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I have a hybrid (Schwinn Sporterra) which I use for commuting except when it rains. The main problem of riding it during the rains is the dirt that gets spewn all over, esp over the drive-train. Cleaning it and re-oiling the whole thing is a painful hour long process. Due to this I tend to not take my bike out when there is a chance of rain. How do I get rid of this problem?

I do have some plastic fenders, but they do not cover the wheels fully. If I get new metal fenders which cover most of the wheel will this problem be solved? Do I have to get any other accessories?

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You need fenders, and decent reflectors and a headlight and blinking taillight. The fenders need not be metal (plastic is probably better) but should cover at least 1/3 of the circumference of the front wheel and about half the circumference of the rear. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 12 '13 at 17:00
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I strongly disagree with @DanielRHicks re the blinking taillight. Not only is it massively annoying to motorists behind you, which triggers their overtake-in-rage reflex, but it's also much more difficult to judge distance to a blinking light compared to a "normal" light. If you feel the need to have a blinking light, have it in addition to the normal one. –  arne Sep 13 '13 at 6:27
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@arne - It is very easy for a motorist to ignore a steady red light, especially in the rain. In fact, if they notice the steady light at all they're apt to "follow" it, as they habitually follow the taillights of cars in front of them. Only they don't follow it at bicycle speed. It can actually draw the motorist off the road and onto the shoulder, when otherwise he would have passed without incident. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 13 '13 at 11:27
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@ratchetfreak - A standard bicycle road tire is of sufficiently high pressure (and speeds sufficiently low) that siping does little good on a road that's simply wet. There's no danger of a bicycle tire "hydroplaning" in any realistic circumstances. Siping probably does help somewhat when the surface is slightly slimy or muddy (which tends to be the case more in light rain than heavy). –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 13 '13 at 11:31
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@arne - You have to understand that bicycles aren't common on US roads. A motorist is rarely thinking "There might be a cyclist up ahead." You have to get their attention somehow. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 13 '13 at 12:31

8 Answers 8

Don't forget lights. Many people who only ride during the day/nice weather don't bother to put lights on your bike. But in heavy rain, it's sometimes darker (especially closer to sunrise/sunset), and visibility is reduced. Having lights and also reflectors will help you to be seen and improve your safety.

If you don't mind getting wet, and use a waterproof pannier to transport a change of clothes, you may not need any additional equipment. Just make sure to relube your chain frequently if it often gets wet.

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  • Adding mud-flaps to both fenders will greatly reduce spraying water on to your bottom bracket, feet and bicyclists riding behind you.

  • Mud-flaps can be made easily & cheaply by cutting a part of plastic bottles for milk /water/soda-pop and screwing them on to end of mud-guard/fenders (ensure there is enough clearance between screw and tire).

  • Plastic fenders offering full coverage will avoid spraying water and dirt; besides the plastic one's usually are lighter and cheaper than their metal counter parts. These are also corrosion resistant.

  • Using wet weather chain lubricant will help to some extent, however this doesn't replace the need for cleaning your drive train and re-lubing it. This type of lubricant will help you to space out cleaning a little further. A clean drive train will last longer.

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A mudflap on your front fender will make a world of difference screening junk from your BB and crankset, but also your shoes! –  WTHarper Sep 12 '13 at 19:33
    
I have a mud guard (fender) built in to my rear rack, but it's too short, so I added a mud-flap extension made from a very cheap plastic "mtb" mud guard (sharp knife and heat gun) attached to the light bracket on the rack –  Chris H Sep 13 '13 at 9:21

For riding in the rain, I would definitely recommend putting fenders on your bike that cover as much of the wheel as possible. This will help prevent "skunk stripes" on the back of your clothes due to dirt thrown up by the rear wheel. Fenders also generally help keep water from flying all around during riding, which keeps other things from getting as wet to begin with.

I'd also recommend putting a plastic cover on your seat, as (a) wet seats tend to stay wet for a long time, and (b) keeping your seat dry will help extend its usable lifetime. For this, you can simply tie a plastic grocery bag over the seat -- it's not very elegant looking, but it works well as long as there aren't any holes in the bag. Make sure the bottom of the seat is covered as well as the top.

For the drive train, it's difficult to keep this part of the bike dry during rainy weather. You could look into getting a chain guard, but these are typically designed to prevent dirt and grease from the chain rubbing onto your leg or pants, not to keep the chain dry in the rain. It might help keep rain off from above, but it won't help keep things dry from below.

You might also prophylactically keep your drivetrain dry by using a wax-based chain lubricant before you go out in the rain. This will help repel water during the ride.

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For the seat buy a common shower cap -- the type that ladies use to keep their hair dry in the shower. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 12 '13 at 17:01
    
And another shower cap for the head, I guess... And something similar for the shoes... –  Jahaziel Sep 13 '13 at 0:43
    
IMHO a seat cover only makes sense if the seat can absorb water (leather, cloth). For seats with a plastic surface, you can just wipe off the water, which is much easier than always putting on and taking off a cover. For leather, however, a cover is essential, as otherwise the leather will suffer. –  sleske Sep 18 '13 at 10:41
    
@sleske in my experience most non-leather seats have some kind of foam inside them that will absorb water. If you have a truly plastic-only seat (or maybe plastic with a gel insert), then yes, you probably don't need a cover for that. –  lmjohns3 Sep 18 '13 at 14:55

At the risk of sounding snarky, I just want to add one thing to the otherwise excellent advice in the answers: motivation.

