Last Sunday in (usually) sunny San Diego, I raced the SheRox Triathlon, compliments of race sponsor Toyota. Unfortunately, the sun did not make an appearance on race day, but heavy mist did. While a light drizzle is inconsequential during a swim and can be downright refreshing on a run, wet roads are not the safest for slick-tired road bikes. Rainy conditions do not mean you need to abandon biking altogether, but you do need to be a bit more cautious on the road whether you're cycling to work or tackling a tri.
Here are four ways to play it safe on two wheels when the roads are wet.
Lower your tire pressure: When riding on wet, slick roads, you want to decrease the pressure in your tires. Road bike tires are usually pumped to just below 120 psi (pounds per square inch), but lowering the air pressure will allow the tire to make more contact with the road, which gives you more traction on wet surfaces. Professional triathlete Sarah Haskins suggests decreasing your tire pressure to as low as 100 psi. The Liv/giant support team suggests going five to 10 psi under normal pressure.
Feather your brakes: When the roads are wet, hitting your brakes hard is a bad idea and can lead to skidding out. Use the technique know as feathering, where you lightly and quickly apply the brakes repeatedly to slow down. It is especially important to slow down well before curves and turns when the pavement is slick to prevent the bike from sliding out from under you, so feather early and often.
Avoid the paint: The support team from Liv/giant pointed out that anything painted on the pavement, from traffic lines to turn arrows, will be extra slick when wet. The bright paint should be easy to spot and equally easy to avoid. Hitting your brakes on the paint is also not recommended.
Reduce your speed: This tip might be obvious, but for all the speed demons out there, here is a reminder: when the roads are wet, no matter if you're commuting to work or competing in a race, taking your ride a bit slower is much safer. It can be a difficult to back off your intended race pace, but in a tri, just hit the running section a little harder to make up for your slightly cautious cycling.