A recent blog post on our site by Andrew Trevitt looked at how a racer’s riding style changes between a wet race and a dry race. From analyzing race bike data it is noted that acceleration, braking and lean angles are all lower in the wet, and that the rate of change of these values indicates how smooth a rider is while getting around the track. When the conditions are less than perfect, smooth control of the bike is critical to staying upright.
When riding on public roads, one doesn’t have computer data to analyze. However, riders still have to adjust their riding for rainy situations and be smooth on the controls.
The first thing about riding in the rain is having the proper gear and equipment. On the bike, make sure you’ve got good tread on your tires. Riding with little or no tread is a sure way to end up on the ground, as the tires won’t be able to displace the water on the road and you run the risk of losing traction or hydroplaning. Ensure your luggage is waterproof or that your gear is packed in good bags; otherwise, subsequent days may not be very enjoyable, either.
In terms of riding gear, make sure you have a good rain suit or rain liners, footwear to keep your feet dry (with good tread for when you have to put your foot down), and some water-resistant gloves or special rain over-gloves. And remember, none of these items are really any good unless you put them on before the rain starts. Once you are cold and wet, you won’t be able to ride safely as you will be spending time and energy trying to stay warm and thinking about how uncomfortable you are.
I always wear a full-face helmet, which provides good protection in the rain. Too often I’ve seen riders with beanie-style helmets holding their left hand over their face. Not only is this futile in the battle against Mother Nature, but it reduces your level of control of the machine. It’s not a safe way to ride when the conditions are not ideal.
Racers have tear-offs on their visors to improve visibility, but street riders don’t. However, many gloves come with a built-in squeegee to make wiping your visor easier. My summer gloves don’t have a squeegee so I picked up a nice slip-on squeegee to wear with my summer gloves. (The manufacturer also provided a custom strap to prevent losing the slip-on unit, which happened to one I had previously.) Another little trick is to lower and raise the electric windshield (if your bike is so equipped) so as to get my helmet into the wind to clear my visor.
Now that we are prepared, we need to concentrate on our riding. Be smooth at the controls. Ride a little slower, especially in the corners. Stay off the painted road lines as they become dangerously slippery when wet. Adjust your line and be extra vigilant at staying out of the centre of the lane to avoid the oil and sludge that drips off other vehicles.
Watch for, and avoid, puddles or any dips in the tire tracks—you never know how deep they may be. Watch for puddles in the other lanes so you can adjust your position to avoid or reduce the impact of getting splashed by other traffic.
And finally, allow greater space between you and other vehicles so you have time to smoothly and calmly make adjustments if needed, and also so you can see anything on the road with time to react.
If you are going to do any serious travelling on a bike, you will have to ride in the rain at some point to get where you want to go. With a little extra preparation, care and caution, riding in the rain is not something to be afraid of.
Ride responsibly and enjoy your travels.
- R. Bruce Thomas