Previously I talked about dressing for the part if you want to ride in the rain and not feel miserable about it. Today I’ll be going over the preparations I would suggest for your bike, as well as other equipment.
SLATHER ON SOME WET CHAIN LUBE
Now is the time to go over your chain with degreaser to strip it of any old dry chain lube it has left. While some dry lubes still work in the rain, they’re not the right tool for the conditions, and you’re leaving some drivetrain protection on the table.
Once you degrease your chain of dry lube, apply wet chain lube into its links and roller pins. These are usually made up of plant-based or synthetic oils, instead of the wax that makes up many dry lubes, so they are more tenacious and will provide more consistent protection for your chain in the wet.
Wet lubes do attract more dirt, though. Fortunately, the air has less suspended fine dust and dirt in the rainy season, so wet lubes don’t have to contend with it so much.
EYE YOUR TIRES
Your luck with punctures worsens in the rain, I’m afraid. Wet roads and standing water act as lubricant for debris particles to worm their way into your tires’ tread, eventually breaching the carcass and pricking holes in the inner tube.
To defend against this, inspect your tires for any bits of debris that are sunken into the tread area. Any pieces you find, you should pry out with a little pick. Granted, you should be doing this even in dry conditions, but in the rainy season you will have to do so more frequently.
If you’re used to running high pressures on your road bike’s tires, I suggest cutting down 10 psi. This will let the tire deform a little more while riding, increasing its contact patch however slightly.
PREP YOUR BRAKES
Rim brakes need more preparation for wet conditions. It’s just the nature of the beast. Because of the closeness of the rim’s braking track to the ground, it’s more prone to picking up debris. The soft material of the brake pads picks these up, which can scratch up the braking track and deteriorate the wheel’s integrity faster in the long run. You’ll have to repeat the habit of prying away debris with your pick, this time from the brake pads.
With much harder pads and a more central brake rotor, disc brakes are better equipped to deal with the wet, and will require less maintenance. Like rim brakes, however, they’re not much use if the rotor is contaminated with oil. Take a paper towel, squirt some isopropyl alcohol into it, and wipe down the surface of the braking track or brake rotor. This removes contaminants and improves the bite of the pads. A contaminated brake rotor is easy enough to clean, but contaminated pads are a different matter and should really be replaced right away.
Needless to say, of course, if your pads are thin you should replace them ASAP, especially for rim brakes. You don’t want the bare metal of the brake pad carrier to do the braking against your wheels – they’ll gouge the brake track.
GREASE YOUR THREADS
Water brings the potential of corrosion in your bearings and bolts. Inexperienced cyclists usually don’t give this any importance…until their seatposts, bolts and bearings seize up and become very hard to remove or rotate.
Combat this by cleaning and regreasing these parts. Grease is very often your last line of defense. Headset lower bearings, in particular, are very susceptible to corrosion, especially if you ride without fenders. If you haven’t serviced your hubs’ bearings in a while, now’s the time.
For seatposts, grease is usually the way to go. However, if either seatpost or frame is made of carbon, don’t use it. You’re better off either running it dry, or using a carbon assembly paste such as Finish Line Fiber Grip.
TURN ON THE LIGHT
With the rainy season usually comes poorer visibility, with shades of gray overtaking summer color. Us cyclists have a very real danger of becoming lost in the proverbial haze, so we have to fight for our visibility with lights.
I’m a huge proponent of driving and riding with lights on regardless of the time of day – simply because a vehicle or cyclist more visible to other road users has greater potential for safety. This comes into play more when conditions become overcast.
The more lights you can run on your bike, the better. I would insist on two rear lights as the bare minimum, so you always have a backup in case one light conks out. For front lights, I suggest getting something with at least 600 lumens of output.
They add weight, are tricky to fit, and arguably don’t look cool, but full-length fenders are your best friend in the rain. Riding through wet streets without them usually results in a brown stripe up your back and a butt cold with street water from the rooster tail your tires kick up.
If you like riding through the rain at speed, the front fender’s projection forward of the fork crown ensures that you don’t end up eating the murky water you ride through.
Not immediately as obvious is the protection a set of full-length fenders provides for your bike! They practically eliminate contamination of your lower headset bearings from standing water, and they also shield your front derailleur and bottom bracket.
Unfortunately, full-length fenders for road bikes are very hard to find in the Philippines. I had to import mine from overseas. They also require a bike that can fit them, with a complete set of eyelets at the dropouts, the fork crown, seatstay bridge, and chainstay bridge. Fitting them is also a ridiculously fiddly process especially on your first DIY attempt. For comfort in the rain, though, it’s all worth it.
Now that you have your clothing and equipment ready, in the next installment, I’ll discuss the nitty-gritty of actually riding in the rain safely.