QUESTION OF THE WEEK! April 29, 2013
Now that April and the commensurate “showers” is nearly over I will admit to being a bit remiss
with this question and answer forum and should have gotten this one posted sooner.
Q: What special precautions should I take when riding in the rain or even if the roads are just damp?
A: The primary concern for cyclists when riding when wet is adhesion or the lack thereof. Do your tires stay in contact with the road? If you know you are riding in wet weather a tire choice that is designed for that purpose is a great idea. So if moving to Seattle or only riding here in April then do some research and find a great wet road tire.
For most of us the real trick is staying upright or Rubber Down! The number one suggestion or caution, is that you must avoid metal in the road. These hazards include manhole covers, water drain covers and the less frequently observed steel plates that are used to cover holes usually over road work areas that are uncompleted. Also be particularly wary of crossing railroad tracks. Always make an effort to cross them perpendicularly, even when dry. This ride leader will call out “left to right” for example if the tracks are on a bias and to move left then cross on an angle to the right to assure crossing them straight on and not dropping into the grooves next to the track itself. This will avoid a spill and the purchase of a new wheel.
I’m sorry to report that one of our cohorts, whose initials are Bob Crowley, rode over one of these steel plates Sunday and slipped as wet steel might as well be ice. He cracked a rib, don’t joke with him now as it hurts to laugh, and his clavicle, both on the right side. Bob will be back by June thank goodness but even he called it a “rookie mistake.” So when wet call out all metal in the road and avoid them at all cost. Even riding straight without turning across is perilous.
Also, when wet, consider that your braking surface is compromised. Ease up a bit on the speed and anticipate braking sooner than later especially approaching intersections or when following a wheel. Disc brakes, not yet seen on road bikes, work better in this regard most usually but we only tend to see them now on mountain bikes and sometimes on cross bikes or commuter bikes. If you know you will be riding in wet conditions consider a bike with disc brakes. Perhaps in a few years and you go back to read this “question” you will smirk a little when you realize none of us had disc brakes on our road bikes. Maybe in the future that will be the fashion. Lowering your tire pressure a bit will increase your surface contact and hopefully improve adhesion. Finally, when riding on the wet roads remember that your tires are more likely to pick up grit from the road which will increase the odds of getting a flat. Now and then, IF YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THIS, wipe off your tires, especially after you go through a sandy or dirty section. (I won’t post how to do this in this entry.)
Since speaking of the plates, remember also that when approaching them, even when dry, the edge is usually a defined 90 degree so that if you don’t lift your wheel you are at increased risk of pinch flatting.
HEADS UP! RUBBER DOWN!