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Singing in the Rain

by Daniel Convissor

City Cyclist
March/April 1989
A publication of Transportation Alternatives

I didn't always enjoy cycling on rainy days. The other day, however, I was riding on Delancey Street through the pouring rain, singing out loud. Dressing properly and better riding technique made all the difference.

[The clothing component of this article has been deleted due to it being outdated. I currently use Gore-Tex. The jacket is larger than I would usually wear since leaning over the bars requires longer sleeves and coat tails. I wear sandals on my feet and cover them with Tingley galoshes when it gets rainy/snowy and cold.]

Handling Your Bike on Wet Streets

The reduced friction of wet road surfaces compromises your safety. Metal, which is everywhere on city streets, gets especially slippery -- keep your eyes open. Also use extreme caution on wet stone, cobblestones and wood. Subway grates, manhole covers and the metal edges of curbs should be approached on a path perpendicular to the edge or you'll fall. Leaves are slippery, as are painted road lines, particularly the bus-lane lines on Madison Av. In congested areas like Sixth Ave. at 34th St., cars often leave a trail of grease.

The best way to cope with these treacherous conditions is to avoid turning or applying the brakes and to keep your weight centered. If you keep a perfectly straight path, the gyroscopic momentum of your wheels will keep you up. When you do have to stop short, apply the rear brake first and use it more heavily than the front; if your back wheel slips you slide a bit, but if your front wheel slips you fall immediately. Taking easy turns can also help avoid slipping.

Your rims can make a big difference in your safety. Steel rims double or triple your stopping distance when wet, but alloy rims add only about 50%. Tire matter too; the more rubber on the road the better. Treads reduce tire surface area and create spaces that trap water. I've been riding on bald Avocet FasGrip tires for almost a year and am amazed how handle on both wet and dry surfaces.

Riding in the rain can be enjoyable if you're safe and dry. If at first you slip and fall, take the extra precautions I've described. Because I ride on dry pavement almost every day, I treat rainy days as an extra challenge requiring higher levels of awareness -- and I sing.

[PHOTO: bicyclist] Up to the Bicycle Page or to it's Riding Technique Section.


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Last updated: 7 April 1999