Nobody likes to ride motorcycles in the rain. Yet sometimes it is unavoidable, especially if you’re on a trip or tour. For me, if it’s possible I like to wait out the rain and stay inside—though it might be a long wait. Storms move slower than motorcycles, so riding through the storm is the best way to get out of the storm.
The precautions and tips I suggest won’t make riding in foul weather any more enjoyable, but they will keep you safe.
1. Invest in proper rain gear and be visible
Get a quality rain suit in a high-visibility or reflective color like yellow or orange. Bad weather reduces the visibility of other drivers on the road, your high-visibility rain suit will ensure others will see you. Plus a good rain suit not only will make you more comfortable, it will also free your mind to focus on your riding. If you’re getting waterlogged in your normal gear, you’ll be wet, miserable and tense—which could lead to making mistakes.
Also, buy a pair of waterproof gloves that have a built-in squeegee on the left index finger. It’s like having a wiper so you can wipe the water from your face shield and increase your visibility. A lower-cost option is waterproof glove covers. These slip over your everyday gloves and may also include a wiper on the thumb or index finger. You can apply anti-fog treatment to your face shield, helping reduce rain beading on your helmet.
2. Increase distances and brake and accelerate gently
Roads and highways are slick in the rain. Plus, foul weather dramatically reduces visibility. So you need to increase the distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you. Not only do you need more time to stop, you want to avoid getting sprayed by the vehicle ahead of you. When braking, it’s important to brake earlier and with a gentle touch on both the front and back brake. Be smooth. Avoid sudden moves and don’t panic and brake hard or accelerate quickly, and adjust your riding to minimize lean angles.
3. Read the road
Roads in storms are like books, they tell you a lot if you take the time to read them. Wet roads mean much less traction for motorcycles, so watch where you ride. If you see a puddle, avoid it. It could be a big pothole. Pay attention to intersections where cars start and stop and look for signs of oil which can bead on the pavement or show as colorful rainbows in pools of water.
Pick a lane position where there is less water buildup or dry spots where tires from cars have pushed the water away. Watch for roads that have poor drainage, you will need to slow down or risk hydroplaning. Avoid riding and especially cornering anywhere there are painted lines or other road markings. Remember, anything painted on the road will be slippery.
4. Be aware of hidden obstacles
During rainstorms, road hazards such as manhole covers, potholes, railroad tracks, and storm drain grates are harder to see. Manhole covers can be lower or higher than the surface of the road and are dangerous in the rain. All of these obstacles are slippery in the rain. You must cross railroad tracks head on—straight—not at an angle. Also, avoid riding over wet leaves or other foliage that has fallen on the road.
5. Watch the weather
If you get caught in a sudden rainstorm, remember the first 30 minutes is the worst time to be on the road. This is when oil and other gunk rises to the surface and the road is most slippery. So pull off and wait, let the rain clean the road before continuing. If you find yourself caught in sheeting rain, pull over and wait for the storm to lighten up. If you hear thunder, lightning will follow. Pull off, get a cup of coffee, and wait.
Get ready for foul weather
Don’t wait to get caught in bad weather. During the next storm take your bike out for a ride and practice riding. Follow the precautions and tips here so that when you are caught by surprise, you are better prepared and won’t be tense or afraid.