The southwest monsoon has covered the entire country six days ahead of schedule, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). With the monsoon in India, I’m here to re-iterate a few tips and tricks to keep cycling through the rainy season.
1. Switch to flat pedals
Rain and puddles make routes slippery and prone to skids. Hence, I prefer to keep my feet un-clipped in the wet. Flat pedals let me raise my feet while going through a deep puddle. They also give me the option of riding in Crocs or in sandals. I rest easy knowing that my ride won’t ruin my expensive cycling shoes and cleats. Plus metal on the tarmac is never a good idea in the rain. This is especially true for road cycling shoes, where the cleats meet the road. If you’ve ever walked on railway tracks in the wet, you know what I mean.
2. Use a wet lube
Wax lubes are water soluble, wet lubes are not. In the monsoon, use a wet lube. Not only does wet lube last longer in the wet but it also protects your chain rollers from rust. I am pretty brand agnostic when it comes to lubes, but over the years I’ve loved Pedros Syn lube - it lasts long in the wet and keeps my chain rust-free.
3. Embrace the wet
There’s no such thing as 100% waterproof. So instead of packing waterproof layers, just let it be. Embrace the fact that - you will get wet, it will get muddy. Once drenched it really won’t matter and you will have more fun with less fuss. Don’t try to fight the wet - embrace it.
4. Wear high-contrast sunglasses
Yellow sunglasses enhance contrast on a murky, overcast day. Sunglasses not only enhance contrast but they also keep the nasty - the crud thrown up by the car/bicycle in front of you off your face and eyes. It is a win-win. Do not ride without one.
5. Waterproof bikepacking bag fortified with a freezer bag
Use at-least one bikepacking bag that is water resistant. Keep a freezer bag as a backup inside this bag for the “it raining buckets” scenario. Your phone/ wallet can go in this freezer bag and in your bikepacking bag. You’re secure in the knowledge that your valuables are safe. It saves the worry and the stress. My Geosmina bag swallows the phablets I own. Take the IP rating on phones with a grain of salt. They are electronics and expensive as well. Better safe than sorry.
6. Lights front and rear
Safety is the key while cycling. Remember - on a wet day it is your responsibility to make yourself as visible as you can to other road traffic which might already be suffering from poor visibility. Rather than reflectors, lights in a disruptive pattern are scientifically proven to be much more visible. Most cheap lights will fail the monsoon crucible yet, there are brands like Fenix that offer genuine IP67 water resistance.
7. Use mudguards / fenders
If you’re serious about monsoon riding and you love your bike you’ve got to get yourself a pair of quality mudguards/fenders. Not only do they keep the water off you but they also help keep the crud off your bike frame and you. This means more user, frame and drivetrain protection. Get mudguards that offer the maximum coverage and length. Extend short mudguards using rubber extensions. My preferred brand for mudguards is SKS Germany. I’ve used their longboard model for over 8 years and now I’m rocking a pair of speedrockers.
8. Clean your bike after each ride
Monsoon is hard on your bike and its components. One way to mitigate this is to take out 10 minutes after every ride to clean your bike. Leaving your bike covered in crud overnight will not only degrade your components but will also be a burden on the wallet in the long run. A chain cleaning tool like the Pedros Chain Pig is especially helpful because it is the quickest way to get an acceptably clean chain.
9. Bicycle tyres (slicks) do not aquaplane
Coming from a car or even a motorcycle most people are amazed at the fact that. No, it is impossible for a bicycle tyre to aquaplane because:
- A bicycle tire has a curved road contact. Since a bicycle leans in corners, it needs a tire with a rounded contact area, which tends to push the water away to either side.
- A bicycle tire is narrower, so not as much water is in contact with the leading edge at once.
- The high pressure of bicycle tires is more efficient at squeezing the water out from under.
This is why if you’re riding tarmac you do not need aggressive lugs. Running lugged tyres on the tarmac will only reduce your contact area with the tarmac.
10. Ride within 80% of your capability
Safety is the key. Remember as with all automobiles in wet - grip goes down, braking distance goes up. This is true for your bicycle, your group ride buddies and other vehicles you’re sharing the road with. So if you can do a descent at 60 mph, it’s better to slow down to 40kmph for that extra margin of safety.
So there that’s my list of top 10 monsoon riding tips and tricks in India. If you find these tips useful then do share this article with your riding buddies.