Riding your bike in the rain can have its upsides. It can also be dangerous.
Maybe you choose to get on your bike in a downpour, or perhaps you just get caught out in it. Either way, riding in the rain is an entirely different experience than those sunny afternoon rides that let you feel the sun on your face and the wind in your (helmet-covered) hair.
But without proper cleaning and maintenance after a rain ride, your bike’s components will accrue some damage and eventually give out on you.
Those cleaning and maintenance jobs aren’t difficult, though. You’ll want to be sure and:
- Clean off dirt and mud.
- Clean your wheels and brakes.
- Give your chain some attention.
- Dry the whole bike.
These tasks do not take inordinate amounts of time, and they aren’t even really that big of a deal. The big deal would be replacing things on your bike because you didn’t take care of it like you knew you should have.
Since so much depends on what you ride, where you ride, and how hard the rain pelts you while you ride, not every bit of the following information will apply to you. But you know what you and your bike have been through and need, so take what you will.
Road biking involves grime. When it rains, more of that grime ends up on our bikes because the rain loosens it, we ride over it, and our tires grab a little of it and sling it around.
Mountain biking in the rain brings mud to the table, and like sand at the beach, that mud gets in all sorts of nooks and crannies.
So you need to get as much of that stuff off your bike as soon as you can. Practically speaking, removing mud and grime will be much easier when it’s still wet than if you let it dry and harden.
Either wipe it off with a towel or, if it’s bad, spray it down with a garden hose.
Don’t use a spray attachment, and for heaven’s sake, don’t use a power washer. Either of these can force water into bearings and cause severe and costly issues in the future.
There’s also the option of a bucket, some soapy water, and a sponge or washcloth. Whichever you choose, just be sure and get your bike cleaned after rain. Gunk and grime building up on your bike will affect its performance.
Your rims will be especially dirty after riding your bike in the rain, so spray them off, as well. Pay attention to your brake pads or discs (whichever you use), keeping in mind that not just road grime collects there.
Since your brakes are important, and since you may not see dirt and grime on them as easily as on your frame, you might want to use a cleaning product on these, something like Muc-Off’s Nano Tech Bike Cleaner.
Muc-Off would work great on your whole bike, but specifically on the brakes, as it’s intended for breaking down grime and other dirt and schmutz that collects there.
Leaving that road grit and grime on your brake pads can result in damage to them and your rims. If there’s grit dried hard on the pad and you squeeze your brake, what happens?
The pad, with its coating of sand and dust and tiny rocks and all that other crud, presses against your rim and scrapes and scratches it. Damage to the rim and the pads will result.
Your chain is one of the more essential components of your bike. In some ways, it’s rather delicate. And it endures a bunch of wear and tear. In light of this, you can’t ignore or forget it, especially after riding your bike in the rain.
Since we’ve already established that you’re a responsible bike rider, that means you already clean your chain about once a month, which means you don’t have an exceptionally dirty drive train. That’s good because it will make post-rain chain maintenance an easier task.
And if you’re not cleaning your chain once a month, add that task to your Google Calendar now, please.
After you’ve done your wash and wipedown of your bike, take a brush to your chain to get any grit out that might be hiding in all those crevices. You might also want to use a degreaser like this one from WD-40.
After brushing your chain, be sure it’s dry. And don’t rely solely on your leaf blower for this task, either. Use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe it down well.
Finally, once it’s dry (like just before you go on your next ride), don’t forget to reapply Green Oil Cycle Chain Lube or your preferred brand. As long as it’s a dedicated chain lube, you’ll be in good shape. And your drivetrain will be happy, too.
Remember that rust can begin forming on steel in as little as four days, so especially if you have, say, a steel frame, drying is of the utmost importance.
If you’ve got a leaf blower, treat your bike to a blowout. You’ll be able to dry out some tight spaces you might not be able to access if you’re wiping your bike down with a towel, and the job will go much quicker.
However, if you don’t have a leaf blower, all is not lost. Wiping your bike dry with a towel is perfectly acceptable. Wipe down as much of the bike that you can, and wipe it until it’s dry to the touch.
Those hard-to-reach spots will dry on their own because you’re a responsible bike owner and will be storing your ride in a dry space, so those places will air dry and be just fine.
Finally, drain your bike. Your frame is not watertight, and unless the rain you got caught in was a fine mist, the chances are good that you got some water down in your frame.
Left to sit inside the frame, water can wreck your bearings or even begin rusting your frame from the inside.
To drain your bike, don’t just rely on the holes in your frame. Get the job done correctly by removing your seat and post, then turn the bike upside down.
You’ll want to leave it turned over like that for a couple of hours to make sure you get those insides as dry as possible.
Aside from the toll it can take on your bike, riding in the rain presents challenges to you as a rider, so there are things you need to keep in mind when you’re out in it.
Since road biking can be dangerous even in clear weather, you’ll want to pay special attention to a few things once the rain starts falling.
In driver’s ed, we all learned that the streets are slickest in the early moments of a rainstorm because oil and other contaminants get loosened but not immediately washed away. This affects us cyclists, too.
Slick pavement or asphalt means altering how you ride.
Don’t lean into turns, as your tires will have a much harder time holding their grip on a slippery road. Lean too far, and you’ll end up horizontal.
Also, pay special attention to any lines on the road. Those yellow stripes don’t provide great traction when they’re dry. Wet, they behave more like a Slip n’ Slide than a biking surface.
You have a 1 in 3,000 chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime. Your odds go up, though, if you do things like ride a bike in a thunderstorm.
Since you’re riding your bike on a flat surface, you are probably the tallest thing around, which means lightning will be drawn to you.
If the weather forecast calls for lightning, do not go out and ride in it. If you get caught out in a lightning storm, get off your bike and get to shelter.
A tall tree is not a shelter, nor is a metal shed. And forget the rubber of your tires grounding you. There isn’t enough rubber in your bike tires to provide ground, so if you get hit by lightning, you’re in big trouble.
Hard rain can sting your face and skin, but past discomfort, its real victim is visibility.
We’ve all been in a car when it was raining so hard we had to pull over because we couldn’t see. Visibility is important, so in the rain, be sure you can see where you’re going. If you can’t, you’re setting yourself up for danger.
Barreling through a puddle is fun. It’s even better when you’re already wet and don’t have an issue with getting splashed.
However, you don’t know what’s under the water. For all you know, there’s a foot-deep pothole under there, and you’ll never know it until your wheel is a taco and you find yourself in midair. Avoid the temptation.
Riding your bike in the rain isn’t a no-no, though there are safety measures to take. The big thing to remember for your bicycle is to clean it and maintain it after a wet ride.
Without care and even just a simple drying-off, your bike’s lifespan will decrease. Since cleaning up after a ride in the rain is pretty painless, take the time to do it and save yourself some preventable repair and replacement costs down the road.
I am Michael, an avid rider and bike expert. I am here to provide, biking tips and expert advice on in-depth bike reviews covering features, capabilities, price range, and much more. Specially on electric bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, etc. I will provide honest product reviews, along with expert advice on purchasing, training, and maintenance. Check out my complete profile.