Heading out for a motorcycle ride means enjoying the adventure of all that’ll come your way, including weather conditions and that – dreaded rain. Weather conditions, no matter how informed we try to be, surprise us. When a sunny day changes to a dark sky and rain, it’s crucial to be prepared in order to continue your ride, safely. With the right technique, attitude and preparations, riding your motorcycle in the rain means the “wet stuff” won’t have a chance to – rain on your parade!
During any motorcycle ride no matter the time of year or season, you’ll need to be prepared for riding in the rain. The characteristic of riding, being a motorcyclist means the ability to adapt to the ever-changing road conditions and weather. For most, riding in the rain isn’t pleasant and is highly avoided. But you can make it less unpleasant by being prepared both physically and mentally and by understanding a few practical methods to riding safely.
Your primary goals when riding in the rain are to ensure you stay dry, warm and are able to function as a rider. If you’ve achieved these goals, you’ll be able to continue riding in such challenging conditions. If you’re not taking care of you, you can’t take care of the circumstances you’re riding amidst.
Use these tips to riding in the rain to help you weather the road ahead!
A Good Motorcycle Rain Suit – It’s Essential!
A made-for-motorcycling rain-suit is a rider “must-have”. A rain-suit or all-weather riding jacket and pants as well as waterproof gloves, and boots are essential if you’re going to be riding distances or even commuting. Proper waterproof gear will get you safely through the toughest weather you’ll meet on any ride. Even if you don’t continue to ride in the rain, and decide to pull off and call it a night, your rain suit enables your comfort and safety until you get there.
Your main goals when riding in the rain are to stay dry, stay warm and ensure you can function as a rider and operator of your motorcycle.
The problem for a rider is not that we don’t mind getting wet, the problem is the fact that if you’re wet, you’ll get cold. It’s the wind chill we’re exposed to. When you’re cold, you won’t think straight and this will end up interfering with your operational skills and alertness. Cold is a distraction. A rain suit is essential on every ride. Rain suits are also designed with added reflective accents are generally easy to stow. I’ve even used my rain suit when it’s not raining as extra insulation against wind and chill.
Riding when you’re bundled up in motorcycle gear creates a warm you. And with a cold outer air this generally means condensation and a fogged up visor. If this occurs it can be frustrating and of course impair your vision of the road ahead. An anti-fog visor is the best solution or the use of fog preventives such as a PinLock anti-fog insert. Of course riding with your visor slightly ajar works too. But even in this case, water can drip down from the top rim on the inside of the visor, which is near impossible to wipe away. This is equally irritating and impedes good visibility. So a best practice is to ensure your visor, particularly if old, is replaced and if your helmet visor is not of good quality (ARAI make excellent quality anti-fog visors) invest in an anti-fog solution.
Slow Down, Be Smooth
When it begins to rain, you’ll need to adjust your speed to coincide with the deteriorating conditions – best achieved by slowing down. Also you’ll need to use your controls ever more smoothly when accelerating, making gear changes (shifting up or down) and braking. In wet conditions this is more important as the road surface is slippery – no matter how much grip you think you have. Further, you’ll need to heighten your traffic senses to allow for more time to react to potential risks. Increase your space cushions and be more proactive about tire-track and blocking positions from traffic in front and behind. You’re see less around you and have less grip to the road which is all the more reason to slow down. These tactics will also allow drivers around you, more time to see you!
Being that the average automobile weighs around 1600 kilograms, it is important for you not to overlook the importance of reducing risks from behind to avoid being rear-ended.
Be prepared for vehicles to pass you more often than when riding under normal conditions. Because you’ve slowed to allow more time for reaction; increased your following distance and space cushions, vehicles won’t have the same strategy. Furthermore, four-wheeled vehicles have huge windshields with excellent wipers resulting in far better visibility. And they don’t have to deal with the cooler temperatures to distract them.
When vehicles overtake you, safeguard your lane position for your highest visibility. You can expect, depending on the rain conditions, a soaking by the sprays of water these vehicles carry with them and spin up from the road. Don’t worry, and don’t panic, it’s easily managed. These sprays are temporary so stay focused on the road ahead. In some cases you’ll have a short session of somewhat blurred visibility. Use the reflective lines along the highway to guide you if you experience a temporary wash out.
You’ll also find, particularly on two lane roads, that vehicles will follow behind you closely as they wait to pass you. This can be a hazard to you especially if you need to slow quickly or stop. One quick fix solution to this, but only if safe to do so, is to move to the roadside shoulder portion of your lane, and let the vehicle pass. Of course communicate to the vehicle with a wave of your hand, signalling the motorist to move past you. B e careful to control the situation and watch your space during the approach of vehicles in the oncoming lane. The other solution is to slow down to increase the space in front of you with which to accelerate out-of-the-way if needed. Be cautious, as any vehicle following you will often lose attention to the road and drive on “autopilot” so to speak. Should you slow or brake, where the driver sees your brake light illuminate; they’re likely to panic. Being that the average automobile weighs around 1600 kilograms, it is important for you not to overlook the importance of reducing risks behind and avoid being rear ended.
Your Quick Checklist for Riding In The Rain
- Good Riding Gear and Equipment. A quality helmet with visor, a rain suite, and warm clothing will help keep you comfortable and dry.
- Make Yourself Visible. Wear bright colours and reflective vest or fluorescent material.
- Reduce Speed. It takes longer to stop on slippery surfaces so to make up for this – ride at slower speeds. It is particularly important to reduce your speed on curves. Remember that speeds posted on curves apply to good surface conditions.
- Avoid Sudden Moves. Any sudden change in speed or direction can cause a loss of grip on slippery surfaces. Turn, brake, accelerate and change gears as smoothly as possible.
- Both Brakes. Both brakes together are more effective than the back brake alone, even on a slippery surface.
- Avoid Slippery Areas. Oil from other vehicles tends to build up in the center of the lane – particularly near intersections where vehicles slow down or stop. Avoid standing water, mud and other dangerous surfaces, such as wet metal, leaves or pavement markings.
- Watch Out For Shiny Areas. Pavement that’s old and worn is often polished smooth and very slippery when wet. You can spot these extra slippery sections if you look for shiny areas on the road surface.
- Avoid Riding In Puddles. A puddle can hide a large pothole that could damage your vehicle or its suspension, or flatten a tire. The spray of water could obstruct the vision of adjacent motorists and result in a collision, cause harm to nearby pedestrians or drown your engine, causing it to stall. Water can also make your brakes less effective.
- Stay Away From The Edge of The Road When Making Sharp Turns At Intersections or Entering /Exiting Expressways. Dirt and gravel collect along the sides of the pavement which can cause a loss of grip or a slide.
Stay Calm and Alert
By reducing speed and increasing your spacing from vehicles around you, you’ll be able to ride along in a state of calm. In these conditions remaining calm is more important than you might think. Panic and survival reflex inputs will get you into more trouble in these conditions verses a dry surface. Plus, the combined darkness, dampness and mundane riding conditions can make you drowsy – stay alert. If you feel fatigued, pull off safely and stop. Have a coffee or grab a hotel for the night.
In the long run, this decision will be a good investment to your – many more riding days to come!
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