For short commutes in light rain, it’s possible to keep dry using a cape over street clothes. Capes are nice because they allow air flow underneath and they’re easy to take on and off. The downside is that they may not keep you completely dry in a heavy downpour, and they can act like a sail in a crosswind. Chaps are sometimes used as additional protection in conjunction with a cape.
Most good quality, bike-specific panniers and bags are either waterproof, water-resistant, or come supplied with rain covers. In the case of simple nylon bags and panniers that provide no protection from water, delicate items can be placed inside ziplock bags before placing into your bike bag.
It’s important to reduce speeds while riding in the rain to compensate for slick roads and reduced visibility. Brake early, accelerate slowly, and corner gingerly. Keep a particular eye out for paint stripes, grates, manhole covers, and leaves, all of which are extremely slick when wet. It’s best to avoid riding through large puddles, but if you must, slow to nearly walking speed since there’s no way to know their depth or what lurks under the surface.
There are two opposing approaches to maintaining a rain bike. One is to set-up a rain-specific “beater” bike that’s only given minimal attention, the other is to carefully maintain a nicer bike to keep the water exposure from causing damage. I’ve used both approaches and I can’t say one is necessarily better than the other.
I live in a place where the weather is mild most of the year, so I’m going to ask the members of our community who live in cold, harsh climates to help us out with advice on how to deal with snow and ice. If you regularly ride in frozen conditions, please share your experience in the comments below.
Wet, winter bike commuting isn’t necessarily for everyone, but if you like the idea of riding year-round, rain-or-shine, you should definitely give it a try. Just a few adjustments to your regular routine can turn what could be an unpleasant ordeal into a fun adventure that adds another dimension to your bike commuting experience.