April showers may bring May flowers, but they also put a frown on a lot of rider’s faces. For most, riding in the rain isn’t that enjoyable and some of you may just skip riding all together until the sun comes back out. It’s been a long winter, though, and riding time can be a scarce commodity if the rain puts you out of commission. But fear not, with the right gear, attitude and skills, riding in the rain can be just as enjoyable.
Getting caught in a downpour is never fun, but if you have the right waterproof motorcycle gear, you can continue to ride comfortably and dry (for the most part). When riding in the rain, it’s important to stay focused on your actions. If you are constantly fighting to stay dry and warm, your mind is going to wander and you’ll begin to stress more. Choose the right gear and you’ll be singing in the rain (fortunately your exhaust will muffle that).
If you plan on riding in the rain often, finding gear that is waterproof and breathable is extremely important. Wearing rain suits that don’t breathe is like wearing a sauna suit. Your perspiration can’t escape and you might end up just as drenched as if you had no suit at all. Those kind of rain suits are good quick fixes if you happen to get caught, but waterproof breathable is the way to go. Products made from Gore-Tex® and similar breathable fabrics have openings that are smaller than water droplets but are big enough for vapor (evaporated sweat) to escape.
Make sure your gloves and boots are waterproof as well. You can even get boot covers if you don’t want to invest in a new pair of waterproof boots. It’s also a bonus if your gloves have the little squeegee to clear your helmet’s face shield.
Helmets do tend to fog in rainy conditions. This can be solved if you have a Pinlock® shield system on your helmet. The added shield on the inside will create a dual pane effect to eliminate the fogging. You will also want to keep your helmet vented to the max to let the moisture escape. Sometimes cracking the shield just a bit can go a long ways.
Avoid Shiny Surfaces
Shiny surfaces are dangerous enough on your bike when it’s dry out, but it’s a whole other story when they become wet. Anything metal, like railroad tracks and manholes should be avoided when it’s raining. In addition, anything painted on the road can be very slick as well. Tiny glass beads are usually added to these painted surfaces to give them a rough texture for grip, but after a while, they wear off and the slippery paint is exposed once again. Riding on wet road paint can be like trying to ride on ice.
If you do have to cross these surfaces, lower your speed and straighten your bars. When you hit them straight, you greatly lower the risk of sliding out.
Let the Rain Clean the Road
The pores in roads are giant oil and debris collectors when it is dry out. Once it rains, all of the oil and debris is brought to the surface again to make for some very slippery patches. The rain will eventually wash it away, usually about a half hour depending on how hard it is raining. That time can be used for a pit stop, but if you need or want to continue riding, you should extra caution when it first begins to rain.
Choose Your Path Wisely
Unless you are riding a brand new, perfectly built road, water will begin pool up in many areas. Of course, hitting puddles is not ideal and there are ways to minimize your chances of hitting them. Most roads are built with a crown in the center. In other words, the road will slope off to each side of the center. When you ride near the center of the road, you are not only guarding your lane, but you are also riding in the highest point.
On older and heavily used roads, ruts can be grooved in to where the cars and trucks drive the most. Those ruts tend to develop puddles of water faster than other areas of the road. If you have the road to yourself, you can ride near the crown or in the middle of the ruts. Conversely, when there is other traffic ahead of you, the cars can actually push the water out and even act as a squeegee to get that nasty oil and debris off faster. Where you ride all depends on how much rain has fallen.
Be Smooth with Your Controls
Any mistakes that you make while riding are greatly exaggerated when the roads are wet and you have less traction. That means that you need to be on top of your game when using any and all of your controls. Be smooth when you roll on and off the throttle. Let that clutch out easy and be smooth on the brakes. Your body positioning is more critical when it is wet, too.
You may find that riding in the rain will actually make you a better rider. By learning to control your bike with minimal traction, you will have even more confidence in your abilities on dry surfaces. Just don’t let your ego get too big and push the limits too far.
So there you have it. If you follow these tips, riding in the rain can not only be successful, but fun as well. After all, that’s what it’s all about anyways, isn’t it?
What are your tips for riding in the rain and wet conditions?