Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Racing and Riding in the Rain

by Marianne Holt, PCG elite coach

Peaks Coaching Group Racing and Riding in the Rain

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”
- Bob Dylan

Whether you love rainy days or hate them, it’s very likely that you will find yourself riding in the rain at some point; probably racing in it, as well. And rain changes things. As you watch the weather report, here are a few things to keep in mind when faced with the drips.

Braking

If the roads are very wet, water will accumulate between your bike’s brake pads and rims, essentially giving you zero slowing and stopping ability. So be sure to feather the brakes frequently to squeeze out the water and keep it out.

This is so obvious I almost hesitate to include it, but I will: Allow extra room between you and the rider in front of you. Even if you do a great job of keeping the water away from your brake pads, it will still take extra time to stop or slow down on wet or damp roads, so give yourself plenty of room.

Road Hazards

There are several places that can become slick as glass even if just mildly wet or damp:
  • Painted lines
  • Railroad tracks (hopefully there aren’t any on the course, but you never know)
  • Manhole covers
  • Intersections where cars stop. These are usually worse when the roads are just damp versus very wet. When cars stop at intersections, oil drips down and accumulates on the asphalt. Combine that oil with just a little bit of water, and it’s crazy slick.
  • Dirt and gravel that might have washed out on the road. Be on the lookout for this, especially in the turns.

Racing

Ride at the front of the pack. My athletes get to hear me preach about not riding at the front of the pack, but while that is still my advice in general, at or near the front will for sure be the safest place to be if it’s wet. Personally, if it’s raining, I like to go hard from the gun to try to whittle down the field. You’ll have to use your judgment on this one because you don’t want to burn all your matches from the beginning, but the fewer riders in the field, the better your chances are of staying safe and having a good finish.

Hands in drops is even more important when it’s wet. It’s easy for wet hands to slide right off the top of the brake hoods. Keep your hands in the drops; you’ll have more control and won’t risk losing your grip.

Gear and Clothing

This one is important! If it looks pretty certain the roads will be wet, run a little less pressure in your tires. I usually go 5-7 psi less than I would normally have. Yes, you might increase your risk of a pinch flat, but you’ll get better traction on the wet roads.

I highly recommend wearing eyewear with yellow lenses, or some other light color. If you go without, you’ll get tons of road spray in your eyes (from the wheel in front of you or your own front wheel) and won’t be able to see well. The lenses will of course get wet and dirty, but I find that a quick swipe with my finger will clear them off enough for me to see the road ahead.

If you’ve been using the same helmet for a while on these hot, humid days, chances are you’ve accumulated a lot of sweat on the pads and straps. If the pads get very wet and water drips in your eyes, you’ll feel a serious stinging (think salt water in your eyes). So now is a good time to clean your helmet and get that sweat and grim out of the pads and straps.

It’ll probably be a little cooler in the rain, so don’t forget to pack an extra base layer and maybe arm warmers. A vest is good too, but you’ll need your race number to be visible at all times, so if you plan to race in your vest, be sure to pin your number on it. And I KNOW you all know how to pin on your number!

Getting it Done

Remember: rain shouldn't stop you. It simply creates another opportunity to become a better athlete!


Marianne lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, where she enjoys all types of riding, including criterium races, road races, gran fondos, mountainous centuries, time trials, and the occasional cruise on her mountain bike or cyclocross bike. She is a Category 1 racer with the PainPathways Women’s Team and a USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach. She has extensive road racing experience, including NRC and International Stage Races, UCI races, and elite and masters nationals championship races. She is a former masters nationals time trial champion and has numerous silver and bronze medals from masters nationals criteriums and road races. Marianne can be contacted through info@peakscoachinggroup.com or www.peakscoachinggroup.com.

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