Can electric bikes get wet?
Electricity and water don't play well together, but bikes are ridden outside. So can electric bikes get wet or should you shy away from the rain?
The more popular electric bikes become, the more people have questions about them. Like any bike, or new technology, there's a learning curve. One of the more obvious questions is, "can my electric bike get wet?"
It's a question that makes a lot of sense. The first word in the name is electric and we all know electricity and water don't mix. Fortunately the industry has had plenty of practice. Cars are a good example of how electronics and water manage to co-exist in transportation.
Beyond cars, modern sports electronics are a great place to look for an answer to the question. Think about headphones, many of them are able to withstand a torrent of sweat as you push yourself to the limit in a Zwift race. There's also cycling computers. The Hammerhead Karoo 2, for example, has an uncovered charging port but does fine in the worst weather you can handle riding in.
Without keeping you hanging, the answer is yes. Electric bikes can get wet, but let's talk about some of the details.
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One of the things that makes the question of "can electric bikes get wet" somewhat confusing is the guidance from manufacturers. To most people the question is 'are they waterproof' and they go looking for that answer. Electric bike manufacturers say, very clearly, that they are not waterproof. However, just because they are not waterproof, that doesn't mean you can't get your electric bike wet. What it means is that you can't ride your electric bike underwater. More importantly, it means you aren't asking the right question.
The question that needs asking is, "how wet can my bike get?"
That's a question that should be easy to answer by checking with the company who makes the bike you have. They should have an IP rating that specifies the limits of water ingress you can expect. Just as an example, many electric bikes carry an IP-65 rating. That means that they are dust tight and protected from low pressure water from any direction.
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Do’s and Don'ts
With an idea of what to ask and what to expect, we can cover some basic do's and don'ts.
Starting with the do's, the list is long but easily summarised: it's a bike and you can treat it as such. Go ahead and ride it in the rain. Mud, dirt, and even heavy rain should be no problem.
Along the same lines, another big do is to keep it clean and take care of it if it's been in the rain. The chain will need to be cleaned and lubricated. If you bring it in after it's been wet, it's a good idea to dry the chain right away instead of waiting. A wet chain will develop surface rust. It won't require immediate replacement, but it will increase friction when using it, shorten its lifespan and it's harder to clean later.
When it comes to the don'ts, a good rule of thumb is to not use pressure. Your bike is likely well protected against low pressure water but those IP ratings are very specific about pressure. It's unlikely your bike has high pressure protection. That means no pressure washing the bike and also no using high pressure air to dry the bike. Instead use rags to both clean and dry the bike while using low pressure water to wash it.
Rain isn't high pressure so there's no issue there, but that doesn't mean it's safe to leave your bike stored outside. IP ratings also mean protection for a specific amount of time, not forever. A bike that sits in the rain overnight might collect water somewhere. With no movement and plenty of time, water has a way of making its way into where it shouldn’t. So just because your bike is protected from riding in the rain, it doesn’t mean you can store it outside.
Do I need anything else?
If you are feeling confident about getting the bike wet, you might be wondering if that's all you need to think about. To answer that, it depends on what the question is referring to. If you are asking about washing the bike it's entirely possible you do have everything you need at home. We have a comprehensive guide to help you learn how to wash a bike and there's some excellent suggestions for products to make things easier.
For those asking about getting an e-bike wet as it relates to riding in the rain, there are some specific accessories to consider. If it's just an occasional trip in a sprinkle then you've got what you need, but if it's a regular occurrence, you are going to want some mudguards. Check our list of the best road bike mudguards for some recommendations. Many electric bikes for commuting already come with mudguards, but not all of them. Along the same lines, riding in the rain can mean more flat tyres. Take a look at our list of the best winter road tyres if you want some extra puncture protection.
Don’t forget the rider
Just because your electric bike can handle getting wet and riding in the rain, don't forget about the rider. Riding through the rain can be an incredible experience. Some of the most fun you have on a bike can involve spending time in the rain. Having a good time is dependent on having the right gear, though. Make sure you think about the temperatures and dress appropriately. We have guides for the best waterproof cycling jackets for all-year-round rain showers, as well as the best winter cycling jackets for when temperatures drop.
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Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutiae of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Weight: 140 lb.
Rides: Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Enve Melee, Look 795 Blade RS, Priority Continuum Onyx