Riding a motorcycle in wet weather can be treacherous if you are ill-prepared or inexperienced, so let’s break down some top tips for riding safely in the rain.
The first step to ensuring that you can approach riding in any condition as safely as possible, is to ensure that you are comfortable. Furthermore, if you intend on riding regularly, then it’s essential that you invest in some rain-specific gear. Waterproof boots and a suit, as well as gloves and a quality helmet are key for a comfortable, safe ride. Here’s a useful resource on what to look for when buying a motorcycle helmet.
Sounds simple but it is so important – relax. To ride smoothly and safely in wet weather, you need to remain calm and physically relaxed, so as to stay loose and flexible enough to respond well to any loss of traction or sudden slides. Most will easily correct, but this will be impeded if you are stiff and react nervously.
Avoid the first rain
The first rainfall after days of dry weather can bring about particularly hazardous conditions. The oil and dirt on the road mixes with the rainwater and creates a slippery film that often takes motorcyclists by surprise. If possible, delay your trip for half an hour or so – until it has rained heavily enough to wash away the dangerous concoction. If it simply continues to drizzle, then you may as well proceed, but with extreme caution – the slippery film will remain on the road and it is best to ride slowly.
The consensus on braking safely in wet weather is that it should remain the same as in dry conditions – squeeze, don’t grab. The most important thing is to avoid a sudden shock movement that, in wet conditions particularly, will break traction. It is still possible to brake surprisingly hard in wet weather – but the key is to ensure that you do it smoothly and progressively.
Also, braking distances are much longer in the rain, so it is imperative that you allow for extra distance between you and the vehicle in front of you in wet weather.
Interestingly, research shows that 69.5% of borrowers seeking car loans choose a used car, and this is the same story with motorcycles. The annual pre-owned market is actually three times larger than the new market, so it’s even more imperative that you do a full check or get a mechanic to look over your new vehicle before you get on the road and in the rain.
Beware of puddles and rainbows
Whilst it can be fun to ride through a puddle, not knowing what’s underneath it or how deep it is can prove problematic – it could be anything from a shallow dip in the road to a large crater or open manhole.
If possible, ride around any body of water on the road. If riding through one is unavoidable, take care to ride slowly but confidently – and in a low gear, so that you can accelerate out more easily if the need arises.
Also, be cautious of rainbows on the road – this occurs when fuel or oil mix with the rainwater on the road and is very slippery for a motorcyclist to navigate – take it slow and straight, and try to avoid braking while riding over these patches.
Stay calm when hydroplaning
Hydroplaning (or aquaplaning) occurs when a layer of water builds between the road and your tyres and you begin to glide over the water – no longer on solid ground. Your control is lost, and it can be easy to panic – don’t. The best way out is to relax and allow your motorcycle to move through it without trying to regain control too early – you want to be relaxed and ready to take control again at just the right time. It typically only lasts moments, but it is crucial in that time that you go with it, poised and ready to lead your bike out of it as the tyre meets back up with the road.
When it comes to motorcycle riding, low visibility works both ways – it becomes harder for the rider to see clearly, as well as harder for other motorists to spot them. Firstly, motorcycle headlamps need to be on when riding in the rain, regardless of the daylight. High visibility clothing is a safe option both at night and/or in wet weather, as is attaching reflector strips to the front and rear of your motorcycle. Regarding your own vision, it is wise to invest in a top quality helmet, perhaps with an inbuilt wiper, or at the very least grab some finger-mounted visor wipers and a water-repellent visor spray.
Take caution at intersections
Any area of the road where many cars are coming to a stop in the rain will increase the slipperiness of the surface, so be cautious around intersections. Slow down further upon approach and avoid running yellow lights – if you needed to turn or brake quickly you would likely lose traction. When stopped at a red light, check for vehicles behind you that could slide into you, as well as ensuring that you extend your following distance to avoid colliding with vehicles that suddenly brake ahead.
One of the best ways to improve your safety when it comes to riding during inclement weather is by gaining confidence through experience – the right experience – informed and prepared. Stay safe!