Sometimes the going gets slippery and we still have to get home. In a car, it’s relatively simple, and we just slow down and let the traction control do its thing. On a bike, we have to be even wiser. Here are some tips that will keep up upright in the rain. The daily riding tips still apply in a lot of cases, but this is slippery riding made easy!
I would hazard a guess that not many buy a bike specifically to ride it in the rain. I certainly didn’t and judging by the number of bikers I see in rain vs dry, I’m not alone. However it does sometimes (always) rain over here, so here are some useful tips to keep us out of hedges. One of the trickiest times to ride is when it has just started raining. All the road dirt and oil is suddenly brought to the surface and forms a very slick layer of detritus. Hit this at the wrong angle, and we could be in for a very expensive accident. If we let the rain water wash away the surface dirt first, it’s much safer for us and other road users.
Before we set off, it pays to make sure that we are clothed correctly. There is very little worse than being cold on a motorcycle and needing to be somewhere. Being cold and wet is not good for concentration, and slippery conditions are when lapses can cost us dearly. Invest in a warm waterproof jacket, over-trousers and boots. Visibility is another issue. When it’s raining, the visor can fog up. If we invest in a pinlock visor, this will prevent the inside from fogging up and mean we can see where we’re going. Some initial outlay here will save us handsomely in the long run.
Now, let’s observe our tyres. I would argue that the tyres are the most important component on a bike. If they’re not functioning correctly, we can’t accelerate, brake or turn, and it’s game over. Their grip on the road surface dictates how able the bike is to handle the conditions, so lets select them wisely. Sports touring tyres are the way forward here, as they generally have more tread than sports tyres. This makes them more able to disperse water, which is critical for not falling off in the rain.
Smoothness is important on a motorcycle at the best of times but it’s even more critical here. Rain water reduces grip levels (around 20% less than dry), and this in turn reduces our margin for error. We need to brake much earlier for corners, and not upset the bike as much as we’re able to get away with in the dry. Using a little more rear brake can help with the smoothness, as there won’t be quite as much weight transfer. Opting for a higher gear than usual means that when we do get to accelerate, the application will be smoother, with less slip.
This leads me nicely onto the art of cornering if it rains. Firstly, we should slow down. Better and cheaper to get there late than not at all. We need to also not use as much lean angle. Many tyres these days don’t provide any tread on the edges. This is partly so that if we are fully leaned over in the dry, we effectively have a slick tyres, and that’s great on a twisty track. On the road, in the rain, there is no need for us to lean that far, and the tyre makers know that.
A more upright bike is also a more stable bike for most to handle, and that makes it safer. If possible, we should opt for a higher gear than normal to smooth out throttle application. Keeping the turn as wide as possible and staying as visible as possible with our positioning is also important. Also worth remembering that we should brake in a straight line. And never grab the front brake mid corner. The briefest of lapses taught me this the expensive way.
Finally, we must consider surface hazards. These are anything on the road surface that aren’t the grey tarmac. A rainbow arrangement on the road means that there have been an oil spill. Approach this at the wrong angle, and all sorts of damage may be done to pride and bank account. We also do well to avoid the white lines on roads as these can be especially slippery, with drain covers being another area we should steer clear of. The rain also has a habit of disguising how deep ‘puddles’ really are. So we might ride through what we thought was a puddle, with it ending up being a pothole. That could be very painful both physically and financially. Let’s avoid this where possible!
Don’t forget to have a look at the Blog: Journeys of Focus, which majors on real life experiences and applying various money saving tips, some of which are just as applicable to two wheels as to four. Feel free to also get in contact. Thanks for reading!