Is it safe to ride a racing road bike in very wet weather?
I'm used to riding on a MTB, but since I've got a new road bike, I'm quite paranoid about the slick tyres. How good are they in wet weather? I'm scared of braking too hard, or even just turning!!
The hazard is not wet roads but muddy, scummy, or oily roads. Clean asphalt or concrete will give good traction, wet or dry.
They're fine. I live outside of Vancouver so I'm already riding in wet a few days a week some weeks. Just this morning I was coming down the backside of a climb at 70km and they were totally secure.
Since the tires are so narrow they don't suffer from hydroplaning. The biggest thing to worry about is painted lines and manhole covers (or other metal covers on the road). Both are very slick when wet. I've always been careful but I know a number of other riders that have gone down cornering hard on both types of surfaces.
You're right to leave yourself extra room to brake. Also don't forget to account for reduced visibility for both you and cars.
Agree. Slick tires are probably actually better for wet conditions than anything with tread, since they maximize your contact area. The "anti-hydroplaning" tread features on a car tire are probably wider than your whole tire, and you're going much slower; even motorcycles don't really hydroplane.
Bicycle tires are, in general, too narrow to hydroplane, regardless of tread.
Particularly on a road bike, wet brakes don't work as well, this can be more of a problem than tires not holding on.
Bicycle tires resistance to hydroplaning is primarily because they don't have a square leading edge, they have a curved leading edge, which means water can't get trapped under nearly as easily.