When it rains, it pours…
Riding the trail in the rain is a great way to unleash your adventurous side while experiencing that adrenaline rush. However, this is serious business and should be handled accordingly. When you set out to have fun, there are certain factors to consider before embarking on a ride in the wet.
To prepare you for the next trail adventure in the rain, I’ll be giving you the lowdown on everything you need to know; a list of proper gear for safe mountain biking in the rain, coupled with a few wet riding tips.
- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE MOUNTAIN BIKING IN THE RAIN
- PROPER GEAR FOR MOUNTAIN BIKING IN THE RAIN
- TIPS FOR MOUNTAIN BIKING IN THE RAIN
- FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
To finish off, there’ll be an FAQ section to provide answers to some questions you may have about mountain biking in the rain.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE MOUNTAIN BIKING IN THE RAIN
While the idea of mountain biking in the rain can be exhilarating, below are a few things you should know before hitting the trails:
Have The Right Gear
As a mountain biker, you have a high risk of injury when you ride in the rain. To protect yourself, you need the right gear when getting on the trail. We’re talking gloves, jackets, boots, helmets, bike gear etc.
Later on in this article, there’ll be a section to address the kind of gear that you’ll need for a safe ride in the rain.
Do Your Research
It’s important to know what you’re getting into. Frankly, biking in the rain is not for everyone. It requires a certain level of skill to pull it off safely. That’s why I always advise that riders get familiar with the layout of the trail.
Check what the trail is made of. Is it soil or rocks? Is it designed to drain well? Is it uphill, downhill or flat? This information should help you decide if your skill level can brave a ride in the rain and if it’s safe to do so. Also, check the weather app on your phone to be sure that the weather condition is good for a rainy ride.
Riding in the rain is fun until you have to navigate a trail during a thunderstorm. So, make proper plans ahead to avoid being caught in the eye of a storm. You should also have a contingency plan if the conditions get treacherous.
Don’t Overexert Yourself
Keep your ride short. A rainy day is NOT the time for exploration. Stick to a familiar route that can be completed within a reasonable amount of time (2 hours or less). Remember that the longer you stay on the trail, the higher your chances of getting wet and catching a cold.
Keeping the ride short helps you maximise the thrill of the wet. Plus, you won’t have to deal with exhaustion coupled with the cold and the wind.
PROPER GEAR FOR MOUNTAIN BIKING IN THE RAIN
You’ll need these items for a safe ride in the rain. Some are for you, some are for your bike and both are key to ensure your safety on the trail.
Wear the right size of helmet to protect you from the elements. According to this article, the use of a helmet reduces the odds of a head injury by a whopping 50%, while the odds of damage to the face or neck are dropped by 33%.
Most head injuries happen when the front tire doesn’t clear an obstacle like a fallen tree or rock and the rider goes over the handlebars. Wearing a quality helmet that passes the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) tests and meets Federal Safety Standards can save you several trips to the emergency room.
Pair a full-face helmet with a neck brace to prevent your head being dangerously thrown back in the event of a crash. Some helmets have the MIPS certification which is an additional layer inside the helmet. This additional layer is designed to reduce the rotational forces on the brain, which can be experienced due to certain impacts.
Recommended reading: Why do MTB helmets have visors?
Invest in quality waterproof gear to stay cozy. It’s important to get a jacket that is wind resistant and waterproof, yet breathable. Waterproof shorts too should be included so that you can stay warm as you navigate the terrain in the rain.
To protect your eyes from rain drops, mud splashes or being poked in the eye by jutting tree branches, you need a pair of decent protective goggles. Get a pair of unbreakable polarised goggles for easy viewing.
This is worn to protect the neck in case a crash happens.
Chamois/Padded Liner Shorts
These will provide extra warmth when riding in the cold.
These are to protect your knees from scratches if there’s a fall.
Get waterproof riding gloves to protect your hands from scrapes or bruises. Whatever type of mountain bike glove you use should be full-fingered, padded, and non-slip.
Waterproof Biking Shoes
Although you can wear just about any shoes to ride, a great pair of waterproof biking shoes has amazing advantages in the rain.
