Riding in bad weather.

  “There is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothing choices”

  If you make the right choices with regard to clothing and bike equipment then riding in the rain or cold can be made much more bearable and even enjoyable.

Let’s start with the bike….probably the best way of weather proofing the bike is to fit mudguards. When riding in the wet you will often find that you get as much water coming up off the road as you do falling from the sky, and the water off the road tends to be somewhat dirtier. Mudguards can also make your bike last longer as they protect some of its more delicate parts from excessive water and mud ingress.

Mudguards come in all shapes and forms from cheap, flimsy bits of plastic that clip on, to full sized, traditional mudguards that offer a lot more protection. These latter ones are the best to go for if they will fit your bike – the space between frame and tyre on some more sporty bikes doesn’t always allow full sized mudguards. Depending upon which particular ones you go for expect to pay between £15 and £30. If you have the shop fit them for you then you may have to add the same amount again, however they are mostly pretty simple to fit yourself. You are interested in two measurements: wheel size and width. Wheel size will commonly be 26” or 700c – select the mudguard to suit. Tyre width tends to be measured in mm for 700c tyres, and can be anything from 19mm to over 40mm. Tyre width on 26” wheels is measured in inches and will commonly be between 1” and 2.5”. Select a mudguard that is wide enough for your tyre. Make sure that the front mudguard is secured by a breakaway clip such as the Secu Clip, as if anything gets caught between your mudguard and tyre these will help to stop the front wheel locking up.

Clip on mudguards are generally cheaper and easier to fit, but they won’t offer as much protection.

It’s imperative that you keep your chain oiled if riding in the wet otherwise you will find it rapidly rusts and stretches. Both of these will affect performance and will cost you money. You should also try to clean your bike and re-lube it after riding in the wet – don’t put it away damp and dirty as it will cost you more in the long run as parts wear out before their time!

In terms of safety in bad weather, you will get slightly better grip if you don’t run the tyres at their top pressure. Look on the side of the tyre and it will give you a recommended pressure range – don’t go below or above this, but as things get wetter and slipperier you might go more towards the bottom of the range.

By law your bike has to have reflectors on it (front white, rear red, and amber on pedals). But if visibility is getting bad (such as heavy rain on an overcast day) you will benefit from putting lights on too.

Ice puts a lot of cyclists off (if you’ll forgive the pun). It’s no fun suddenly realising that you have just ridden onto a sheet of ice…just stay calm and relaxed, don’t try to steer or brake if you can help it and let the bike roll to the other side of the ice…..but even better, don’t go onto ice in the first place! Probably the best way of combating ice is to fit studded tyres – these have small metal studs all the way around them and let you maintain grip when you hit ice. You still have to be careful but they will get you through where normal tyres might have had you off. They are pricey: £20 – £40 each, but if they allow you to continue riding to work rather than taking the car or public transport they will soon pay for themselves. I’ve had a lot of use out of mine, especially when the city has been grid locked due to ice and snow and I’ve just continued happily riding along past the endless queues of stranded vehicles.

So, what about clothing choices? There are two ways of going about beating bad weather: to try and stay dry and warm without getting too hot….which can be difficult if you need to go fast, or to just try and stay warm. This latter method might not sound appealing but you can still stay pretty comfortable if you are wet as long as you are not cold….after all, this is how wetsuits work.

Let’s start at the feet and work up. There are a number of ways of keeping feet warm and dry:

  • Waterproof cycling or walking boots: work well but can be pricey, make sure they have snug tops or the water may just run down your legs and get trapped in them.

  • Neoprene overshoes: are warn over your shoes, keep feet warm and dry, not too expensive, can make you look like a smurf.

  • Gortex/waterproof socks: keep the water out (as long as it’s not running down your leg into them), Aldi do cheap ones (about £10) every now and then. Nice and comfortable but pays to take a change of socks with you if riding to work…then you have the problem that your shoes are soaking wet so you need spare shoes too!

