Can You Ride a Mountain Bike in the Rain?


I love riding my mountain bike through deep puddles, but I’m always hesitant to ride in the rain. It seems unsafe, but is it really? I decided to do some thorough digging, and I’ve found the answer.

It is possible to ride a mountain bike in the rain, but there are challenges. The rain will reduce your sight because of the droplets on your goggles. The front wheel of the MTB will spray water and mud upwards. Waterproof and warm clothes make the experience of cycling in the rain way better.

If you know how to prepare yourself for riding in the rain, you’ll definitely have a good experience! In the rest of the article, I’ll tell you about some of the challenges you’ll face and how to work your way around them. I’ll keep it to the point, so keep reading!

Challenges of Riding a Mountain Bike in the Rain

While you can definitely go out for a ride during the rain (even though it’ll take some courage and motivation), it’s not ideal. I always wear glasses because of my reduced eyesight, but they also help keep the mud out of my eyes. One major hurdle you’ll face is that you can see so much less if there are a hundred raindrops stuck to your glasses. Suppose it starts raining when I’m out for a ride. I always take them off. I’m not too fond of the poor vision because of the drops.

It’s a dilemma that you’ll face because the glasses also serve a purpose. They prevent mud and bugs from flying into your eyes. While the amount of bugs is low during rain, there’s a lot of mud spray coming from your front wheel. There’ll be a lot of puddles, and mountain bikes usually are not equipped with mudguards. Adding mudguards could be useful, and they definitely help reduce the endless stream of water and mud that comes flying off your front wheel.

Yet another challenge that you’ll face when it’s been raining for a long time are puddles. Especially unpredictably deep puddles. I’ve had to learn the hard way that some puddles that look shallow can easily swallow your entire front wheel. If you’re unlucky, you will end up flying over your steer because your bike suddenly disappeared from underneath you.

If you’re on new terrain it’s good practice to stick to the sides of puddles instead of taking them head-on.

You’ll also have to deal with cold temperatures if you’re not dressed for the occasion. Especially if you’re out for a long ride that will take you several hours. I’m not going to lie; I usually take pretty long breaks when I’m out for a ride. I enjoy taking in the environment, and it charges me up for the next stretch of singletrack. Therefore, make sure to dress properly!

Invest in warm clothes that are preferably waterproof. I often get cold in my hands and feet, so some gloves and good shoes will help. If you’re riding with clipless pedals, it’s unlikely that your summer shoes are suitable for colder temperatures. Consider buying warmer boots that still have the cleats mounted in the soles.

Different Mountain Bike Trails in the Rain

There are loads of different types of trails for mountain bikes. Not all of them are equally suitable for riding during the rain. Trails that aren’t really affected by rain are trails that are primarily composed of rocks. These rock trails will be a little more slippery, so be careful of that. But in general, it’s excellent to ride on rocky trails.

Other trails that are well-drained also are no problem to ride. I guess you can see where I’m going with this. As long as the trail isn’t really affected by the rain, your mountain bike will be no problem. However, trails that run through forests and other sand-based areas can be severely affected by the rain.

Sand trails can transform into mud trails. Although it’s a lot of fun to ride through mud, there is a good reason to think twice. Our mountain bikes can carve deep incisions into the trails. It’ll take a long time for these trails to recover because usually, all the water needs to drain and evaporate. Before researching this article, I’d never thought about this, but it makes a lot of sense.

In fact, mountain bikes can really damage trails by plowing through the mud. In hindsight, I’ve experienced this multiple times. Trails are affected by a heavy rainstorm for a few weeks.

If you have a choice, stick to trails that have good drainage. This will help keep the other muddy mountain bike trails intact.

Tips for Riding Your MTB in the Rain

It can be easy to use the rain as an excuse not to go for a ride. I’ve been there. But if you do push through, you’ll be so happy you went, even though this feeling will only come once you get back. I’ll give you some tips that have helped me go out there and ride my mountain bike even when it’s raining.

1. Stick to riding in the forest. If you’ve got options as to what route you’re going to cycle today: stick to trees. You’ll struggle with the rain way less. My glasses stay clear for longer when I’m doing single tracks sheltered by the leaves of trees.

2. Put important stuff in plastic bags. I usually have a small backpack when I’m going for a mountain bike ride. It’ll contain my keys, phone, wallet, and loads of granola bars. If it rains, the whole backpack will get wet because it’s very exposed. While it’s a simple tip, make sure to keep your stuff dry and protected by using plastic bags.

3. Consider adding mudguards. While I love getting super dirty when out riding, adding mudguards to battle the rain helps. When it’s not raining, only puddles and mud will cause your wheels to spray. If it rains, all paths are wet, and you’re constantly getting sprayed down.

Further tips that I can give you are rather obvious. Check the weather forecast before you, keep moving to stay warm, and take a long shower once you get back. In Dutch (I’m from the Netherlands) we have a saying that translates to “You are not made of sugar”. You’ll survive. But what about your bike? Is it alright for your bike to get wet?

Can Mountain Bikes Get Wet?

If you’ve taken good care of your bike, it will be no problem that it gets wet. Modern bikes are made of components that can withstand rain pretty well. Exceptions to this are steel frames, exposed steel cables, and other cheap components. Note that this is only the case for steel, not stainless steel.

Other delicate components of your bike are often protected with lube/oil that makes them water-resistant. Think of chains, bearings, and gears. Getting wet becomes a problem when the water has washed away all protection over a longer period of time. Therefore, it’s important to reapply all protective lube and oil to keep your bike in excellent shape.

Here in the Netherlands, we often see loads of rusty bikes after winter. Municipalities use salt to combat snow and ice. If you don’t clean your bike after cycling through this salty half-molten snow, it can really affect the state of your bike. So keep in mind that salt amplifies the effect of getting wet.

So it’s perfectly fine for a mountain bike to get wet, as long as you take good care of your bike. Stay on top of the maintenance because you’ll have to deal with way fewer problems.

In fact, I’d even recommend cleaning your mountain bike by hosing it down after every ride. I sometimes fail to do so, especially in summer when the bike does not look dirty AT ALL. However, after a ride in the rain through a lot of mud, I’ll definitely clean my bike thoroughly.

Bart

I've been riding mountain bikes for about 5 years now. The rides I enjoy most are just after lots of rain.