Tag Archives: rain bike

If you ride in the rain, check your rims!!!

To check your rim for wear, hold a straight edge across it (in this photo, a tire lever was used) and see how much it's worn away in the center. Many/most modern rims will have wear indicators you can look for; they're often little indented dots which will disappear (because they've worn down) when the rim is too thin to be safe.
We’re seeing a lot of bikes coming in the door with rim sidewalls so worn that tire pressure is soon going to explode the rim apart. I’ve actually been on rides where this has happened to people, and it’s not a good thing; you can suddenly have your wheel completely lock up because it will no longer go through the brake.

How does this happen? If you ride in the rain, you pick up a mixture of road crud, water and ground brake pad that is as abrasive as sandpaper, so every time your brake is applied, you’re wet-sanding the rim. Gradually the rim becomes thinner, and eventually gets to the point that it’s no longer strong enough to hold the tire in place. That’s when it literally explodes.

It’s hard to remember what a normal winter is like; we haven’t seen rain in so long we’ve forgotten about last year! If you did ride your bike anytime between November and late May last year, chances are you rode in the rain. Many people who normally wouldn’t ride in the rain eventually gave up and did ride, because the dry days were few & far between. As a result, we’re seeing a lot more seriously rain-damaged bikes (not just wheels, but chains, cassettes and cranks too) than we’d normally expect.

We need to be really clear about the fact that riding in the rain drastically accelerates wear & tear on your bike, especially high-performance bikes. One mile in the rain damages your bike at least as much as 100 miles on a normal (dry) day. Sometimes even worse. For those of us who ride no-matter-what, the smart thing is to have your “nice” bike and a separate “rain” bike. The “rain” bike is usually the bike you rode before buying your new cool lighter/faster/smoother machine, a bike that’s not meant to be pretty but needs to be basically functional. You’re going to install fenders on it, wider tires (yes, they slow you down but you need more traction in the wet) and cheap wheels, because the rims are going to wear out pretty fast. Sorry, there’s nothing you can do about that, short of using a bike with disc brakes. You’re going to be replacing chains and cassettes and chainrings far more often, due to wear, than on your nice bike… the but price of the parts will be far cheaper, because you’re not worried about weight, you’re worried about stuff that works.

But for now, go check the rims on your bike and see what they look like. You don’t want your wheel to explode on you. For what it’s worth, I go through a set of rims every 18 months or so on my rain bike. Desending from Skyline in the rain does that; and if you want to accelerate the process absurdly, descend Kings Mtn in the rain. Why Kings Mtn? Because there’s no point where you can let off the brakes. You’re grinding away the rim the entire descent. On 84, the more-gradual grade means you use the brakes less and wind resistance helps to slow you down as well. How bad is Kings? I’ve gone through a set of brake shoes on just one descent.

Do not fear the yellow blob. Embrace it!

By sheer will I am going to make it stop raining. Last night, I told myself this is it. This morning’s ride was going to be the last rainfall on one of my ride days until early November. That big yellow blob, supposedly representing high winds & heavy rain in the forecast? Bring it on. One last time. After the ride, I told myself, my rain bike goes back downstairs, into the garage, where it will sit, lonely, for the next six months.

Well, that was the plan, and yes, I did ride this morning, but in the absence of photographic proof (cameras don’t do well in the rain) and nobody else showing up, how can you really be sure that I didn’t decide to stay home? I actually thought that one through ahead of time, and turns out, there’s an app for that! LocUpdater works on iPhones running IOS4 (the latest version of its operating system) and can be set to send emails to addresses of your choosing, at either 5, 15, 30 or 60 minute intervals. Here’s the string of emails from this-morning’s ride (emails at 8:35 & 8:50 are missing; those two were up on Skyline and possibly not in range of a cell tower at the time the message tried ot transmit).

Do not fear the yellow blob. Embrace it! If you dress appropriately and have a suitable bike, rain & wind don't have to keep you off the bike! I am still trying to find adequate waterproof gloves though.

Speed 7.93 Mi/h
Altitude 839.12 ft
3/24/11 8:04 AM
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=37.4364,-122.292
Speed 7.90 Mi/h
Altitude 1469.29 ft
3/24/11 8:19 AM
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=37.427,-122.299

Speed 15.86 Mi/h
Altitude 405.53 ft
3/24/11 9:04 AM
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=37.4307,-122.276 
Speed 34.69 Mi/h
Altitude 569.94 ft
3/24/11 9:19 AM
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=37.4597,-122.263 

Looks to me like my "last ride in the rain" might have done the trick! Starting Sunday, no more rain in the forecast. You can thank me by sending a donation to my favorite charity, the Becky & Kevin College Fund... :-)

That’s my proof that I was out there. That and my lone witness, the woman we see out there jogging, as consistent about being there and schedule as we are (the woman sometimes referred to as “articulated lady” because of the interesting way her body moves, as if she’s put together with hinges).

So is my bike in the garage now? Not yet. It has to do some serious draining first. It would be interesting to weigh my bike and clothing before the ride, and after. But I feel like I did my part to stop the rain. My next ride is Sunday, then Tuesday, then Thursday. So, did it work? Check this morning’s forecast.

Of course, if the rain does stop, I’ll have to wait another year to come up with a “waterproof” glove that actually works. The Gore gloves I used this morning? Near total failure. Cuffs way too short to fit under rain jacket, so water came down into the fingers and stayed there. Thank goodness I brought along an extra pair of gloves to change into up on Skyline!