Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Riding the motorcycle in the rain?! You'll live, seriously.

7.18.2010

Riding the motorcycle in the rain?! You'll live, seriously.

I've come across many motorcyclists who only consider themselves "fair weather riders." Loosely translated, that means they're riding only when it's sunny and warm enough that jackets and other protective gear are, for some, cumbersome options. It also means avoiding weather that isn't ideal. If you live in Central Ohio or any part of the Midwest, being a "fair weather rider" can take away nearly half of the riding season thanks to the constant movement of clouds and precipitation in this part of the United States. A bad forecast for later that day can alter a route or cancel a trip with friends. With some practice and preparation this can be changed.

Unless you live in California or any part of the Sun Belt where impending rain can be predicted days in advance, preparing to ride in the rain is vital. The ability to ride well through a downpour is another skill a rider can add to his/her toolbox of motorcycling. Not only will you become more confident on your bike, you'll develop a deeper understanding of your two-wheeled machine.

Here's a few tips to help you out.

1. Gear: Take advantage of the many innovative accessories and gear that allow you to ride in every condition and, in turn, lengthen your riding season. Rain suits, gloves, boots, etc. are available for every need and for every style of riding. Do a little research online or go to your local motorcycle store to see what the powersports industry has to offer.

2. Time: If it's the first time it's rained in your area in more than a few weeks, give the road an hour or so to wash away all the oil and other road grime that's built up during the dry time.

3. Increase your following and stopping distances. Visibility (of you) and visibility (your view of the road) are reduced in the rain. Flash the brake light several times before stopping. Look around and at your mirrors for other cars and objects in your path.

4. Eliminate sudden movements. Take more time to think about where you want the bike to go. Deliberately make line changes visible and obvious to other motorists. Gradually roll that throttle and shift cleanly. Press both front and rear brakes smoothly and gradually until you come to that stop.

5. Take it easy on the turns. This isn't the time to slam into a corner or practice maximum entry speed. Your tires have good grip on the road. When you get more comfortable with your bike in wet conditions, try increasing your lean as you take turns.

6. Always have a way out. Drivers act differently during a rainstorm so be prepared for anything. I usually try to position myself to have at least one (or if I can help it, two) ways to leave my lane in case of a sudden stop, a flying object, or debris on the road. In some cases that may be an adjacent lane, a freeway shoulder, or (in an extreme case because this is illegal everywhere but CA) splitting between traffic.

7. Watch out for painted lines and tar snakes. Those things are slippery when wet, so it's a great idea to avoid putting your foot down on top of one when you come to a stop. When rolling over them, use caution as well.

8. The only way to improve on rain riding is to actually go out and ride in the rain. Travel on familiar roads. Ride to and from work. Take the highway. Practice makes perfect! With time, rain riding is just another moist day on the bike.