Safety considerations aside, you don't really need any accessory to commute in bad weather. It is more a matter of how much discomfort you're willing to tolerate. "The gear" is not what is holding you back. Sure you can go all out and get full fenders with mud-flaps, waterproof panniers, appropriate lights, a cycling specific rain poncho, exactly the right gloves, splats, rain-pants, shoe covers, full-chain-guard, wax lubricant, seat protector, etc, etc. But what would that get you? You'll still get wet or sweaty and you'll have to maintain all this stuff not to mention lug it around-- or risk finding yourself leavinng work during a thunderstorm with all your rain-day-stuff safe and dry at home.

My advice is to get fenders/lights to start with, then just make a commitment to commute in the rain. Eventually, as a result of an extremely uncomfortable commute, you might consider adding a thing or two beyond that and make carefully considered adjustments according to temperature, distance, speed, and portability.

Generally speaking, you're more likely to stick to it if you do it no matter what with the expectation of a modicum of misery and discomfort.

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Humor as well! "What happens if it rains?" --coworker "You get wet. What, you don't take showers?" Ok, the shower part is optional to the response. Don't forget while you are getting wet, you are being more hardcore than the guy sitting in the car next to you. source: Just some personal experience I had yesterday in the rain. –  BPugh Nov 1 '13 at 12:54
    
Very much my sentiments exactly. Even with full out rain gear, you're pretty much going to have to change when you get to work anyway. Fully waterproof raingear will make you sweat profusely. So just accept the fact that you're going to get wet. Personally I find regular cycling shorts and jerseys are quite well suited to the rain, because they don't absorb a lot of water. It's basically a swim suit. As long as the temperatures don't get too cold, you'll be fine. –  Kibbee Nov 2 '13 at 0:59

I'd like to add some points to the otherwise good recommendations:

  • A fully closed chainguard so the chain doesn't get wet
  • An internally geared hub so performance is not affected
  • I don't know the word, but a mudguard at the side of the wheel, such as in the creative image posted below, can be quite helpful.
  • Be extra visible!

Bicycle
Source: Baykedevries, Wikimedia Commons

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The "mudgards" at the side of the wheels is a skirt guard en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skirt_guard. They are often just rubber or wire nets, though plastic shields are available as well. They keep the coat or skirt from flapping into the wheel, but they don't help much against the spraying of dirt onto your pants in wet weather. Most of that comes from the front wheel. Note that they are usually put more to the front than the image above shows. The larges practical effect I'd expect with one of the closed shields is that it makes cleaning a rim brake really difficult. –  cbeleites Nov 5 '13 at 16:00

I highly recommend rain pants and waterproof shoe covers as well. A few years ago I used to ride to school in all kinds of weather (though any time the snow was deep enough to cancel school I stayed off the bike). My experience was always that even with a good set of fenders, there's going to be some spray, and I always regretted not covering my shoes. Back then, the best solution I managed to come up with was just plastic grocery bags tucked in to the bottom of the rain pants, but at some point I discovered that the motorcycle crew has already solved this problem, and you can buy motorcycle shoe/boot covers that work quite well and have thicker rubberized bottoms so that you can walk around in them or put a foot down at traffic lights without wearing a hole through the bottom. Now if only they made them in XXL so that my shoes actually fit properly in them...

As far as the drivetrain, my solution was mostly just to ride an old clunker on the rainy days, and try to get it dried out when I got home (which, since I lived in a fairly dry place at the time usually just meant "make sure to shake all the snow off"). I'm sure it wasn't very good for it, but that bike's still chugging along, so it can't have been too bad for it either.

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If it's really wet out there and you're going to be riding through puddles, unfortunately there isn't much you can do to fully protect your drivetrain. I purchased SKS Longboard Full Coverage fenders, which are 45 mm wide and extend very far down in the front. In fact, the mud flap nearly touches the ground when the bike is fully upright and usually skirts the ground when cornering or passing over speed bumps (ordinary bumps, not bunny hopping). Even so, I would come home after some rainy days to find my shoes and drivetrain covered in mud, despite only ever riding on asphalt paths.

If you ride in the autumn, expect to get leaves caught in between the wheel and the fender, since the ultra-low clearance to the street sweeps up leaves and doesn't allow enough room for them to fall back down.

If you ride in the winter, expect snow and slush to accumulate on the mud flaps any time there are flurries. I wouldn't recommend riding in any case if the weather calls for anything more severe than flurries unless you have some really wide knobby tires.

After a while, the bottom of the front fender bent upwards, making an annoying flapping sound throughout the ride. Eventually the entire piece just snapped off and now I have a more normal-length front fender, though the mud flap did not reattach. It is now cracking in yet another spot, just due to wear and tear.

FYI I was running 32C hybrid tires at the time. I eventually switched to 28C road slicks, but that was after the fender broke.

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On the hour-long process side of things, the answers to this question (shameless self plug) provide good advice. Especially the heavy-duty wet weather MTB lube meant I have to clean my chain much less frequently.

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