How to Ride Your Motorcycle in the Rain
Bad weather is unavoidable, and many of us will have to ride in the rain at least once in our life. It isn’t pleasant, but you shouldn’t be scared of it.
If you are scared of riding in the rain, there is no real reason to be. It isn’t too different from riding in dry weather and conditions.
Why Are Riders Scared of Bad Weather?
Anyone can work out that water gives you less traction, which means longer braking distances. Plus, there is the issue of reduced visibility and usually non-slippery surfaces and road markings become slippery when wet.
Furthermore, the wrong gear can also make you suffer, if you don’t have a proper waterproof jacket, you’ll know about it.
So, we can all understand why some riders are scared of the rain, but there is no reason to be. Here’s why.
The First 15 Minutes are the Worst
The first 15 minutes of rain will lift oil, fluids, fuel, and dirt from the road surface. These liquids will mix with the water making a slippery potion layered on the tarmac. However, after those first 15 minutes, it should all be washed away, so if you can, avoid going out when it starts raining or if you are caught riding when it starts you should consider pulling over.
Many modern bikes have technology designed to help the rider, from ABS to high-performance tires, all your bikes systems work in the rain and will help you master the bad weather. The only difference is that their effects will be diminished. But don’t worry, if you are a competent rider you have nothing to fear, just adjust.
There is a huge selection of high-quality waterproof gear available, the important thing is that it has to fit properly and comfortably. If your gear is too big, it will let water in, and nobody wants to ride in wet socks.
A wet rider is an uncomfortable rider and an uncomfortable rider is distracted. You can’t afford to be distracted in the rain, so make sure you have the right gear that fits properly.
The more tread on your tires, the better. Most bikes will come with all-weather tires, however, if you are going to ride often in the rain, it might be a good idea to invest in some wet tires. On the other hand, if you normally only ride in the dry and have high-performance tires for the dry, it is recommended to change them for that occasion you do ride in the rain.
Hazards to Bear in Mind
Physics tells us that any surface that isn’t porous will be slippery in the wet. This means manhole covers, road markings and smooth road surfaces. Try to avoid riding over these surfaces, and if you must, ride over them in a straight line, avoiding braking and sudden accelerations to keep the bike upright.
Puddles themselves are not hazardous, however, what lies underneath them can be. Puddles can cover manholes, road markings or potholes and those are dangerous, so avoid puddles if it is safe to do so (don’t ride into oncoming traffic just to avoid a puddle). If you have to cross a puddle, do it slowly and under control.
Oil is horrible stuff when on the road, regardless of the weather, but it is easier to spot in the rain as it gives of a rainbow colored shine. Always avoid oil.
Being observant isn’t a new concept, as you always should be when riding, but more so in the rain. The sooner you can see any of the risks mentioned above, the more time you have to react and adjust in order to avoid them or minimize their effect.
In the same way, the sooner you see corners and other hazards, the more time you will have to react, because stopping distances are longer in the rain. Having this extra time to react means you can adjust properly for smooth cornering and minimize the effects of reduced traction. If you are too slow to react, it can end up in a serious accident.
Following on from being observant and the sooner you see a hazard the sooner you can react is braking. Braking in the rain needs to be smooth and progressively, preventing the tires from locking up, which in the rain can cause major issues.
Don’t be fooled, you can still brake hard, but it needs to be a smooth and steady application. It is a good idea to practice braking in the rain in a safe location before you hit the road.
Cornering laws don’t change just because you are riding in the wet. Generate turning and cornering forces with steering and your body position. Staying upright won’t do that, so take corners the same way you normally would. However, your speed will be less than when you ride in the dry.
Speed is an important factor in your ability to go around a corner safely. Enter corners slowly and pull out steadily.
As we are sure you’ve worked out by now, when riding in the rain, you reduce your speed. This is the most important thing to remember. Carrying less speed means asking your tires to cope with less and traction becomes less of an issue. And again, it also gives you more time to react to hazards on the road.
Riding tense can be a bad influence on your ability and your riding. Being rigid on your motorcycle means you’ll struggle to ride smoothly, and smooth riding is essential in the rain. Smooth braking and accelerating combined with smooth decision making are the key to reducing the importance of traction.
Don’t sit upright and rigid, loosen up. This way you are prepared for any loss of traction and there will be no full body movements which will mess with your handlebars and bike control. Being loose helps absorb slips and slides, meaning you can stay in control and on two wheels.