Braving the Rain on Two Wheels

By Jonathan Hagstrom

Flapjack Chronicle

Many of Humboldt State’s students rely on their cheapest and most available mode of transportation: bicycles. However, with the rainy season arriving, that may change drastically.
Amber Yates, 19, undeclared, explains how her biking habits change with the seasons.
“I just don’t ride (in wet weather),” Yates said.
Many bike commuters switch to driving a car or walking when rain is an issue, but not everyone has the option to stop biking.
Heavy rain can be more than a nuisance, as it reduces visibility and stopping power, and can jeopardize your bike’s functionality.
Rain provides conditions which make a front and rear bike light even more essential to your safety while commuting at night, by lighting up the road and making you more visible to motor vehicles. It is also important to keep your own vision clear by blocking water from getting in your eyes. This is challenging to do without using glasses or goggles, which tend to get fogged up. A visor brim such as one built into a raincoat hood is one of the best options.
This also has its downside, as a hood could block your peripheral vision. This can be remedied by using the straps from a helmet to press it tight against your face.
Rainy-day biking attire can be more than a raincoat. Depending on how wet you get during your commute, you may consider including rain pants and even rain booties to cover your shoes.

Vince Smith, co-owner of Life Cycle in Arcata, gave some insight to the importance of adapting to the rain.

“It just depends on the degree of safety and comfort you want,” said Smith.
Another hindrance created by rain is the loss of braking power. This is caused by a lack of friction between wet brake pads and a wet wheel. It is important to be aware of the resulting delayed response when stopping. Jess Benbrook, 20, environmental science, described his experience with this phenomenon.
“I had to adjust the brakes because they were just rubbing from wetness instead of stopping,” said Benbrook.
Compounded with the slickness of roads when wet, it is easy to see how wet weather can be treacherous.
Wet weather can take a toll on the condition of your bike as well. Bike maintenance becomes much more crucial, as your chain can rust after only one wet ride.

Cleaning and re-lubing your chain after each use discourages this from happening.

Dave Parker, a local bike mechanic, stressed the importance of this procedure.

“Wipe down your bike and lube your chain no matter what,” said Parker.
Storing your bike indoors will also play a major role in preventing rust.

Fenders also play an important role in keeping your bike in tip-top shape, as they keep your bike’s moving parts drier and cleaner. They keep water and mud from splashing from the tires onto the bike’s drive chain. Also, they reduce the muck being thrown in your face by the front tire and up your back by the rear.
It is easy for students to think that preparing for a bike trip in the rain is not a priority. John Ferrera, 24, journalism, seems to think his mountain bike doesn’t need adaptation.
“It handles fine,” said Ferrera.


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