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Can an Electric Bike Get Wet? Will It Still Work?

An electric bike with green wheels.

People are waking up to an abused environment and its needs. Hybrid cars, electric cars, electric bikes, scooters, and the old standby of taking the bus (many of which are green) are giving people green choices in transportation. What about rain, though? Will your electric bike work if it gets wet?

Of course it will. On the other hand, water and electricity don’t play well together. How can we expect electronics to travel in the rain and not short out? These things are too expensive to take a chance on. So how can we ride e-bikes in the rain? Let’s take a look at electric bike components so we can see if they’ll withstand a little water.

Are Electric Bikes Waterproof?

A man standing on his bike with his wet meter.

People seeking e-bikes may ask if the bike will run in the rain, but they actually want to know if it’s waterproof. Not many people understand the difference between water resistant and waterproof. So to answer the question, we turn to the IP chart. 

What Waterproof Means

The IP rating on a product is the numbers detailing solid and water ingress protection. The six in the IP number for electric bikes describes the protection against dust and dirt getting into the housing of the motor and battery. The second number describes the protection level of the housing against water ingress. 

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Let’s say your e-bike has an IP rating of 65. Ratings from IP 65 to IP 68 are generally considered “waterproof.” Before you pop the cork on the champagne, that word means “up to and including total submersion beneath three feet of water for more than 30 minutes,” says Polycase.

The flip-side of that is leaving your electric bike out in the rain all day. The bike might not be totally submerged, but the insistent, probing rain would find its way into the housing and destroy the motor and battery. 

What Water Resistant Means

Since you’re not going to take your electric bike muddin’ as you would a Jeep, the waterproof factor of the bike doesn’t matter. You’re not going to ride your bike down the middle of a river, nor are you going to ride in rain so bad it soaks you to the skin instantly. So, just what is water-resistant in an electric bike?

Well, let’s examine another electronic gadget none of us are ever without. Your smartphone can’t even be taken apart to remove the battery like previous phones could. That capability is what keeps water out of your phone when you’re around dishwater and drop your phone in it. 

The kicker is that if the phone stayed in the dishwater long enough, it would die altogether. If you had taken your phone out of the water, dried it off, and jammed it in a bowl of uncooked rice or grits, the food would have absorbed the water. My daughter has a love/hate relationship with phones in the vicinity of water. That’s how I know about the grits (I didn’t have rice at the time.)

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This is the practical meaning of water resistant. Your e-bike and its electronics are going to get wet in the rain. It won’t die, however, unless you leave it out in the rain long enough for the water to soak through the protective casing around the motor and battery. 

So I Can Ride My Electric Bike In The Rain?

Yes. It’s a sturdy means of transportation, so it won’t disintegrate once a little raindrop hits it. You should still call your e-bike’s manufacturer to make sure your model is made for riding in the rain. Not all electric bikes are made to survive the rain. Additionally, not all models can withstand a certain amount of water.

Speaking of models, some manufacturers make electric bikes specifically for bad weather. The models include fat tires, mudguards, tires that don’t puncture easily, high performance disc brakes, among lots of features. A water resistant motor and battery aren’t the only things of interest in riding an e-bike in the rain. Do your research, and get the best quality e-bike you can.

Tips And Hacks For Riding An Electric Bike In The Rain

While the motor and battery might be in a water-resistant housing, the rest of the bike isn’t. Moisture causes rusting of many components of the bike. The first thing to do when you bring in your e-bike from the rain is to drain it. Take the seat and seat post off the bike. Turn the bike upside down. Let it drain for at least four hours before putting back the seat and seat post.

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1. Clean Your E-Bike

A man with his gloves cleaning his bike.

Rain instantly turns everyday crud into muddy everyday crud. Mud, leaves, trash, and other things get tangled in your wheels, chain, and other parts of your electric bike. This isn’t only unsightly, it causes problems with the bearings as well as causes rust. You have to clean your bike when you get inside out of the rain.

The best way to do it is with a bucket of warm, soapy water and a soft cloth or small brush. Some folks say not to hose it down due to the pressure on the bearings. Others say damaging pressure doesn’t come from a simple water hose. I’d leave that one up to the e-bike owner. The point of the exercise is to prevent corrosion, so clean that bike!

2. Lube The Chain And Cables

A close up picture a mountain bike gear.

The chain is on the outside of the bike and catches a lot of crud. Water, mud, and road debris will cause wear on the chain. After you’ve drained your bike, lube the chain with a good quality lubricant. This will prevent a rusty chain. 

Turn the bike upside down so you can work the wheels freely. Now backpedal the wheel at the same time you’re dripping lubricant onto every link on the chain. Give it a couple minutes for the chain to be completely saturated. Now work the wheels while holding a cloth against the chain to catch the excess lubricant. You’re done.

You’ll lubricate the cables much the same way. Hold the lubricant where the cables enter the housing. Drip the lubricant as you’re working the brakes and gears. Give it a couple minutes, then work the gears and brakes to allow the lubricant to get all the way into the housing along the cables. You’re done.

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3.  Clean The Rims

Rain splashes on the rims as well as the brake pads. The crud on the road is like sanding the rims and brake pads. Pay special attention to them when you’re cleaning your bike. If you don’t, the brakes won’t work efficiently and will wear out quickly.

4. Use Mudguards

A road bike with a mudguard.

If your motor and battery are mounted on the frame of the bike (some are beneath the seat while others are mounted on the forward post,) you might want to consider mudguards. They prevent water and mud from splashing onto you and the bike, thus preventing rust and crud from getting onto the bike.

5. Decrease Tire Pressure

It’s just common sense that the more surface there is on the road, the more grip it has. A tire with high air pressure is thinner on the ground. Let some of the air out of the electric bike tires so there’s more surface on the road. The more surface, the fewer accidents will occur. 

While we’re on that subject, take extra time to brake, just as you would in a car on a slick surface. Keep an eye out for slick or black spots, and take your time braking. You have less protection around you on a bike than in a car, so being extra careful could save you a bad spill.

6. Use A Bike Cover

A parked motorbike with gray cover.

You see them on motorcycles, classic cars, and even on recreational vehicles or RVs. Covers protect vehicles from rain, snow, and other incarnations of bad weather. If you have access to covered parking, then, by all means, take advantage of it. If you don’t, then a bike cover will protect your electric bike from the rain.

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7. Keep Your Bike Indoors

It’s a sad fact that electric bikes, either bought new or done by conversion, are expensive. You put your equally expensive car in the garage at home, so why not protect your electric bike the same way? You can store it in the garage, the basement, or in the outdoor kitchen (as long as it’s a covered space.)