Regardless of whether you are a new or seasoned rider, you should already know that there is no amount of riding experience that can reduce the elevated risks and dangers of riding in the rain. It doesn’t matter if you commute to work daily on your motorcycle or if you are a weekend rider, you are bound to come across a rainy stretch with wet roads that will challenge your safety. Of course a good idea is to always pullover and wait for the rain to stop, but if you are well prepared to ride through the rain, you should be able to ride through it..
Let’s talk about the challenges that you will be facing, and how you can prepare for them.
Naturally, you will not have the same level of visibility in rain. And it’s not just you who will be affected, other drivers and riders on the road will face the same problem, and because of that, the risk is exponentially increased. So, here’s what you can do.
- Prepare or Wear the Necessary Riding Gear - In our opinion, riding gear is a must regardless of the distance or the condition of your ride. It is crucial to ensure that you are well protected in case of an emergency or an accident. In the case of preparing for a ride in the rain, use water-resistant or waterproof riding gear. Riding in wet gear can be incredibly cold and uncomfortable. If there is any skin exposed in areas like your neck, ankles, or hands, cover them up. Getting hit by rain droplets is more painful that some would admit.
- Defogging Your Equipment - Use any anti-fog treatment to apply onto your windshield, helmet, or goggles. It is essential because fogging can happen within seconds and you face the risk of almost completely losing visibility when your gear fogs up.
- Use Reflective/Brightly Colored Riding Gear - Highly visible riding gear will serve its purpose as added safety, especially because if it gets cloudy while it rains, visibility for all road users can become a lot worse.
- Practice Defensive Riding - Always practice defensive riding. As much as you may be a calculated and experienced rider, you might not be able to see what is coming in rainy weather.
Rain has the tendency to transform a safe everyday-route into a life-threatening obstacle course. Rain creates puddles of water that can result in hydroplaning, causes oil on the road to surface, subsequently decreasing traction, and further diminishes the grip on painted lines. What can you do to ride safer?
- Keep a Safe Distance - This is the most important thing to remember when riding in the rain. Assuming you ride at about 100km/h (60mph), your typical braking distance on dry roads will be about 55 meters (180 ft) before you come to a complete and safe stop. On wet roads, the distance potentially becomes further. That, added with the possibility of skidding on the road and losing control of the motorbike. Hence, to avoid being in such a situation, keep a safe distance at all times. Try to avoid riding parallel to other vehicles too.
- Ride Behind Vehicle Tracks - When the vehicle in front of you rides through a wet road, they would have likely pushed an amount of water puddled up on the surface. This effect is what we call a “dry line”. While keeping a safe distance and riding speed, try to follow the dry line of the vehicle in front of you. There should be a significant difference in tire grip.
- Watch Out for Potholes, Manholes, etc. - If you are riding on a familiar road, you may already know where the existing dangers are. However, if your ride is on unfamiliar terrain, keep on the lookout for puddles of water. An assuming puddle may just very well be a pothole and the cause of an accident.
- Coast Through a Hydroplane - You are not going to be able to avoid all puddles you see on the road, so if you are hydroplaning across a puddle of water, keep your bike straight, release your accelerator, try not to hit the brakes, and coast through it. If necessary, squeeze your clutch to avoid a pull back if you are on a lower gear, because it’s best to maintain your speed.
- Try to Ride Straight, and Apply Proper Braking - Try to keep your bike straight at all times when riding on wet roads. When your bike is straight and upright, the maximum possible area of tire surface is in contact with the road, hence giving you the best traction. This also adds to the effectiveness during braking. When braking, use less of the front brakes and more of the rear brakes. In normal riding, we are taught to balance out between the two, but on wet surfaces, accidentally locking up your front tire can cause you to lose control.
If you’re riding and you see lightning, you need to immediately look for a stop and take a break. Wait it out. Lightning is not something you want to mess with, and there have been thousands of cases of lightning strikes on vehicles. Cars are safe because they have enough grounding, but the same can’t be said for motorcycles. Don’t challenge nature.
Bonus: Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Traction Control
If you own a motorcycle with both ABS and Traction Control, you are already more prepared than most riders. Even so, this doesn’t give you a free pass to ride as you wish in the rain. The same rules apply, but with the added safety features built into your motorcycle. If you do not own a bike with ABS and Traction Control technology, and frequent rides in the rain, maybe consider upgrading. It’s always a good investment if it is for the sake of your safety.