In some areas of Australia there’s been a lot of rainfall lately, including some pretty impressive thunder storms and lightning displays. Most motorcycle riders cringe when the rain comes. It means either unsafe riding, public transport, sitting in traffic in your car, or just missing out on the day’s plans altogether.
But riding in the wet doesn’t have to be that bad. We thought we’d take this opportunity to cover some basic wet weather riding tips for those determined to stay on two wheels.
Have the right wet weather motorcycle gear
It’s amazing how much more bearable bad weather is when you have all the right gear. You’re more comfortable and you’re less likely to crash since you’re concentrating more on the road than how miserable you are with that treacle of cold water running down your back.
There are plenty of wet weather options but first and foremost is a high quality rainsuit, preferably a bright colour to help you stand out in poor visibility. Next you’ll want waterproof boots that cover your ankles to make sure water doesn’t seep in, and a pair of waterproof gloves. If you don’t already have one, a full face helmet also helps in the wet. When you’re travelling at any speed over 60km/hr even the lightest rain will fill like tiny sharp knives hitting your skin, so cover your face.
Visibility in the wet
If it’s not raining too hard you should be okay so long as you took some pre-ride precautions. Firstly, clean the inside of your visor with an anti-fog solution and leave the visor slightly open for airflow until you’re moving. This should prevent fog building up on the inside. As for the outside of your visor, you can actually get solutions like Rain-X that you spray on to help keep the rain from clinging to the helmet. Another option are gloves with a rubber wiper on the back of the thumb which you can use like a windscreen wiper.
Even if you have all the best wet weather gear in the world, if it is absolutely bucketing down, just pull over. There’s a reason they don’t allow blind people to have drivers licences and in a heavy downpour that’s just what you are; blind.
The first 15 minutes
It’s the first 15 minutes of rain that are the most dangerous. This is when all the oil, brake fluid, fuel, grease and other crud mixes with the water and sits on the surface before it starts to drain away. If you don’t have time to pull over briefly when it first starts to rain (stop and get fuel or put your rain gear on) make sure you take it really easy during this period.
Traction on wet roads
Obviously you’re going to have less traction in the wet, even after that first 15 minutes of rain, so slow down. However, you’d be surprised how much traction you do still have so follow these little tips and your ride in the rain doesn’t have to end in you calling for a new motorbike loan.
Follow the tyre tracks
There’s less water and fewer oil slicks on the part of the road where car tyres regularly tread so if you can ride in these tracks you’ll be less likely to lose traction. Just keep in mind you need more room to stop in the wet so keep a good distance back from the car you’re following.
Avoid the shinys
Anything on the road that looks particularly shiny in the wet is going to be slippery. This includes oil slicks, painted road lines, smoother roads and especially anything that’s reflecting rainbow colours. So avoid or slow down for anything shiny.
Rule of one action
You may not realise it but your tyres do a lot of multitasking, particularly on the corners. In good conditions you’ll usually break as you come into a turn and accelerate out of it. This is too much for the wet so just dial it back to one action; slow down before you get to the turn, take the turn, then accelerate after you’ve straightened up.
Motorbike braking in the wet
Firstly it’s important to ease your brakes on in the wet. Anything jerky can cause your tyres to lock up on slippery roads. Secondly, use more of your rear brake in the wet. While the back tyre loosing traction isn’t good, you can still recover. If your front tyre slips out that’s it, you’re down!
As pretty as lightning storms are in Australia, you don’t want to be riding through one. A motorbike is basically a lightning rod on two wheels and you’re riding it like a nuclear bomb dropping out of B52. So if there’s lightning, just pull over.
Whether you’re riding the commute to work, escaping for a day ride or going on a long road trip, follow these wet weather safety tips and you’ll find riding in the rain can actually be quite fun. You’ll have more of the road to yourself, see the scenery from a different view and keep nice and cool in Australia’s summer heat.