If you don’t have clipless pedals to hold your feet tightly to the pedals, then you’ll want high-friction weather-proof MTB boots to give you enough grip on regular pedals.
When riding, you need to stay steady on the pedals and your choice of shoes can make all the difference.
A basic repair kit should have a multi tool to tighten bolts, mini high pressure air pump, tire tube patches and two bike tire pry rods in case of an emergency mechanical issue.
You never know what you might encounter while out on the trails so you have to be prepared.
Riding in the rain can be risky so a first aid kit is a smart addition to your gear in case you need it. In it should be bandages, antiseptic wipes, cotton gauze, tweezers, and a whistle to call for assistance if the need arises.
Snacks and Water
Pack something light for an extra boost of energy on the trail. Water is also important so that you can rehydrate yourself once in a while.
Duct Tape and Zip Ties
You know how duct tape and zip ties are used to fix almost anything in those viral Instagram videos? These two should be added to your repair kit. You’ll probably find them useful when riding too. With both, you can fix cables, hand brakes, etc., if you have to.
This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Your phone is vital. A phone that has a GPS which allows you to access a map will do you a world of good on the trail.
TIPS FOR MOUNTAIN BIKING IN THE RAIN
- CONSIDER THE TRAIL SURFACE
For an easier ride, rock or slate-based areas are the best for biking in the rain. The ground rolls faster and doesn’t give in to erosion like some other surfaces. Also, they are generally more predictable to ride on. Stay away from clay or muddy surfaces.
- THE WOODS WELCOME YOU!
In the woods, you can enjoy a sheltered ride in the rain. The trees stand in as natural umbrellas and windbreakers to give you a smoother ride. When riding in the rain, a little density goes a long way – most times, the denser, the better. With enough foliage overhead, you’ll be able to see, navigate and pedal easily.
- PREP YOUR BIKE
As you prepare yourself for a wet day, your bike should not be left out. Before setting out, fit your bike with a front and rear mudguard to protect yourself and the bike from being muddy after your adventure. Mudguards drastically reduce spray from the wheels and they help keep mud out of your eyes and off your goggles.
- GET A MUD TIRE
Mud tires are designed to have longer knobs for better grip when riding through muddy surfaces. Although mud tires do not roll as fast as all-round tires, they are much safer to use on muddy trails and a good boost for your riding confidence.
According to Mercedes Benz UCT World Cup downhill pro, Finn Iles, cut spikes are great for really soft wet dirt and soft spikes are wonderful for riding on loamy trails.
- PACK A CHANGE OF CLOTHES
If you’ll be on the trail for a long ride in the rain (although I do not advise it), pack extra clothes to change into halfway during your ride.
Here’s a tip: I usually pack another set of clothes with underwear and socks to change into when going back home so I do not stain my car with dirt. You should try that too.
So two extra sets of clothes to change into is good. One for the ride and another for the trip home in your car.
- ADJUST TIRE PRESSURE
Doing this to suit the kind of ground you’ll be riding on is important. When riding in the rain you need a tire with more grip that can handle slippery terrain. For this reason, easing off on the PSI on your tires and front fork allows you to enjoy improved traction in the wet. It goes without saying that the pressure of your tires should be lower than they usually are in the dry season. Remember, you need grip!
- SLOW YOUR ROLL
Because of how slippery the ground gets in the rain, your control is greatly reduced. So, ride slower to ensure your safety.
- LOOK AHEAD AND LINE SELECTION
To avoid losing control of your bike when riding in the rain, try to inspect the trajectory of your trail when you want to enter a new path. Make sure to choose the path with less debris and obstacles.
- MAINTAIN BALANCE
If you encounter slippery rocks or branches when riding muddy paths, try to maintain balance by centering your weight on the bike’s centre of gravity. And, depending on the kind of terrain you’re using, falling can be dangerous, even fatal.
- ROUTINE MAINTENANCE
Riding in the rain often can damage your bike. It can cause corrosion, wear and tear from trail dirt, and rust. To prevent your bike from getting faulty due to any of these, do the following after every ride in the rain:
- Clean off the grime on the body of the bike with degreaser, wash with bike wash spray, brush and water.
