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    Should I be concerned with stopping and traction on wet roads?
    All this talk of riding in the rain, feet getting wet, sunglasses off or on, got me to thinking about an important safety issue of riding in the rain: stopping!

This may be stating the obvious, but for anyone who hasn't experienced riding in the rain (hard as that is for this native Western Washingtonian to imagine!!), it may not be. Wet rims + wet brakes = greatly reduced stopping power! Test your brakes well before you need to slow down for that corner or stop at that intersection!! Try them out occasionally so you know what you've got when you need it!

Diane Ames

Is there any way to determine wet weather traction that does not involve falling down a lot? On my motor cycle there was some warning before you lost it. When I fell two weeks ago, on my bike, it was INSTANT CRASH.

Currently, I am practicing the "slower around curves is better," when the road is wet. Not exciting, but more fun than crashing.

Phil Ford

Instant crash: just add water:-) I think you are on to something there Phil:-)

Traction on a bicycle is thready at best. The "pizza cutter" tires used reduces rolling resistance and in the same breath cornering adhesion. What do you do?

Keep your weight on the outside pedal as much as possible, go "offline" (ride out of the areas driven in the dry where motorized vehicles spray oil and build up rubber on the road) (note that concept works in all types of vehicles).

The tire should be as upright as possible when cornering so body "english" is more the order on a bike. You do get the same warning as on a motorcycle, however. Just with that incredibly small contact area it goes really fast.

Don "ever crossed up a roadbike?" Bolton

Just my own opinion, but I think riding a road bike in the rain - and by this I mean significant rain - is asking for trouble any time. There's such a thing as using your head. Last winter I rode my old mountain bike exclusively in inclement weather, for the reason I did not yet own a road bike. I'm pretty sure I'll mount the MB this winter if I want to go out when it is raining or threatening.

John Carr

What do you think people rode in the wet for the 100 or so years of cycling history before "Mountain Bikes" were invented? Generally, modern bikes are much safer in the wet than any kind of bike of even 30 years ago, because of the improvement in braking -- better materials in both the brake blocks and the rims. Did you ever use roller-lever brakes on Westwood rims in the rain? Now, that required you to think ahead ;-)

Now, I'm happy to agree that a Mountain Bike, fitted with mudguards (a.k.a. fenders) and suitable tires, makes a fine wet weather machine, for commuting or otherwise. The same applies to a touring bike. The same applied to a road bike.

The difficulty may be getting mudguards and suitable tires onto performance-oriented bikes, which tend to have limited clearances. The original questioner was asking for advice on the tires issue.

Today, in the wet -- my first wet commute since I arrived in Bern, the weather here has really been exceptional -- I rode 28mm Continental Super sport tires. These tires have a 5mm wide smooth strip in the center, and an 8mm "crosshatched" area on either side. I run them a bit softer in the wet, to increase the contact area. And yes, I corner less aggressively in the wet. But no, I don't believe that I'm asking for trouble.

On my "rain bike", which is a former time-trial frame from about 1960, and so, I claim, qualified to be called a "road bike" I have used specialized "Commuter" and "Touring" tires, which have a bit more of a tread pattern. I haven't seen these for sale recently, though, and last winter I bought another pair of Continentals to use as replacements when the time comes.

Andrew Black

Lonnie Wormley calls his mountain bike in commuter trim an "Oregon Road Bike". And yes John, between the wider contact area and lower center of gravity, a mountain brick does make for a better inclement weather commuter. Not to mention that the tires are more robust and can deal with the crud you would see in the dry but can't in the wet. But still, there is the rush of a mountain downhill in winter, dropping below the fresh falling snow and into rain. Rooster tails flinging off the wheels, shoes soaking, ankles cold, forehead aching from the cold yet a level of exhilaration unmatched by any other riding conditions.

Don "and that’s just Larch Mountain in the spring" Bolton

Leftover from when I used to commute by bike (or otherwise), I have "fat but slick" tires on my mountain bike. The knobs on knobby tires provide less contact area than an equivalent-sized slick tire, especially when leaning/turning. I think mine are Avocet "City Slickers" or something like that, but they're really old now. They look halfway between bicycle and motorcycle tires -- i.e., you can lean way over and still have the same kind of tread & contact area. But I can't say how much difference it really made.

Jon Balgley

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
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