You probably don’t head out into the rain on your bike deliberately, but what happens when you run into a sudden shower and can’t wait it out? The meteorologist mentioned a 20 percent chance of rain, but there’s really a 50 percent chance: it will or it won’t. Still, you decide to risk it and ride to work, but the clouds roll in around 4:30, and the deluge begins. But if you know how to ride a motorcycle in the rain, you’ll get home safely.
As warm-blooded creatures, motorcycle riders perform best when comfortable. Your hands and fingers quickly toggle between switches, throttle, clutch and brakes with all the precision and delicacy of a pianist’s. Getting caught in the rain saps your body heat, and suddenly you can’t concentrate. Your fingers respond like frozen sausage links. The solution isn’t to grit your teeth and tough it out — that’s a recipe for disaster — but to pack the right gear and know how to ride a motorcycle in the rain.
The Right Gear
If there is any chance of rain, which there is if you live practically anywhere outside of the Mojave Desert, always pack proper rain gear, including pants, jacket, waterproof gloves and boots, preferably with plenty of reflective strips. In a pinch, rubber gloves can work as glove liners, and plastic bags can serve as boot liners.
No matter what you do, you will get wet, but not nearly as wet as without rain gear. With regard to clothing, wool and synthetics are your friends. When wet, cotton socks and denim pants lose all their insulating properties, and you will be miserable, but a polar fleece shirt and wool socks will keep you warm.
Very few helmets keep fog at bay, but a simple solution, such as a visor liner or anti-fog spray, can keep your visor fog free. Water-beading wiper fluid applied to the outside of the visor forces water slip right off, also improving your vision. You could also consider a clear yellow visor for improved visibility.
The Right Tactics
Because oil and grease float to the surface, the first hour of rain can make for the most dangerous roads. The rule of thumb is to keep calm and slow down.
- Slow down. If your bike is equipped with traction control and anti-lock brakes, don’t for a second think they’ll keep you from doing something stupid, but they do make a good backup for a safe rider. The roads are slippery and visibility is reduced, so slow down and give yourself extra space and more distance for maneuvering. Before heading out, always make sure your tires have good tread depth and are properly inflated.
- Keep calm. Keep a comfortable grip on the handlebars, and let the bike sort out any small slips. If you note significant slippage, slow down even more. On acceleration, ease into the clutch and throttle. On braking, ease onto the front brake to load the suspension, then apply more pressure, engaging the rear brakes later than you normally would. Give other drivers plenty of space.
You probably don’t want to ride in the rain, but you know that the rain doesn’t particularly care what you want. Being prepared and knowing how to handle yourself will help you get where you’re going, albeit slightly more damp, but no worse for wear.
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Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.