Summer in the Philippines is now officially over. The rains have become an everyday phenomenon and the evening news is now saturated with reports of floods, traffic jams, landslides, government officials looking stupid and making excuses, and a whole litany of other depressing stuff. This doesn’t mean though that you should stay indoors, sleep all day and start to complain that there’s too much rain
Biking in the rain is actually quite fun. Like I said in an earlier post, the rains take away some of the bite from the tropical heat. The hills come alive with a fresh wardrobe of green. And finally, the trails become a mess of mud and puddles that will put your bike skills to the test. But biking in the rain requires some adjustment, and a few extra gear. Here are some of them.
Getting drenched is fine for the first few minutes. When you’re biking in a nice urban place like the UP Diliman campus, the sensation of riding in the rain can even be quite refreshing. But when you’re up on a mountain highway in the Sierra Madre, or the Manila East road, a prolonged drenching may give you hypothermia.
A high quality windbreaker/rain jacket becomes essential in such a scenario. I use the Spyder rain jacket because it’s very breathable. It can keep the rain out in most situations without soaking you in your own sweat. The jacket will still stick to your skin though when you sweat so I’d recommend you keep wearing arm warmers for those epic rain rides.
I personally don’t mind getting a bit of mud in the face when I’m out biking on the trails. But biking on the streets of Metro Manila in the rain is another matter. Sorry for the graphic imagery… but nobody wants to get sprayed in the face with slick juice from feline roadkill, or get chunks of dog poop flicked onto their cheeks. Thus the need for fenders.
These accessories may make your bike look a bit dorky, but I think they’re essential when you’re biking on rain-drenched streets. The front fender is absolutely essential–get one that extends to the front of the fork and not just the back, because that’s where the spray comes from when you start picking up speed.
A backpack with a waterproof cover will help keep your stuff inside dry. But, just to be sure, put a plastic bag in the backpack first before putting all of your stuff in it. This way, your stuff gets really protected from the rain. Also, the trapped air inside the bag will cause you to float in case you make the foolish mistake of riding right smack into a raging flood. Just kidding.
Activate them when it rains, even if it’s midday and it isn’t dark yet. Visibility goes down quickly when it rains. These things will ensure that you remain visible to motorists even during a downpour.
Spandex cycling shorts/pants
This is optional. Yes, I know many mountain bikers are averse to wearing roadie tropang bakat cycling shorts. But riding in technical shorts with all of their cool pockets and zippers can get old after a few minutes out in the rain. Cycling shorts wick away water faster than MTB technical shorts.
Biking on the streets in the rain however also entails a lot of hazards. Here are a few things to watch out for.
Rainy day road hazards
- Murky puddles – Avoid riding over these. What may look like a shallow puddle may actually be a pothole several inches deep and could throw you off your bike. Be especially careful around DPWH, PLDT or MWSS road diggings which may be several feet deep. The last thing you want is to get bruises and scrapes while submerged in dirty runoff, and getting infected with Leptospirosis or tetanus.
- Oil slicks and mud patches – Rainbow colored patches on a rain-drenched pavement are signs of an oil slick, which can make the road very slippery. Mud patches on the road can also cause you to slip while cornering or braking. Avoid them and don’t brake or corner while in them.
- Splash zones – There will always be sections of the road where rainwater will collect. Motor vehicles speeding through these sections may cause a splash. If you’re approaching such a zone, slow down and assess if a a vehicle is about to pass.