Riding in the rain is inevitable.
You leave out on your motorcycle for a day of riding in the sun, and a hundred miles down the road, the weather is, different. Sometimes it happens. You head out for a Saturday of backroads and country lanes, and you end up riding through a downpour.
Riding in the rain is as common sense as driving any other vehicle in the rain. The hazards and techniques are the same. On two wheels you have much less margin for error.
Is your motorcycle ready for the moisture? A good downpour will shake the electrical gremlins from their sleep and next thing you know you’ve got a light that is flickering or no spark… It pays to give your bike a good look over a few times a season (I’m talking about really getting in there and looking for issues, not just the pre-ride inspection).
Speaking of the pre-ride inspection, you did check your tires, and they are properly inflated, right? Your tires need to be properly inflated in order to have the correct size contact patch. An under-inflated tire can be too soft; increasing the size of the contact patch, spreading the weight of the bike, making it more likely to lose traction. If your tires are over-inflated, it can reduce the size of the contact patch and also make the bike more likely low-side in a turn.
On a motorcycle or in a car, rain and bad weather reduce visibility. Be aware that drivers will have a harder time seeing you, and may not be paying as much attention to watch out for you as they would on a dry day because of their perception that motorcyclists avoid riding in the rain.
The first ten minutes of a rain storm are the most dangerous to ride in. Be aware of slick spots where oils and other vehicle contaminates have dripped and are rinsing off the road. If you are riding with others, or in a large group, Ride single file. Also, leave yourself a little extra distance to react.
Assume they don’t see you is good advice any time you are riding and becomes even more important if you riding in the rain. Other drivers are more dangerous than the weather itself. Modern vehicles, with their antilock braking, and traction control and stability management systems can give drivers and unrealistic confidence in bad weather. Many people are so accustomed to these safety features that they rely on them to the point that they still drive like it’s a bright, sunny track day at Mid-Ohio.
Learn your bike. Know it’s limitations and ride within those parameters.
- Slow down.
- Scan ahead and avoid obstacles such as manhole covers and painted markers which are more slippery when wet.
- Allow more distance for braking.
- Let off the throttle sooner and let the engine slow the bike gradually.
When engine braking in traffic, be sure to remember to tap your brakes enough to light the brake lights to warn those behind you that you are slowing.
- Focus on a smooth ride. No abrupt actions. Don’t accelerate too hard. Keep the torque down.
- Stay near the crown of the road and avoid standing water when riding in the rain.
- Keep your motorcycle more upright. Use less lean angle in turns. Some riders shift their body weight to the outside in a turn to counter balance the bike and keep it more upright.
- Dry your brakes before you need them. Wet brakes don’t work as well.
Drying your brakes – Apply very light pressure to the brakes and let the friction warm them up. Remember to release them to allow the water vapor to dissipate from between the disc or drum and pad or shoe.
- Pay attention to what is going on behind you, and be prepared to take evasive action to get out of the way of someone who isn’t slowing down as they approach you from behind. Rear end collisions are more common in the rain because of reduced visibility and traction.
Watch out for paint. Stop lines and lane markers are slippery when wet. Years ago, shortly after I got my motorcycle endorsement, I was riding home after a long day at the dealership.. I was riding dumb. The rain had stopped, but the roads were still wet. I pulled up to an intersection and stopped at the sign. I was behind the stop line. I took off kind of hard, and when my back tire hit the stop line, it spun and the bike pitched. I threw my leg out, got a foot on the ground, and kept the bike from going down. In the process, I locked my knee, and the impact was severe enough to break my leg. It was small fracture in the joint… Five seconds of ignorance led to six weeks in a leg brace. I do not recommend riding with a freshly broken leg, but, I did. I could still shift gears; I just had to lean to right when I came to a stop.
The summer I got my motorcycle endorsement, my wife and I set out for a day of exploring. We decided to east from Toledo. We ended up riding to Cleveland. On the way home we ran into a storm on the Fremont Pike.
North Central Ohio is flat. It’s mostly farmland, and along US-20, there are few options for shelter. We were soaked to the bone by the time we found a truck stop awning to huddle under. It was a cold ride back to Toledo after the weather moved on.
WATCH NOW: Bad Weather Motorcycling Tips Playlist
WATCH NOW: Motorcycle Safety Foundation MSF T-CLOCS Pre-Ride Motorcycle Inspection