  • The plastic bag method: put a thin sock on, put a plastic food bag on your foot, put a thin sock on top. Instant waterproof socks for virtually no money. People might wonder why you’ve the top of a plastic bag sticking out of your shoe, plus they can make your feet sweat a bit on long rides.

Legs are one of the hardest parts of the body to keep dry:

  • Waterproof cycling long-trousers. Can work well but tend to be very expensive. The more effort you put in the more your legs will sweat.

  • Waterproof over trousers. Cheaper than waterproof trousers, as little as £10, but less breathable, thus for some people, even at low levels of effort, they will find their legs get very sweaty – so much so that they will wonder if it would have been any drier to wear shorts!

  • Lycra/spandex cycling tights. These tend to let the water through but as they are next to the skin they generally keep the water nice and warm so you feel comfortable. They don’t make you sweaty like waterproof trousers either. Of course, some people will feel a bit self-concious wearing skin tight clothing…but at least you’ll be warm.

  • Shorts. Skin is waterproof, so if it’s not too cold who not wear shorts and let the water run off your legs?

  • Jeans – it’s a bad idea to wear jeans on a bike anyway as they have big uncomfortable seems just where you don’t want them, and they are heavy and hot. But in the wet they are awful – they get wet and stay wet all day. Best avoided.


  • Breathable waterproof coats are better than non-breathable ones as they let the sweat out without letting water in. However, not everyone either sweats to the same extent or rides hard enough to sweat, so you may find that you are just as well off with a cheaper, non-breathable coat.

  • Try to get a coat with a long back – as on your bike you will be leaning forwards so you don’t want the small of your back exposed to the weather! Cycling specific coats tend to have a longer back.

  • If it’s not looking like rain you might just want a wind proof coat – something like Pertex is good for this as garments made from it are light and pack down to a small size.

  • Hoods – in the rain it’s tempting to put your hood up, but beware that a hood can block your peripheral vision, can make it harder to hear and can make turning your head to look behind you more difficult.

Layering: the best way of controlling your temperature is by using several thinner layers rather than one thick layer as this allows you to add or remove clothes to keep that temperature just right – if you get too hot you’ll start sweating and then as the sweat evaporates on downhill bits you may get very cold.

Gloves – it’s always a good idea to wear gloves on the bike as they give you a better grip on the bars, can have padding in them to make things more comfortable, and should you have a minor fall they’ll protect the palms of your hands (often the first bit to hit the ground). They become even more important in the wet as wet and cold fingers go numb, and numb fingers can’t operate brakes as well as they might.

  • Most gloves that you will see sold for cycling are not waterproof so be sure of what you are buying.

  • Ski gloves can be good on cold wet days as they do tend to be more waterproof, but make sure that the ones that you get aren’t so thick that you can’t feel the brake levers and gear levers properly.


  • If you wear a helmet you can get waterproof covers that go over the helmet. The helmet does allow a bit of air to circulate below the cover but if you ride too hard you may get a bit sweaty.

  • Cycling caps: these are similar to baseball caps but have a smaller peak. If you are in a normal, leaning forward, cycling position a long peak can give you neck ache as you have to elevate your head to see past the peak. Cycling caps are not generally water proof but do keep your head warm and keep the rain out of your eyes. They can be worn by themselves or under a helmet – but if wearing under a helmet ensure that the helmet is adjusted to still fit correctly.

  • Buffs, beanies, skull caps, etc can all be worn to keep the head warm but don’t generally have a peak to keep the rain out of your eyes.

As well as cold, ice and rain the other weather condition that causes cyclists major issues is wind. Riding into a strong head wind can be tortuous if you have to do it for long. The best way to counter it is to try to be more aero-dynamic by leaning forward and keeping your elbows in….this isn’t possible for everyone due to comfort issues. Also slow down – as speed doubles wind resistance triples so if you go at a slow, steady pace you will feel less tired. Also look out for side winds – be prepared for the sudden gusts from the side as you ride past gaps between buildings, large vehicles pass you, you ride past gateways in fields and so on. Try not to wear baggy, flappy clothes on windy days!

We hope these tips help – riding in the rain can actually be quite refreshing if you have the right kit…why not give it a go?