I was preparing to ride home from work recently and it started storming before I could leave. I knew it might rain that day so I was prepared for it. If you ride much at all, eventually you will get caught in the rain! Riding in the rain presents its own unique set of challenges. Most people get a little “white knuckle syndrome” when they ride in the rain. I don’t really enjoy riding in the rain, but I have resigned myself to the fact that if I am going to do a lot of riding, I am occasionally going to get caught in the rain. I have also gone down once in the rain. It was when I was younger and didn’t know much about riding in the rain. Like most things in life, we learn best from our own experiences, and pain seems to create a greater impression on me than most other experiences, so I have learned a few techniques over time to reduce the white knuckle syndrome, and yes, to even enjoy the ride in the rain, as much as possible.
Staying dry makes the ride a lot more enjoyable. Yes, it is true, you will dry out, eventually, but staying dry in the first place is a lot more comfortable! I originally had a cheap rain suit that I actually got free with a motorcycle magazine subscription. As you might expect from a free rain suit given out with magazine subscriptions, it was the cheapest thinnest material possible, and it did not breathe at all. It did keep me dry for a couple of rides, but about the third time I used it, it shredded apart during the ride. Once it started to shred, there was no stopping it. It just got worse and worse until it disintegrated. It was one of those all day steady rain type of days, so I stopped at Cycle Gear in Louisville and picked up a Frog Togg rainsuit for $69.00. What a difference! I have used the Frogg Togg rainsuit many times since, and it works great! It breathes, it keeps me bone dry in even the heaviest downpour, and shows no signs of wear at all, after multiple uses. The only thing it lacks is some heat proof material for the inner leg area. I don’t have a problem with it melting on my bike, but I have see others that have melted holes in their pant legs from the hot exhaust pipes on their engines.
Some people are ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) people. I have to admit I am not. I own an assortment of helmets, gloves, and other gear, and I tend to use, or shed, that equipment on a day by day basis depending on the temperature, ride purpose, and yes, even my own mood on that day. The one time that I do try to wear all the gear, is when I have to ride in the rain. I went down once in the rain and since then I feel much more confident riding in the rain with a full face mask helmet, gloves, boots, and armored riding jacket. At least that way, in a worse case scenario, I will have some protection if my bike slides out from under me. I think the odds of that are greater in the rain, so I am more inclined to wear all the gear when it does rain.
The full face mask helmet helps for a few reasons beyond the simple confidence of being protected. First of all, rain can hurt! Rain drops at 55 MPH can feel more like small rocks hitting your face. It stings! I won’t even talk about getting caught in hail with no helmet! Second of all, a full face mask helmet keeps you dry. Third, I can simply see better with a helmet on. A windshield helps as well, as long as it is sized correctly, so that you are protected from the rain and can also see over the top edge. Trying to look through a wet face shield and a wet windshield at the same time will greatly reduce your visibility, but a correctly sized windshield will allow you to see over the top edge while also diverting most of the rain over the top of your helmet.
When riding in dry conditions the tire naturally maintains traction with the road. Riding in the rain requires the rider to avoid actions that would cause the tire of the motorcycle to lose traction with the road surface. Even a momentary loss of traction will certainly cause “heart in throat” syndrome, and could possibly result in the bike going down. Listed below are four techniques to help you maintain traction while riding in the rain.
One. Avoid sudden braking, sudden acceleration, and sudden movements. Any sudden change could could cause a loss of traction with the road surface.
Two. Slow down! High Speed, and or puddles, can cause hydroplaning. Your tire tread can only displace so much water at a time. The faster you go, and/or the less tread depth on your tire, the sooner the tire will begin to lose contact with the surface of the road and begin to float on top of the water. Hydroplaning is bad enough in airplanes and cars, you do not want to hydroplane on a motorcycle! Another technique is to ride in the car’s tire tracks that have displaced some of the water. Also, make sure you have plenty of tread on your tires. If my tires are worn and have very little tread depth left, I avoid riding in the rain at all costs. If you do get caught in the rain with bald tires, ride with extreme caution.
Three. Avoid riding on the painted lines. Painted lines are “slippery when wet.” Especially when going around a curve, make sure you stay in your lane and do not allow your bike to move to the extreme inside or outside edges of the roadway where you could drive onto the painted lines on the roadway and lose traction.
Four. Avoid oil slicks in the middle of the road, especially at stop lights. If it has been dry for a long period of time, there will be more oil built up on the surface of the road. If you then get a light rain that does not wash away the oil, it will be extremely slick. This is exactly how I went down in a very light rain while riding in Texas when there had been no rain for some time and a light rain fell from an isolated cloud Don’t let that happen to you. A heavy rain is more likely to wash the oil off the roadway.
I hope these tips will help increase your confidence while riding in the rain. All riders eventually get caught in the rain, even those who try to ride only on nice days. As we say in the aviation industry, “keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down!”