Riding in Rough Conditions

When road conditions stink, follow these five rules to roll through your ride unscathed


Posted: 24 November 2009

Summer roads and weather aren't always cycling friendly. That doesn't mean you should sit it out. After all, if you want to boost your performance, putting some miles in now can give you a jump-start on the rest of the season. By following these basics, you can turn a summer outing into a fitness-boosting, enjoyable spin.

GET A GRIP

Slap cyclocross tyres on your road bike in the poor weather for extra-traction and additional protection against punctures. The added rolling resistance means you'll go slower for a given effort, which in turn cuts down on your self-made windchill and makes you less likely to careen into obstacles or debris patches in your path. Plus, when you switch back to your regular tyres cycling will feel much easier and you'll feel like a superhero.

DON'T BE A JERK

Sudden movements, such as grabbing a handful of brake or being aggressive in corners, especially in iffy conditions, will surely land you on your bottom. Instead, stay centred on the bike and look far enough ahead that you have plenty of time to slow down for corners or react to slick patches. If you do encounter debris on the road, level your pedals, point your bike straight ahead, relax your upper body, and exhale as you cross. If you have to pedal over a larger patch, keep your stroke extra-smooth with steady, even pressure on the pedals - no quick stabs.

LAYER UP
Nothing sucks the life out of a ride more than being wet and cold. The right clothing varies with the temperature, but generally you want a base-layer that wicks moisture away from your skin (crucial, as the chill from sweat often sneaks up on you so you're cold before you can react to it), and a shell with a windproof front to block the breeze. Layers should be easy to shed so you can stash them in a pocket. On your lower body, windproof crotch and knee panels are essential when the  weather is truly foul.

MIND YOUR MACHINE
Mix grit with a little water and you get a crunchy solution that chews through bike parts faster than a seven-year-old eating a birthday cake. To minimise damage, clean and lube your chain after every ride. Remember the last step in the clean-and-lube: thoroughly wipe down the chain. Clean any stuck-on gunk from the chainrings, cassette and pedal bodies, as well as any exposed cables. Then you can check your brake pads: grit can become trapped on them and will grind down your rims when you brake. You can save the wheels from an early demise by inspecting your brake pads frequently and replacing them if they do become full of embedded grit (you can usually pick out smaller amounts) or if they are starting to approach the wear-indicator mark.

USE COMMON SENSE
If there's torrential rain outside, going out for a ride is unlikely to be a pleasant or rewarding experience. Consider hitting the turbo trainer instead: obvious advice, we know. We also know that most triathletes have at some point, despite knowing better, accidentally found themselves on dangerously slick roads asking the question, "What was I thinking of?"


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