Slippery roads, biting wind, and low visibility can make biking in the rain more challenging than a sunny-day ride. But, in most cases, a few drops of rain shouldn’t stop you from touring the countryside, commuting, or simply enjoying your electric bike.
Imagine it is a Friday afternoon and you’re having lunch with friends at Naam Thai Cuisine on 34th Avenue between Pike and Union in Seattle. The day started relatively sunny for Seattle in December and your EVELO Delta X electric bike is chained up just outside.
Just as your yellow curry with tofu arrives at the table, the weather turns, and a steady drizzle begins to fall. After lunch (which included an extra order of rangoons), you have a choice. You can abandon your bike and Uber back to the office or you can ride your electric bike in the rain. You choose the latter.
Rain isn’t going to stop you. This is especially true if you have taken time to prepare your electric bike, yourself, and your gear for rainy rides before clouds appear. Do this and you should be able to avoid getting cold, wet, chaffed, or worst of all broken.
Tip No. 1: Use Fenders
Electric bikes, like their conventional cousins, are generally resistant to rain. The drivetrain will survive splashes. The battery won’t fail because of raindrops alone. But that doesn’t mean that you want to spray water and debris from the road all over yourself and your electric bike’s many and various components.
Simply put, if you are a bicycle commuter or if you know you’re going to be riding in regions prone to rain, you will want fenders.
Tip No. 2: Weatherproof Yourself
“The hardest part about riding in wet or cold weather is taking the first pedal stroke. Once you actually get riding, it’s not so bad,” said David Dye, an agent with EVELO’s industry-leading customer service team.
“At its most basic, you need to stay warm. Staying dry definitely contributes to that as well, but I find it less important.”
Dye recommends starting with a hat. “A cycling cap has just enough of a brim to keep rain out of your eyes so you can still see, but also fits under your helmet. Get a wool one when it’s cold; bonus points for ear flaps.”
Next up, you’ll want gloves. “Gloves are so important that I will take a spare pair if I know I’m going to be out for a long time or if it’s raining really hard,” Dye said.
Look for good quality water-resistant gloves that will keep your hands warm and dry. Popular materials include Gore-tex or in extreme cases neoprene.
Your rain-resistant jacket or coat should strike a balance between keeping you warm and making you sweaty. You may even want to consider layering fleece, wool, polyester, or bamboo-based viscose fabrics so that you can vent or remove layers as conditions change.
Add rain pants or waterproof shoes to make the ride even more comfortable.
Tip No. 3: Weatherproof Your Stuff
Let’s imagine a hypothetical ride. It’s Saturday, and you decide to head downtown and check out some of the second-hand stores. At one place you find a pastel suit jacket that reminds you of Don Johnson in Miami Vice. Another store has a vintage lava lamp you can’t live without, but the real find is a dusty box of records in a consignment shop.
You discover a nearly perfect copy Curtis Fuller’s the Opener on Blue Note Records. It’s worth about $3,100 in mint condition. You buy it for a measly $20, put it in a canvas bag, and start the ride home. That is when the rain falls.
The point is clear, you want to be able to keep your stuff dry when you ride wet, whether that stuff is a classic vinyl record, a paperback novel, or your laptop.
For many electric bike riders, the best choice will be seam-sealed waterproof pannier bag, backpack, or shoulder bag. It can also be a good idea to have a few ziplock bags on hand. A small laptop will fit in a large freezer bag. An iPhone or Android fits in a typical sandwich bag.
Tip No. 4: Use Lights
When you ride your electric bike in the rain, you are sharing roads with lots of other vehicles. There are cars, trucks, vans, and buses. In some cities, there will be plenty of other cyclists and lots of folks on Lime or Bird scooters.
Each traveler is also dealing with the challenges of driving, riding, or otherwise getting around in the rain. Among these challenges is visibility and having lights will help. In fact, in many places, the law requires you to have lights on your electric bike in the rain.
Typically, you will want a front facing white light bright enough that it can be seen at least 500 feet away. Aim this headlight straight ahead. You will also want a red tail light that can be seen from about 500 or 600 feet.
To these, consider adding a blinking light on your helmet, rack, handlebars, or pannier bags.
Tip No. 5: Lower Tire Pressure
Many experienced cyclists, including those on electric bikes, adjust tire pressure to match road conditions.
“On new pavement, your tires might feel great at 100 psi, but on a rough road, they might roll faster at 90 psi,” wrote Lee McCormack and Joe Lindsey in an August 2018 Bicycling article.
“In wet conditions, you may want to run 10 psi less than usual for improved traction.”
The idea is simple. The somewhat lower tire pressure allows more of the tire to come into contact with the road, thereby, giving your electric bike a better grip.
Tip No. 6: Slow Down
Riding in the rain can be invigorating. Perhaps, it is the cool drops on your skin. Or maybe you instinctively understand that riding harder and faster actually keeps you warmer. But in each case, you want to try to avoid going too fast when you ride your electric bike in the rain.
Wet roads and somewhat worse visibility can mean that you won’t have as much time to react. This can actually be more true on an ebike than on a conventional bicycle, since electric bikes with pedal-assist and power-on-demand capabilities have the potential to maintain higher average speeds in all weather conditions.
So here is your tip, take a bit more time. Ride a little slower and more carefully when you ride an electric bike in the rain.
Tip No. 7: Brake Early
Closely related to slowing down when you ride an ebike in wet weather is taking more time when you brake. You will want to slow down gradually.
“The purpose of adding a motor to an electric bike is to give riders an additional source of power. Most electric bikes allow riders to control when the motor kicks in and how much power it provides. This makes possible a wide scope of riding options ranging from fully leg-powered pedaling, a combination of pedaling and motor assistance, and fully motorized riding, allowing the cyclist to fine tune her riding experience to meet her specific needs and demands,” wrote the authors of the “The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide.”
The additional power an electric bike provides requires better braking systems, and it turns out that this is a distinct advantage over some conventional bikes in the rain.
Many electric bikes include disc brakes rather than the rim brakes often found on conventional bicycles. Disc brakes, almost by definition, perform far better in the rain.
Add to your more powerful braking system some caution and early braking and you should experience a safe ride even in a downpour. Just remember that you need to brake early when you ride an electric bike in the rain.
Tip No. 8: Don’t Lean into Corners
Electric bikes are fun to ride. The extra power can dramatically improve the riding experience. Even a bike commuter in a suit can feel a little like a professional rider hitting the corners hard.
But you won’t want to channel pro cyclists like Alejandro Valverde Belmonte, Peter Sagan, or Tom Dumoulin when you corner in wet conditions. Instead, gradually brake as you come toward a corner. Choose a line that lets you turn without leaning. Keep as much of the tire on the road as possible.
Tip No. 9: Look for Slippery Spots
When it rains, oil and gasoline comes to the surface. This can make familiar asphalt suddenly unpredictable. So look for slippery spots.
You want to avoid puddles or standing water generally, but especially watch out for “rainbow” puddles since these can be full of slippery lubricants or fuel.
Also avoid painted lines. Lane markers become especially slippery when it rains. Metal grates and covers are like ice, so definitely avoid them.
Finally, watch for debris. Something as seemingly safe as fallen leaves can be a slipping hazard when you ride your electric bike in the rain.
Tip No. 10: Clean Your Electric Bike After You Ride
After your rainy ride, be sure to take a few minutes to clean and dry your electric bike.
An ebike can be a very cost effective and efficient form of transportation. It works well for recreational riding, basic transportation, or serious commuting. But it does need maintenance, and simply taking the time to clean and dry it after a wet ride can significantly increases its longevity.