I’m what’s known as a fair weather cyclist. Once upon a time I would roll in any weather. These days I prefer the dry to the wet. I have a steadfast rule, if the ground is wet I’m not riding. That being said, no matter how threatening the sky looks, if it’s time for a weekly group ride I’m rolling. This allows me the pleasure of still riding in the rain, which I do enjoy if it’s a light sprinkle that doesn’t saturate the tarmac. I also put myself at risk of a proper soaking. Regardless, despite the fact that I’m not a big fan of bad weather, I seem to ride well in it.
To be perfectly honest, the part I despise the most about riding in bad weather is the cleanup afterwards. Riding soaked is unpleasant, but the challenge presented in piloting a bike in less than ideal conditions does add to the excitement of the ride. It can be a bit hairy at times though, and riding in a group is far from a good time.
So what precautions should one undertake if caught in a deluge while out on a ride? Depending on how wet the roads are, you may want to consider letting a few pounds of pressure out of your tires. Larger volume tires are better suited for this practice. This allows for a wider contact patch and a bit more passive suspension, allowing for more grip when cornering. This runs the risk of puncture however, as a spongy tire tends to accept, rather than deflect, a sharp object.
Elephant in High Heels
There are also advantages to pumping narrower tires up extra firm in extremely wet condition. In what is known as the elephant in high heels priciple, an extremely hard and narrow tire will cut through the standing water. The contact patch may not be as wide, but like an elephant in high heels, the tire is pushing hard and narrow which moves all water out of the way, giving good grip against the asphalt.
Always be extra careful when out in the rain. Braking distances increase, cornering speeds decrease, and visibility is less than ideal. One slight mistake that wouldn’t be an issue in dry conditions may cause a mishap in the wet. If you do enjoy and nice rainy ride, stay safe and keep the rubber side down!