When I was training for my Ironman races, I was a slave to the schedule. Because simply rescheduling a four-plus hour ride was not likely given the dearth of multi-hour slots of free time on the family calendar.

So if the schedule called for a long ride and it was raining, or windy, or cold, I still went.


Now, I am not training and I can simply decide to pass on a ride or opt for a run instead if conditions are less than favorable. But for many cyclists and triathletes, training and racing in the rain is sometimes unavoidable and, eventually, inevitable. So, it's better to have some experience in adverse conditions and be prepared, rather than simply being scared. Besides, with a little caution and common sense, riding in the rain doesn't have to be akin to running with scissors.

When rubber tires meet the road, the motion across the surface creates friction, a force which helps the tires "stick" to the road and helps both cyclists and motorist stay in control. Rain, however, fills the tiny cracks and pits in the road creating a smooth, slippery surface that results in a loss of friction, and standing water creates an even more dangerous condition in which hydroplaning can occur. Water that collects in potholes and divots eliminates a rider's ability to determine the depth of the hole or what lies within it, or to even be aware that a hole exists beneath the puddle.

Also, debris and substances which are typically present on roads and cause little havoc in dry conditions — such as leaves, manhole covers, painted lines, and thin layers of oil, tar and rubber — can become absolutely treacherous when mixed with water.

So, if you must ride in the rain, the first rule is to slow down and give yourself extra time for braking. Most rims require one full revolution for the brake pads to wipe water from the surface and begin stopping, and you'll need to break harder on a wet roads, especially if you're approaching a corner. Corning, in fact, can be one of the most challenging and dangerous aspects of cycling on wet roads, so be sure to start applying your breaks before you enter the turn and remember to shift your weight to the outside pedal.

In wet conditions, it is recommended to apply heavier chain lube and to decrease tire pressure in order to increase the amount of contact and grip the tire has with the road surface.

As rainy conditions reduce visibility, improve your chances of being seen by using LED lights — especially a flashing red rear lamp — and wearing bright-colored clothing that will keep you dry. It's important to keep your core warm, so a breathable waterproof jacket with a wicking base layer is essential, and wearing neoprene booties over your shoes and full-fingered wind and water resistant gloves will help to keep your feet and hands warm and dry.

Finally, don't forget to swap your normal sunglasses for a pair with clear or yellow lenses, as darker lenses block too much light and make road obstacles difficult to see, and be on the lookout for rainbow-edged patches — evidence of slippery oil spots on the street.