- Lubricate the chain with bike lube after washing to keep it working smoothly.
Routine maintenance checks at your local bike shop will also extend your bike’s life and save you loads in replacement parts.
Extra Tip: if you do not like riding in the rain but prefer to ride after it rains, Drew Perkins advises that you wait one day per inch of rain after a big storm before riding.
Note that this largely depends on the kind of soil on the trail and if it has been designed to shed water. The less amount of water you have to deal with on the trail, the better for you.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- Can you mountain bike in the rain?
YES, you can. Although biking in the rain is more dangerous than riding in dry conditions, you can mountain bike in the rain. You can do this safely with the right gear and the right mindset.
- Should you dry your bike after it rains?
YES, you should. You should first clean off the grime by washing it thoroughly before drying. This is because drying the bike before washing it can contribute to its rapid wear and tear.
- What happens if your bike gets wet?
If your bike gets wet, wipe it down and lubricate the chain, nuts, screws, etc. Many nuts and screws are made of stainless steel or aluminium and will rust quickly if you do not wipe down and lubricate, causing your bike to develop mechanical faults.
- Is mud bad for a mountain bike?
Yes, it is. However, if you can wash your bike immediately after every ride, mud will have no negative effect on its parts.
Check out all the benefits of mountain biking
- How do you ride in the rain?
Your gear is a very important part of the preparation for riding in the rain. Keep warm with waterproof and wind resistant clothing like a padded jacket, shorts, gloves, etc. Keep mud splashes off with mudguards. Wear overshoes and gloves. Use chain degreaser. Wear a cycling cap. Avoid standing in water. Check your tires and reduce the pressure for more traction.
- Is it bad to wash your bike with water?
No, it’s not but you have to be careful with it. Water, especially when coming from a high-pressure hose, can cause damage to sensitive bearing systems throughout your bike. To clean the frame of your bike, use diluted dishwashing soap or preformulated bike wash cleaner.
- How do you clean a mountain bike after it rains?
After an awesome time riding in the rain, use warm soapy water and a sponge to clean off accumulated dirt and then rinse carefully.
- Can you hose down a mountain bike?
Yes, you can. But be careful so you do not damage sensitive parts of the bike. With proper bike washing technique, using a hose and a bucket of soapy water is the best way to get your steed sparkly clean!
- How do I protect my bike from the rain?
It’s the chain that is the driving force of a bike. So, make sure to lubricate it always. Get a thick lube that works to prevent rust. Riding your bike regularly is good but when you want to ride in the rain, avoid puddles as much as possible. This is to protect sensitive parts of your bike from moisture.
- How do I keep my feet warm and dry on a mountain bike?
Put on waterproof boots that are specially made for winter and wear an extra layer of thick socks to keep you warm and dry.
- How do you keep warm on a mountain bike?
When going out to ride in the rain, always layer your clothing to generate heat for your body. Invest in an extra jacket, use shoe covers (or just get waterproof biking shoes/boots) and helmet hair covers.
- How do I keep my feet dry while mountain biking?
You either keep your feet dry with a combination of waterproof boots, socks and trousers, or accept that you’re going to get wet but keep them warm with thick socks.
- What do cyclists wear in the rain?
Helmets are excellent protection, but often have air vents that let in the rain. So, a cap worn underneath can help keep your head dry. Cycling caps are specifically designed to have a peak at the front, which diverts the rain away from your face.
Otherwise, a helmet cover or helmet with no vents will do the job. Part of the gear are: knee guards, helmet, gloves, etc. All of these are worn to protect the biker from the cold and injury.
Now, you know that while riding in the rain can be risky, it’s a lot safer and more fun when you’re well prepared. Proper preparation translates to an amazing experience while riding in the wet.
I always advise riders who want to enjoy the rain to go in groups. When you have others around you, riding is safer and much more fun. So, the next time you wish to ride in the rain, gather your biking buddies, don the right gear for yourselves and your bikes, and have a blast!