When the rain comes, it’s time to put away the bikes, right?
Not so fast!
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where the worst you’ll get is a rare bit of snow, you can keep riding, even in the wet. You just need some tips to help you handle riding in the rain. And if you’re not careful, you might even find that you enjoy it!
Roads are most slick when it’s just started raining, or if it didn’t rain hard – all the oil, coolant and dirt gets brought to the surface and needs time to wash off.
A general rule: If it’s shiny, it’s slippery. This applies to painted surfaces, railroad tracks, metal construction plates and the like. Tar snakes (those tar patches that follow the cracks in the road surface) and fallen leaves can be extremely slippery, too.
Watch out for standing water. You don’t know what’s under it (like a big fat pothole) and there could be some extra-slippery moss in there. Try not to brake, accelerate or steer over or through standing water.
Ride like you’re invisible. You already know that people don’t see you when you ride. Add the fact that it’s tougher to see when it’s dark and rainy, and you can understand the need for extra vigilance.
Stay clear of big trucks. They hide you from other drivers, cause massive drafts that can push and pull the bike, and throw up a lot of water (which is cold!).
Use your turn signals every time you want to change lanes or plan to turn off. Communicate your intentions to the others on the road so that there are no surprises.
Flash your brake light when slowing and stopping so that the driver behind you knows what you’re doing.
Be light on the bars – don’t overgrip or keep too much weight on your wrists – and smooth with the controls: throttle, brakes and steering inputs
As you maneuver, try to ride with your weight on the pegs, not on the seat. This allows better control of the motorcycle and you’ll feel any slippage before it’s too late to correct.
Set up for turns very early and get your braking done while you’re straight up and down. Brake pads/rotors can get wet and the first part of the application may do nothing more than clear the water before the actual braking can begin. Use a little more rear brake (without locking it up) and a little less front brake.
If you habitually hang off, accentuate it so that you can keep the bike as upright as possible through the turns. If you’re not fully comfortable with that style of cornering, rain-riding is not the time to experiment – just slow down and take it easy through the turns.
Wear the right gear. Motorcycling gear is made for motorcycling, so get that. A rainsuit will go a long way toward keeping you dry and comfortable. Decide whether you want a one-piece or a two-piece and get one that fits over your normal riding gear. You’ll ride better if you are warm and dry.
Choose rain gear with reflective piping or stripes. Dark, non-reflective rain gear will almost guarantee that nobody will see you until it’s too late. Consider adding a reflective vest, especially if you’re riding at night.
Use some water-repellent (like MotoSolutions Rain[coat]) on the outside of your faceshield so the water sheets off as you ride. Turning your head to the side (while still watching the road) will help to get the water to move.
Put a Suzuka Fog Buster Mask in your helmet to keep the shield from fogging up.
Don’t use heavily tinted faceshields. If you think that you’ll be in changing conditions, carry a spare shield in a carrier so that you can change them as necessary. Packing along a towel or rag will let you wipe your shield on occasion.
Choose the right tires. Some tires are designed for dry conditions. Siping (the channels cut in a tire’s tread) and silica content give a good indication of the intended use of a tire, but check the manufacturer’s descriptions, too. If you have the wrong tires on now, change them for some suitable tires and put the dry tires away for later
Check your tire pressures. You might want to drop a pound or two so that you’ve got more rubber on the road, but don’t go overboard. And if your tires are in poor condition, stay home until it dries out or you get new tires, whichever comes first.
Choose the right brake pads. Some high-performance pads simply do not work well in the wet and the manufacturers often mention the appropriate conditions. If your brake pads are old or are of the wrong type, change them.
Keep your chain in good condition. Clean and lube it more often than usual and try to keep water from collecting on it. When you’re done with a rain ride, use a rag or towel to get the water off, then use a water-displacing lube to protect against rust. Chain wax often works well where other lubes don’t.
Use luggage with waterproof covers to carry your stuff – backpacks usually soak through. A messenger bag might also be a good choice.
Enjoy the fact that you have the roads to yourself!