Splashing Through

Tips for Biking in Bad Weather: Summer Edition

Photo of a sunset over the Mississippi River

Sunset from East River Parkway (not relevant to the post except that I took this photo while biking)

The recent smattering of afternoon thunderstorms has served as a reminder that even at the high point of summer in Minnesota, outdoor activities are beholden to the whims of Mother Nature.

Being prepared for the weather makes life a whole lot easier when you have places to be (though I recommend against biking during severe thunderstorm or flash flood warnings).

Here are a few tips for biking when the sky’s not on your side:Splashing Through

  1. Buy fenders! They are cheap. I spent a long time without fenders, and therefore spent a long time with soggy pants. Fenders protect you from getting water all over your calves/wrists/pannier/everything. Speaking of panniers, I highly recommend these in general. When I bike commute, I’m able to pack in one pannier my work clothes, lunch, shower materials and other incidentals I may need throughout the day. When I bike to the lake, there’s room for a beach towel, a six-pack of beer and ice packs to keep it cool, Gatorade, water and extra shoes. (My only regret is that I didn’t buy a waterproof pannier.)
  2. Cover your seat. I always have a plastic shopping bag tied to my rear rack or packed somewhere in one of my bags so I can use it to cover my seat if I lock my bike in an unsheltered spot and it rains; no one wants to have a wet butt.
  3. Cover your feet. When it’s cool and rainy, I wear rain boots or my lightweight snow boots to keep my feet dry and warm. When it’s warmer and rainy, I opt for Chacos because I don’t mind the warm rain, but want my feet to be able to air out once I arrive at my destination.
  4. Wear rain gear (if you want to stay dry). This one is obvious. Bicycling.com has some recommendations for high-visibility and ventilated options. Rain pants offer an incredibly good return on investment — namely, not having wet pants. I got mine on sale from Columbia, but I bet a number of local shops and outdoor companies have excellent choices. (Shopaholic tip: If you’re on the lookout for a specific type of gear, sign up for company email lists so you get notifications when there’s a big sale. This has helped my clothing/sports-gear budget stretch much farther.)
  5. Wear quick-drying clothes (if you don’t mind getting wet). Sometimes it’s just not worth trying to stay dry, depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing. If I don’t have to look nice upon arriving at my destination, I give in to nature and wear quick-dry athletic gear with my trusty Chacos. I pack a towel in my bag, so I can wipe off any mud/rain when I’m done biking rather than suiting up in a rain jacket and rain pants when it’s 80 degrees out.
  6. Invest in goggles. It’s difficult to keep my eyes open when water is blowing into them at 15 miles per hour, so I wear my winter goggles when it’s raining out, too, because I like to see.
  7. Use your lights. Drivers have enough trouble noticing bicyclists in the best weather, and rain doesn’t help. I always use my headlight and spoke lights when the sun isn’t out to make sure I am seen.
  8. Support your local bike shop! If you’re in the market for bicycle gear and it’s available locally, hit up a local shop rather than ordering from Amazon or another major retailer. The bike shop experience is special, and we have a lot of wonderful shops in the Twin Cities with knowledgeable, friendly staff. Patronizing local stores instead of shopping online ensures that we continue to have that benefit.

That’s all I’ve got for being comfy biking in the rain. If you have tips or tricks of your own, please share in the comments!

About Alicia Valenti

Alicia is the chair of the 2021 streets.mn board. A transplant to the Twin Cities who works on small and large transit projects across the Midwest, she likes to write for streets.mn about bikes, winter and fun things to do on transit.