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Is it safe to cycle while holding an Umbrella?

Obviously it's at least a little less safe than biking without holding something in your left (or right) hand. But how much more dangerous is it?

Specifically, suppose that I'm biking on a flat-ish, smooth surface, on a day with almost no wind (say 5km/h), at moderate speeds (say 15km/h) and in enough rain that the umbrella is helpful.

I commute by bike every day, and have recently moved to a new location where the weather often produces these conditions, and where the folding bike and roads I ride on often lead to the above scenario. Recently I have begun riding with an umbrella in hand after observing several other riders doing so, and have fallen off thrice while learning, producing one minor injury to my toe. For comparison, I had one fall and no injuries while learning to use clipless pedals, and one other injury-free fall in the last 5 years.

What I really want to know is this: Assuming someone does this regularly (presumably like the other riders I see), is someone who rides in the conditions mentioned above 10% more likely to suffer a serious accident or 10 times more likely? In the former case, I view the enjoyment / safety tradeoff as being clearly in favor of the umbrella, in the latter I take the opposite view and will stop doing it.

Ideally I'd like to see a study on the subject, but since such a thing doesn't exist (AFAIK), guesswork or anecdotes will suffice.

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I'm not a road rider, but the thought of riding next to cars, one handed, and with a sail in the other - doesn't strike me as a great idea. Wouldn't it be safer, dryer, but slightly less convenient to wear waterproofs and carry your work clothes in a backpack/pannier? –  cmannett85 Sep 30 '12 at 18:53
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This is a hare-brained idea. The umbrella won't even do much to keep you dry. –  Mike Baranczak Sep 30 '12 at 22:56
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I'm with @MikeBaranczak. Holding an umbrella wouldn't really keep you that dry. You'd have to hold it quite a bit in front of you, possibly impeding your vision to get any benefit at all. Also Even without wind, a car, or even worse, a truck passing by at 50 km/h can create quite a gust of wind. I would also guess that even at 20 km/h winds (5 km/h wind + 15 km/h bike speed) the umbrella wouldn't last very long. Although I challenge you to try it out and a nice quiet road or bike path and and let us know of your experiences. –  Kibbee Sep 30 '12 at 23:04
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@JohnDoucette snide is in the eye of the beholder and kibbee made the very realistic observation that it doesn't sound practical and I've never lived anywhere where umbrellas on bike were considered normal, everyday and frequent. I would say that if you felt you needed an umbrella just wear a raincoat and a hat and get on with your day; given that if you travel faster in rain you'll get wetter on the front than on the top, speed will affect the efficacy of the brolly, irrespective of any clownish-or-not comparisons. –  Unsliced Oct 1 '12 at 9:06
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Partly, no doubt, it's a culture thing. Here in Minnesota umbrellas are a rarity -- only used to protect the bride at weddings, etc. If it rains we just get wet (and we're usually wearing a jacket that can shed most of the rain). But some years back I was down in Kentucky and a very light mist was coming down. My brother (who lives there) was shocked that I saw no need to huddle under his umbrella. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 1 '12 at 11:30
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5 Answers

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Cycling umbrella

No. Cycling while holding something in your hand is inherently dangerous. You have much less control over the bike and you can only operate one of the brakes.

You can buy various contraptions for attaching an umbrella to a bicycle. There's also the Uberhood:

Uberhood

However, this got a poor review in The Guardian Bike Blog:

once open atop the bike it refused to stay stationery, with thoughts of impalement on my mind. In the rain it blocked my rear view, before suddenly hinging forward 90 degrees like a sail, blocking my forward view and knocking my front light off.

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No. It absolutely isn't.

You know what happens when an umbrella catches the wind.

Imagine that on an unstable device doing 30 mph.

Even without wind the rain will be blowing in your face most of the time so you'd have to place the umbrella right in front of you for it to offer any kind of effective shielding from the rain. How are you supposed to see anything with an umbrella in front of you? Even a transparent one will be rain-soaked and impossible to see through.

