It’s pouring rain outside while I write this, in the Pacific Northwest, where it does tend to rain quite a bit certain times of year. I’m wondering can electric bikes be used in the rain? My first thought is that electronic equipment and water don’t mix too well, but I dug a little deeper for the answer.
You can, in fact, use an electric bike in the rain. Most ebikes these days are made with water-resistant sealed components that prevent the general spray and rain from getting into the battery, motor, and controller. These electric bike parts aren’t waterproof but are designed to take a typical ride in the rain.
However, not all ebikes are made the same with each ebike and component having different quality levels and tolerance for exposure to moisture. There are a few caveats when the rain gets heavier and the puddles get deeper and a few useful tips that I go into below.
Related to this post, I’ve put together an article on Riding an Ebike in Winter.
How Wet is too wet – Water Resistance Ratings
This is where the caveat and common sense come into play. While riding in the rain is definitely possible there are limits to some of the housings around components on an ebike. Each electric bike will have a specific rating(s) for how water resistant they are, from no specific, tested protection (bad or just not proven) to protection from low-pressure water jets (good) or even submersion (best). These levels of protection can be rated based on the Ingress Protection code (IP code standard – ANSI/IEC 60529).
A summary of the typical IP codes can be found below, with the code rating in the form of IP## where the first digit indicates the level of dust protection (from 0 to 6) and the second digit indicates the level of liquid protection (from 0 to 8). Typical IP6# ratings range from IP60 – protected from dust by not liquids, to IP68 – which is completely dustproof and waterproof to 2m depth for 30 mins (like the iPhone 11 for example).
Electric bikes fall somewhere in between these two levels of protection. Some examples of current ebike components where I’ve found IP ratings:
- The Bafang Max motor, controller and display are all IP65, which means they’re completely dustproof and heavily water-resistant.
- Bafang Motors and other Bafang Components are generally rated IP65
- Bafang Batteries are generally rated IP66
- The Bosch Active Line and Performance Line motors are rated to IP54 – dust and splash water protected. The following brands use Bosch components in some or all of their bikes.
- Shimano Steps Battery – IPX5 (X, in this case, means it hasn’t been tested for dust / foreign object protection)
To get an idea of the level of water resistance of your electric bike check your specific ebike manufacturers manual for the IP rating.
IP Rating Table Guide
|1st #||Dust / Foreign Object Protection||2nd #||Water Protection|
|0 or X||Not evaluated||0 or X||Not evaluated|
|1||≥50.0 mm diameter object||1||Dripping water: vertical|
|2||≥12.5 mm diameter object||2||Dripping water: 15° tilt|
|3||≥2.5 mm diameter object||3||Spraying water|
|4||≥1.0 mm diameter object||4||Splashing water|
|6||Dust-tight||6||Powerful jetting water|
What if I leave my electric bike out in the rain
Leaving an ebike out in the rain, while not ideal, should be ok for a short time. However, you shouldn’t make it a regular habit since prolonged exposure to rain and moisture will add more wear and tear on other components like the drive train, chain, and gears.
Try to park your bike under cover or bike locker when raining. Or you could bring your own cover – I found this YardStash cover on Amazon. It folds into a provided pouch you can strap on a rear rack. It also has a hole in the cover with a grommet for a locking cable to secure the cover with the bike.
If commuting by ebike regularly (rain or shine), many buildings offer bike locker storage within their parking garages, or you may be able to get access to one at a neighboring building. This has the advantage of keeping your electric bike dry and more secure since most bike storage areas will have keycard access limiting access to only those who need it.
What about washing an electric bike?
Like riding in the rain, washing an electric bike will expose it to water. It is recommended that the battery be removed before washing an ebike and that high-pressure spray NOT be used – only light rinsing. High-pressure water is harder to keep out of components than a normal garden hose.
I haven’t put a video together myself, but if you’re into something more visual, Giant has put together a brief video about washing an ebike here.
Key Tips about washing your electric bike:
- Remove the battery
- Rinse down the bike, scrub bike with Soapy water, rinse again
- Bounce it on the tires to remove excess water, wipe down and fully dry bike
- Reapply chain lube
Keeping yourself dry while riding in the rain
Beyond the obvious rain jacket (make sure it’s also high-vis), there are a few specific pieces of gear that will help you and your stuff keep dry while riding in the rain
- Fenders are a must while riding a lot in the rain. Not only can they keep the spray from a wet road off you they can also keep a lot of the spray off the battery and motor.
- Helmet cover – keep your lid protected and dry at the same time!
- Waterproof Panniers – A great way to carry your stuff while biking, saving you from carrying a backpack or shoulder bag.
- In a pinch a Ziplock bag will do for keeping items dry if you get caught in a downpour with no waterproof bags.
What should I do after I ride in the rain
There are a few things you should do after you ride your electric bike in the rain to keep the bike and components in good working order and so you’re ready for the next ride:
- Store your ebike in a dry place so that any parts of the bike that did get wet have a chance to dry out
- Rinse off any muddy or grimy bits of the bike, or your gear. It’s easier to do this when everything is still wet than when it’s dried and caked on.
- Wipe down wet surfaces on the bike
- Change out of your wet clothes – for your comfort and your health!
If there’s a chance that you’ve been riding in salty conditions then it’s a good idea to give your electric bike a quick rinse with clean water, wipe it down, and allow it to dry indoors or in a covered area. You can encounter salty conditions due to riding in colder regions where salt and sand are used during winter, but where rain is common too.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, they routinely use de-icer on the roads even though it rarely snows. Leaving salty spray on your bike can be very corrosive and can really reduce the lifespan of some components.
Is it safe to ride an electric bike in the rain?
We’ve covered that your ebike isn’t likely to catch fire or give you a shock when dealing with reputable components with good IP ratings. But there are a few other hazards that come with riding in the rain. You can improve your safety on the road with proper caution and attention.
When it’s raining, it will generally be darker and visibility reduced. That means cars and other cyclists will have more trouble seeing you and you seeing them. So wear high visibility gear, and turn on your front and backlights – you do have lights on your electric bike right?
Rainy and wet conditions also mean longer braking time. So give yourself lots of room and don’t max out your speed. Wet leaves, metal, or wood can also wreak havoc for cyclists, so be aware of these “slippery when wet” surfaces.
Due to the reduced traction in the rain, some cyclists will reduce the pressure in their tires (by about 10 PSI) to improve traction under these less than ideal conditions.
Overall, riding your electric bike in the rain is quite possible and can expand the number of times you’re able to use your bike if you don’t let a little rain get in the way. With some general common sense, a bit of knowledge about your specific bike and IP ratings, and a wardrobe full of rain gear, you’ll be ready to tackle the next light shower or even the next downpour.