Lots of people appreciate e-bikes because they’re fast, efficient, robust and versatile. And, clearly, electric bikes are great in sunny or warm weather. But what happens when it rains—can an e-bike get wet? This question has been pondered by many an e-bike owner. Let’s answer it below.
Can an e-bike get wet? The 3 facts no one will tell you
First off, many people have the notion that anything electric should not be used in rain or exposed to water, and they are right to think so. However, an electric bike can survive in the rain. They can be ridden in almost all of the conditions that traditional bikes are. Some e-bikes even have coverings that protect their electronic parts against splashing water. This is enough to protect your e-bike should you find yourself riding in a light drizzle.
That being said, don’t go riding your e-bike headlong into a lake or pool. Your e-bike may be water resistant to a degree, but it’s certainly not waterproof. There is a difference.
Secondly, how do you determine the extent of your bike’s water resistance? Well, let me introduce you to something called an IP rating.
For electrical casings and mechanical enclosures, there is a quality standard called an IP code (International Protection code). This code rates and classifies the degree of protection products have against intrusion. It’s not just for water: IP ratings also cover dust and accidental contact. This global standard is employed in all sorts of products including phones, watches, etc. It’s point is to give you a more detailed sense of what vague terms like “waterproof” or “water resistant” mean by specifying what exactly the product is protected against.
To make sure that your e-bike can survive a sudden downpour, always check its IP rating before a purchase. This should be located on the packaging or in the user manual, and the manufacturer should make it available should you want to look at it before making a purchase. In the case that a manufacturer does not have an IP rating anywhere on their product packaging, listing or user manual, steer clear of their products. That IP rating is your first and best defense against poorly constructed products.
An important note: some manufacturers claim that their e-bikes can be ridden in the rain but that they do not recommend it. All these are simple facts to take into account before purchase. If you know it rains quite a bit in your area, invest in a bike that the manufacture 100% guarantees could be ridden in the rain. It will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
Thirdly, the drive systems on e-bikes, which typically consist of the battery, controller, motor, and display, are susceptible to water damage if not properly sealed or built. Manufacturers are aware of this, so most electric bike drive systems are built to maximize protection against rain.
With an IP64 and above, your bike can withstand light and heavy showers. But that does not mean you do not have to cover it if it’s sitting outside in the rain. In fact, the best storage place for your bike is indoors.
Furthermore, you cannot carry an e-bike on a car bike rack while driving down the freeway in the rain. At those speeds, the impact of the raindrops increases such that they can get into the electronics and damage them. You will have to cover the bike to protect it against the rain.
Tips for Riding an E-Bike in the Rain
As mentioned before, electric bikes are resistant to rain to a degree. Your battery will not fail because of rain alone. However, you wouldn’t want debris and water from the road all over you and your bike. If you know you are going to be riding in areas prone to rain, you will want to get fenders for the bike. They will keep the rain off of you and the bike.
With water in your eyes and wet roads, riding in the rain can be a challenge. You can make it a little less of a strain by waterproofing yourself. Here are a few recommendations. Get a biking cap with enough of a brim to keep the rain out of your eyes, but one that’s also small enough to fit under your helmet. Next, you will want gloves. Get quality water resistant gloves that can keep your hands dry and warm. Also, get a rain resistant coat or jacket. It should be able to keep you warm without making you sweat as you ride. You could even add waterproof shoes and pants to make the ride more comfortable.
Waterproof Your Stuff
Let’s imagine there were a special book sale at your local library and you went to get yourself a couple of books. On the ride back home after getting yourself a pleasant bounty, it starts to rain. Of course, you will want to keep your books dry, even as you may be getting soaked. For many e-bike riders, the best option would be using waterproofed backpacks or shoulder bags. It’s even better to have a couple of ziplock bags or plastic bags on hand to double-protect your stuff. They can keep your books, phone, or even a small laptop dry.
Waterproof the Electrical Parts
You can also cover the electrical parts of your bike with plastic bags. This applies to the motor, battery, controls, and display. Another option is removing the battery and storing it in a carrier. In that case, however, you will have to peddle manually until the rain lets up.
When riding your electric bike in a busy city, you will be sharing the road with many other users, trucks, cars, buses, vans and cyclists. Each traveler will be dealing with the challenges of riding or driving in the rain. One of the most prominent challenges is visibility. Having lights will help a lot. As a matter of fact, in many places it is mandatory to have lights on electric bikes.
Generally speaking, you will want a red taillight that can be seen at least 500 or 600 feet away. You will also want a front-facing light—preferably a white one—that is bright enough to be seen from about 500 feet away. In addition, consider a blinking light on your rack, helmet or handlebars.
Lower Tire Pressure
Many experienced bikers understand that adjusting tire pressure on wet surfaces can improve traction. The idea is that lower tire pressure will allow more of the tire’s surface to make contact with the road, thus giving your bike better purchase and grip.
Riding in the rain is often invigorating, whether that’s because of the cool drops coming down on you, or maybe because you instinctively understand that riding faster and harder keeps you warmer! But, in either case, try to resist the urge to go too fast.
With somewhat impaired visibility and a wet road, you may not have as much time to react in the case that something goes wrong. This is, in fact, even more true on an electric bike than on a traditional one, since electric bikes are capable of maintaining a higher average speed in all kinds of weather due to their power and pedal assist. So, the tip is: ride more carefully and a little slower in rain. Despite the urge to get out of it as quickly as you can, riding slower is safer.
Closely related to slowing down throughout your ride is taking a little more time to brake when riding in the rain. It is always preferable to brake gradually. The additional power e-bikes provide requires a better braking system—and this is a distinct advantage of electric bikes over traditional bikes, especially in rain. That’s because most e-bikes have disk brakes rather than rim brakes, which by definition perform better in wet conditions. In addition to your powerful braking system, employ caution, and early braking. It will help keep you safe in a heavy downpour.
Do Not Lean Into Corners
Electric bikes are quite fun to ride. And that extra power can make you feel like a pro when you are hitting the corners hard. But when riding in wet conditions leave those extra tricks out of your mind. Instead, brake gradually as you ride towards corners. Take note to choose lines that let you turn without leaning and keep as much of the tires’ surface on the road as possible.
Watch out for Slippery Spots
Often, when it rains, previously absorbed gasoline and oil come to the surface of the road. This makes familiar roads suddenly unpredictable. So watch out for slippery spots. Generally, avoid standing water or puddles. These could be filled with fuel or slippery lubricants. Also, avoid lane markers: they’re usually more slippery when it rains. Cover and metal grates are like ice, so you definitely want to avoid those. Lastly, watch out for debris, as something as simple as a leaf can become a sliding hazard when riding in rain.
Clean Your Electric Bike
Be sure to dry and clean your electric bike after riding in the rain. An e-bike is a very efficient form of transport, whether you use it for basic riding, serious commuting or recreation. It does need maintenance though. If you want to increase its longevity, take a few minutes to dry it off and clean it after a wet ride.
In conclusion, depending on the build of your e-bike, it can either be water resistant or very much subject to water damage. Know your IP rating, be aware of your manufacturer’s recommendations for use in wet conditions, and follow the above tips and tricks to keep yourself safe and comfortable—and your bike in good working condition—for those rainy-day rides.