Mo’s Quick Tips: #5 Safe wet road riding

Cycling STCC Logo Web Settings SkillsFor those diehards that ride in all conditions and for the rest of us that may get caught in an unexpected downpour, these are few pointers and tips to consider and ensure a safe and fun ride.  When there is moisture there is less control in all aspects of a group ride.  The bikes do not behave the same nor the road or the people.

Hold your line

It is essential in group rides to hold your line regardless of the conditions.  However, it becomes more crucial to not make sudden moves or unpredictable changes in wet conditions, since reactions times and their effects are slower.

Handlebars

Handlebars may become slippery when wet.   There are manufacturer that advertise tapes that become sticky when wet.  Regardless, you need to take extra care when riding in rain, so if you hit an unexpected pump, your hands won’t slip form the hoods or the bar.  This does not mean that you should have white knuckles when riding in the rain.

Tire Pressure

It is advisable to lower the pressure in you tire by 10-20 psi.  Riding with lower pressure in your tube will allow greater traction as more of the tires surface area will be in contact with the road. I typically ride on 120 PSI and reduce mine to 100 or even 95 in wet conditions.

Braking

On a wet rainy day, the roads are wet and your wheels and components are wet, and each plays a significant role.  When the surface is wet there is less traction, which results in your stopping time to increase.  To stop effectively you need to start braking earlier both because of the road and the water on your rims. You will notice when you brake on wet roads that your braking is delayed that is because there is water on your rims and your brake pads must first clear it before you are able to get adequate friction on the rims. This problem is magnified if you are using carbon wheels.

Braking on wet surfaces requires a bit of practice and skill. Most of the braking power is still in the front brake.  If you apply too much pressure to the front brake it results in your front wheel slipping out. Most recommend applying more brake to your back wheel than when you ride in dry conditions.

Most importantly, it is essential for each rider to practice with his/her own bicycle and get a feel for what works best for them.

You can actually get rid of the water from the braking surface before you start braking. This can be done by gently squeezing the brake so that the brake pad slightly touches the rim and clears the water without slowing down.

Turns

You need to brake much earlier than you normally do and make sure that you have slowed down enough so that you are not required to brake during the actual turn. Braking during the turn is one of the more common mistakes in wet weather riding.

Try not to lean the bike and take the turn as wide as possible to cut down the angle as much as possible. The more perpendicular you ride the safer you are, so you should save those fast cornering techniques for the dry days.

The type of tire you have also impacts your cornering in wet weather.  If you are riding on racing slicks you traction is far more inferior to threaded tires.

Extra Slippery areas

Traffic stripes and repaired cracks are much slicker than the unpainted road surface. Stay off the stripes and watch out for repaired cracks.

Metal manhole covers are extremely dangerous when wet.  If you cannot avoid them try to coast over them straight and without any torque on the pedals.

Be extra cautious and slow down on roads where the road surface is banked or slopping.

Holes & Other road hazard

Rain puddles can be a small indentation on the road surface which you can ride through or a crater that can take your wheel out or cause a puncture.  Be wary of all puddles and call them out for the riders behind you.

Splash

It may be fun to ride fast through some of those rain puddles, but remember the person behind you.  It is not fun to get sprayed in the face just because the person in front is breaking rule # 43 http://www.velominati.com/the-rules/

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