Don’t Get Caught Biking in the Rain

Screenshot of weather radar app where there are rain clouds on all sides of my location but not on my exact location.
It may be raining, but not on me!

You wake up in the morning and look out the window. It’s gloomy, it’s cloudy, it’s raining. Maybe today isn’t a biking day. You can just take the bus, or maybe even an Uber if it’s raining hard enough. You get ready and look for an Uber. The rideshare apps are surging from all that rainy day demand, so you head to the bus with your umbrella, but as soon as you go outside the raining stops. By the time you get to work, you realize it hasn’t rained since you left the house. You endured a crowded bus for nothing, you should’ve ridden your bicycle!

Fortunately, there is a lot of information out there to help you avoid a situation like this. With the right apps, you can find out the past, present, and future of the rain wherever you are, and you won’t get caught in the rain! It feels great to bike on a rainy day and not get wet.

My technique involves using two apps: a weather app that gives you hour-by-hour rain prediction percentages, and a radar app. There also an app called Epic Ride Weather (iOS app store, Google play store) that has a small fee, but I have some friends swear by it for fantastic forecasts of not just rain, but also wind and microclimate temperatures.

If you’re definitely gonna get rained on, check out my Ultimate Rain Gear Guide for Biking in the Rain, my fender choosing guide, and my Cardboard Fenders posts for all the gear you need to bike in the rain anyway!

The Hour-by-Hour Weather App

Screenshot of the iOS Apple weather app with percentages of rain increasing from 40% to 100% over a few hours.
A normal weather app with hour-by-hour rain predictions. Pay attention more to the trend of the percentages rather than the absolute numbers.

If it’s a rainy day, I’ll open up the weather app to see the estimations. You can usually tell if the rain is building up or dying down depending on percentages going up or down over time (pretty straightforward there). If there’s a chance of rain and I want more detail, then I’ll use the radar app. Even a relatively high percentage of rain may not be exactly where you’re riding.

The Radar App

The radar app shows you exactly where it’s raining right now and for the past few hours. My favorite app for this is Storm Radar with NOAA Weather. It used to be free, but they started to put future prediction behind a paywall, so to really get the features you need to not get caught in the rain you do have to pay for it. Download it for iOS. It used to have an Android version, but it seems to no longer exist, so the next best thing is the Weather Channel App. Just make sure whatever app you use has some future predictability. Many other radar apps charge you for premium to get that future data.

I open up the radar app and look at where the rain was the last hour or two. You can intuitively see the rain moving, and make some quick assumptions about where it will or will not be in the next hour. This app gives you a future prediction as well (if you’re on non-HD radar). If you zoom in, you can get fairly precise information on whether or not it’s raining on your commute route.

You can see here that a storm is coming from the north, and will be here soon, but not yet! You can also see how the precision of the radar goes down once we move from past data to future estimates, so take that into account when looking at radar.

Since adopting these techniques, there have been plenty of times when the chance of rain is 60%, but the radar is showing that the rain either won’t affect my route, or will pass over quickly. This allows me to bike despite the gloomy forecast. Don’t forget your fenders, and if it’s especially gloomy, make sure to turn on your lights.

With these tools, you can conquer a rainy day and bike around the rain. Or, at least you’ll see that the storm completely engulfs your city and is just getting worse. Then it’s time to break out the rain gear. 😁

Addendum: If you want to know more about customizing your radar app, here are some images of the radar settings I use. The app has been updated since I recorded this, so HD Radar might be better now with it’s future prediction.

The app has been upgraded since I recorded this. The HD radar seems to have future prediction too now, so is probably better!

Click the settings button in the upper left corner to reach this screen.

If you liked this, you’ll probably enjoy my Ultimate Rain Gear Guide for Biking in the Rain and choosing the perfect bicycle fender.

Happy biking and stay dry!

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