Weather Or Not: Riding & Running in the Rain

Weekends are perhaps one of the most integral parts of training. Saturday and Sunday are designated for long bike rides, long runs, and brick sessions. They are the pivotal point in any training week and are where time and mileage really add up. Up until week 9 of training I seem to have lucked out with weekend weather forecasts cooperating nicely with my training schedule. However, I have to admit to a minor moment of panic when I saw that rain was predicted for an entire weekend.

I’ve run in all sorts of weather. I have run through rain, snow, high winds, heat, and freezing temperatures. I know how to prepare for running in inclement weather and though it’s not ideal it’s something I know I can do and that for the most part, is nothing worse than uncomfortable. Riding in the rain, however, is entirely foreign to me. So when I saw an entire weekend of rain in the forecast I promptly rescheduled my 41 mile bike ride for Friday after work while the sun was still shining.

I was not prepared to voluntarily ride in the rain. During one triathlon it started raining during the bike and I was ok with that because I was racing and I would deal with whatever conditions existed. But to go out in the rain during training for a bike ride? I’m just not sure about that. Do other triathletes and cyclists ride in the rain? Drizzle I think would be manageable but biking in full-on rain doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Like anything though, I’m sure there are ways to prepare and in time it can be manageable.

Inclement Weather Work-outs

On one hand, I believe that since you can’t change the weather on race day you may as well deal with whatever weather exists during training. On the other hand, I think training is an opportunity to constantly improve and it’s much easier to get faster, stronger, more comfortable, and more efficient during favorable weather conditions.

There is no doubt that running in the rain and biking in the rain are two different experiences but having the correct gear in either case is essential.  In my mind that means non-cotton socks, a water-resistant jacket, and a hat or riding glasses to help shield the eyes from potentially blinding rain. Unfortunately, wind typically accompanies rain and I have to imagine that on the bike wind will make things even more challenging and cause the rain to seem stronger than it is. If you have experience in biking in the rain please use the comments to share what it’s like and how you handle it.

Once you have the right gear, biking in the rain requires a heightened sense of awareness and caution. To state the obvious, roads will be wet and stopping will require more time. Taking turns at a slower speed would seem logical. I also imagine that after riding in the rain your bike will need attention. I know that even after riding through puddles my gears and chain could use a wipe-down and I’ve read that lubing up is also necessary.

When heavy rain interferes with running it’s easy enough to pop inside to the treadmill. Though logging long runs on a treadmill is typically less than desirable it’s not out of the question. For some reason logging 2-3 hours on a stationary bike is just not appealing. It’s also not the same. At least on a treadmill you can still practice running form but stationary bikes tend to have dramatically different set-ups than a road bike. Spin classes are certainly an option as is using an indoor trainer. But if there are some tried and true ways to ride in the rain I hope those with more experience will share their advice!

Post-script: The weekend forecast that set me into training panic never came to fruition but I’m sure there will be many more rain forecasts to deal with in the future.

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7 thoughts on “Weather Or Not: Riding & Running in the Rain

  1. Jason

    In october 2008 I rode in my first ever century ride. It was a charity event that I did a metric century on the year prior. The weather forcast was for cloudy skies. Mr. Weatherman was wrong. Being unprepared for rain meant I ended up being exposed while getting rained on from mile 26 until around mile 56 of the ride. The sun came out after that, but the damage was done. I was cold and miserable, and the bike components were soaked through. No big deal except for brakes. I t was a mountainous ride, with some really good climbing and a long, super fast downhill at around mile 70. Wet brakes are not nearly as effective on a bike as they are when wet. I had to lay on both brakes so hard coming down the mountain that I had to stop and rest a minute about halfway just to get the blood flowing through my fingers again.
    As for me, I tend to avoid rain at all costs, but then I don’t race. Being prepared is the key. If you’re expecting rain, dress appropriately for the ride, and don’t forget the basics of bicycle handling. Your brakes won’t be as good, water and road grime may slow down your shifting, and try to avoid the deep puddles as hitting them at a high speed may cause damage to your bike and you.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      agreed. I don’t usually ride when it’s raining but I have been caught in the rain before. I loved it. Of course I wasn’t out for a centry ride. I was probably caught in a heavy down pour for 15 miles till I found my way home. I just stayed low, tried to ride smart and also tried to keep my wheel straight so my downtube caught most of the spray instead of my face!

      Reply
    2. Jason

      agreed. I don’t usually ride when it’s raining but I have been caught in the rain before. I loved it. Of course I wasn’t out for a centry ride. I was probably caught in a heavy down pour for 15 miles till I found my way home. I just stayed low, tried to ride smart and also tried to keep my wheel straight so my downtube caught most of the spray instead of my face! But running in the rain is one of my favorite things to do!

      Reply
  2. Michelle

    Nobody likes to ride in the rain! If it’s going to be miserable out (ie cold & rainy!) then putting your bike on an indoor trainer is good. If there’s a chance of rain, bring a cycling specific rain jacket, plastic bags for inside your shoes to keep your feet dry, and any other items to help stay warm and dry. The rain jacket has a longer tail to cover your butt when you’re in the riding position.

    Reply
  3. Natalie Post author

    Jason–good points about remembering the effects of dirt, grime, puddles, and water and the potential damage they can cause.

    Michelle–so glad to hear that riding in the rain is not the ‘norm!’ I like the plastic bag tip, that’s a good idea.

    Reply
  4. Jason

    another thing i remembered… i always use wet lube on my chain, never dry lube. Dirt and grime stick to it so it needs to be cleaned more but as long as you have a good degreaser and chain cleaner, there are usually no problems.

    Reply
  5. Chris

    I love running in the rain. I got a goretex top and simpatex trousers in the sales to keep dryish. In fact I’m just about to do an 8-miler cross-country in the rain this evening.

    Reply

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