Taking care of your bike in the Seattle rain

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Hi,

I'm new to biking in the city and have mostly gone on a long rides on trails. Coming from California, I'm also very new to the weather conditions while biking in Seattle. The bike I have with me is a Specialized road bike that I love and took a lot of time to save up for. I'm a little hesitant to ride it in the Seattle rain since I've read a lot about bikes getting trashed in the rain.

Are there ways to take care of bikes through this weather?

Or am I left with no other option than to buy another commuter bike for commuting in Seattle?

Thanks!

 

Start with a set of full length fenders (and buddy flaps). Those will keep most of the water and grime off of you and your bike (and your companions). More frequent chain lubrication, too. Your brake pads will wear down more quickly, and wet roads mean more flats. That's just the way it is. If you can, rinse off your bike and wipe off the grit after every ride. (Water in a waterbottle will do in a pinch; keep a rag handy.) But you don't have to give up your trusty ride, just a bit more TLC in winter. 

Thanks Jeffrey! That's helpful, I don't have a place to rinse my bike off at work and the waterbottle would help accomplish that-- that's a great idea! Also, would the shifters and derailleurs be ok with the rain? On a side note, does the waterproof panniers serve other purposes apart from being a bag for your gear?

This is very helpful, thanks a bunch!

The fenders will keep a lot of the grit and grime off your drivetrain, but you will go through chains fairly frequently. Keep a bottle of chain lube and a rag at work. Wipe down the chain and then apply some lube. And check your chain for wear at least once a month.

During the rain season, I liberally and regularly apply Boeshield T-9 to my gear. Any metal parts I can see gets an occasional coat, and my chain gets a treatment every morning I look at it and doesn't appear clean and shiny.

I know this is a bit over-the-top, but I have a rugged external USB battery sandwiched between by saddle bag and saddle. This provides all the juice I need to use my Android device for navigation and recording my ride (as opposied to Garmin garbage), even for multi-day rides. It also drives a USB fan that I velcro on my frame and point at my chain and derailleur when I hit the bike cage when commuting in the rain. The idea is to get the water off the metal ASAP. The battery will drive the fan all day, but I still run to the bike cage to turn it off after a couple of hours. I'm considering splicing the USB cable and routing through a spring loaded timer. That's a project for the off-season.

Most modern steel frames won't rust because they have proper drainage and they're often treated with a rust inhibitor. Presuming the frame comes from a reputable builder.

When I was a daily bicycle commuter, I'd strip and relube the drivetrain weekly. Good bicycle hygiene goes a long way.

Jeffery's suggestion of full fenders is important. You develop a real love/hate relationship with fenders, as you come to realize how important they are in keeping your feet dry and your bike in good shape - but they end up rubbing something all the time. I've gone as far as grabbing a pair of utility sheers and just slicing off a quarter of an inch strip of plastic off of the damn fender and filing it down to be nice and smooth. It was easier than trying to adjust the thing one more time to keep it off of the tire. 

As Trevor suggests, you'll also want to inspect and replace chains more frequently than you're used to. Do that, and then you won't have to replace the cogs as often. 

You'll still probably end up replacing components more than you'd like. I was coming around the corner of 2nd Ave Extention and Jackson downtown at rush hour one evening. I heard BANG! and hit the ground and thought, "Oh my god, I've been shot!". But it was just my rim blowing out. Good thing I wasn't immediately run over. But things like rims wearing down, brakes wearing down, your cogs and chains wearing down - it just happens when you ride regularly in the rain. 

Depending on your bicycle, you may find that it doesn't have braze-ons for fenders or your rack for your bike bag or panniers. You can use those dang "race-day" clip-on fenders, and put your stuff in a back-pack for now. In the long run, you may actually prefer to have a more utilitarian bicycle for commuting and errands, and save your light and fun road bike for joy riding.

 

Ananthi, during the rainy times, I don't get too obsessive with the bike cleaning, once a week during rainy weather is fine for a thorough scrubbing and lubing. Remember not to use a hose at pressure as it will get water inside everything. Your cables and shifters will be fine; you should replace the cables and housing about once a year.  Definitely get full fenders and a waterproof pannier.  The pannier comes in handy for shopping on the way home or at the Ballard Farmer's Market too. Make sure to wear a bright rain jacket and have powerful lights front and rear, and some side lights too.  I like to wear goretex rain pants and toe covers on the shoes. My Komperdell neoprene cross country ski gloves keep my hands warm and dry all winter.  A high visibility helmet cover keeps the rain out of the helmet, and I put a blinky light on the back of my helmet.

Good luck!