Going around them widens the puddle and erodes the trail. For giant puddles that might be too deep, dismount and walk your bike around, stepping carefully on durable surfaces like rocks or sticks.

Some Days We Walk the bike

On uphills, shift more weight to your rear tire in the hopes of giving it more traction. But if a climb is too steep and you are slipping out, or a descent looks too slippery, there’s no shame in getting off of your bike and walking it for a section. It’s better to bruise your ego than break your bones.

Get Equipped

Stay warm and dry with a waterproof hat, rain jacket, and gloves.  

Get the Mud Off Your Feet

If you're having a hard time clipping back into your pedals because of the accumulated mud, use your water bottle to squirt some mud off of your cleats and off of the pedal. Also try stomping your feet on a rock to kick some dirt off. 

Pick Your Line Carefully

Look ahead and pick areas with good traction like damp dirt. Rocks, sticks, and roots can be particularly slick; hit one at the wrong angle and it might just slip your tire out from underneath you. Pick a line that avoids these slippery obstacles. 

Wash Your Bike

Similar to road cycling, wash your bike off and get that caked-on gunk out of your drivetrain as soon as you get home.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.