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 smartphone apps, you can find out the past, present, and future of the rain wherever you are, and bike on a rainy day without getting wet.
My technique involves using two apps: a weather app that gives you hour-by-hour rain prediction percentages, and a radar app.
The Hour-by-Hour Weather App
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.
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’s free and has good information without too much ad intrusion. Download it for iOS or Android.
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.
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. I can’t tell much of a difference between normal radar and HD radar, but normal radar has a future estimation (whereas the HD radar does not). Update: It seems like the HD radar is now gated behind a paywall as well.
If you liked this, you’ll probably enjoy my Ultimate Rain Gear Guide for Biking in the Rain.
Happy biking and stay dry!