And that's not even considering the fact that you've got one hand off the handlebars all the time. How are you supposed to signal a turn if you only have one hand on the handlebars anyway? And God help you if a child runs into the road in front of you and you need both hands to apply sufficient braking.

You shouldn't even consider it. Get a rain coat.

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Not useful. How much more dangerous is it? Loads of people do this. I would guess it's perhaps 1 in 10 cyclists in the city I'm biking in when it rains. I have done it, and can see just fine. Also, if you read the question, I explicitly state that I'm interested in a scenario with 15km/h speeds, not 30mph! 30mph is actually 60% above the posted speed limit for the city! –  John Doucette Oct 1 '12 at 8:31
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If 1 in 10 are doing it, then what's the point of asking the question? You're not listening to people who are pointing out why they think it is dangerous. Danger does not carry an objective measure - but only having one hand on the handle bar, with an asymmetric weight distribution, just sounds dangerous - I don't feel that I need to measure it to real it out for me. –  Unsliced Oct 1 '12 at 9:08
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I don't know about where you live, but I have never ever seen anyone in my life on a cycle with an umbrella unless it was a clown on a unicycle. Even if I had, just because everyone does it doesn't make it legal, or even a good idea. You see people cycling on the pavement all the time here even though it's very explicitly against the law to do so and it would still be a stupid idea if it wasn't. It sounds like you've already made up your mind and are looking for answers that validate your choice. Sorry but I'm not going to do that even if you claim my answer is "not useful". –  GordonM Oct 1 '12 at 9:48
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Comparing the umbrella scenario to riding without a helmet actually illustrates that the increased danger is not measurable. The helmet debate rages on as to whether helmets are harmful or beneficial and no matter which side of the debate you fall on, the only certainty is that no objective measure of increased or decreased risk has been achieved. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet –  jimirings Oct 2 '12 at 17:21
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@JohnDoucette: If you think this is questionable, maybe you have different assumptions? Where are you riding? If there are no cars around, and you go slowly, that's one thing. But if the cost of losing control is potentially getting hit by a car? –  Jefromi Oct 3 '12 at 5:12
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Maybe you could strap one of these to your helmet.

enter image description here

Then at least your hands are free and it's always pointed in the right direction. It'd probably get torn away in super high wind (hopefully not with your head).

I couldn't find a picture but you could even try it with one of those deep, shoulder width, clear umbrellas too. Then your shoulders would be covered too.

Either way your feet/hands/arms/legs are all still going to get wet and unless you have fenders your butt and back are going to get wet too.

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I will share how do I commute in rain to work. I haven't tried an umbrella, however. A long raincoat, plus short pants and sandals keeps me dry during the wearmer months. If you go this way, pаy special attention to the hood - ideally it should have two adjusting straps - one for face aperture (the one on the picture has) and one for depth of the hood - it is on the upper and back side of the hood and is essential to adjust your hood so that you see well, and are still protected. enter image description here

I do not have experience in the winter, maybe this one will be the first. I am going to try waterproof overpants + rubber boots ОР waterproof overpants + waterproof shoes + gaiters

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Not only is it not safe, it isn't even useful.

Some of the biggest problems when cycling are visibility, stability, braking and hearing danger approaching. An umbrella of any kind will hinder at least one and probably all of these!

And to top that, it will not stop you getting wet. On a bike on a wet day water comes from everywhere: your own tires, spray from cars,puddles, rain ...

The trade off just isn't worth it- bicycles are an inherently dangerous way to travel as there is nothing to protect you. You should be doing everything you can to reduce your risk, not add to it.

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Thanks for your view on the safety, but I really must disagree on the point about getting wet. It most certainly does keep you dry. That's why people around here are doing it. My attempts have verified this as well. –  John Doucette Oct 4 '12 at 9:27
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It may be that rain over there is different to rain in Scotland, but here there is no way it could keep you dry when moving at anything over walking pace :-) –  Rory Alsop Oct 4 '12 at 10:03
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protected by Gary.Ray Sep 13 '13 at 13:36

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