We’ve all been there before—you’re enjoying a blissful day on the open road without a care in the world, when suddenly, a dark sky looms on the horizon. Be it rain or more severe conditions, a storm can put a daunting damper on your adventure. Here are some tips to help you cope and get home safe!
Rain is the most common (and most hated) plight of the two-wheeled enthusiast. It limits visibility, reduces traction, and generally takes the fun out of a good day’s ride.
When the first drops start to fall, you should be at your most heightened awareness. The beginning of a rainstorm causes any residual oil in the asphalt to leach out, making for exceptionally slick conditions.
Be gentle on your throttle inputs and practice progressive braking. Instead of grabbing a handful all at once, give slight pressure to the front brake lever before going for an aggressive stop. This will load up the front tire to give you a better planted contact patch, and in turn, better traction.
When it comes time to turn, make a habit of hanging off the bike more instead of leaning with it. When you shift the mass of your upper body off the bike, your weight helps carry the bike through a turn while keeping the bike upright and stable.
Also, make sure you’re adding more stopping distance to your line of sight, and pay close attention to painted lines in the road. Any painted surface becomes exponentially more slippery when wet!
It’s also important to keep yourself protected with waterproof riding gear. Not only will it keep you dry and comfortable, it’ll help preserve your alertness. When non-waterproof clothing gets wet, it aggressively wicks heat out of your body (which is compounded by windspeed). Being soaking wet on a 70-degree day can turn into a frigid proposition if you’re traveling down the highway! And when your body is cold, your reaction time is slowed significantly, so stay dry and stay safe!
Another bane to us riders is the wind—it’s the invisible surprise that can make for a sketchy ride.
The biggest issues are crosswinds that suddenly catch you off guard. If you’re riding, say, in a mountainous area and it opens up to a clearing, it’s likely that gusts may blow through the change in topography.
Also be on alert when crossing bridges, especially if they’re in coastal areas. Marine weather patterns are more likely to whip up strong winds. The trees are your biggest resource in trying to predict this sudden change, so if you see them swaying in a particular direction ahead of you, it’s a good indication that a gust is coming. If you do find yourself caught in one, stick your knee out into the direction of the wind. This will act like a sail and help keep you upright as it pulls you into the gust.
Snow is one of the biggest challenges to a rider and should be avoided if at all possible. The first dusting and few inches of snow are incredibly slick and can defeat even the best anti-lock brakes and traction control systems.
I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Oh, I’ll just buy some knobby tires and ride all winter,” but that doesn’t necessarily check out. In deep snow, they function well to some degree, but in most situations, the snowpack is shallow enough that you end up making contact with the asphalt and sliding around.
If you do find yourself dashing through the snow, the biggest consideration is your throttle. Be incredibly gentle with your inputs, as any sort of snap acceleration will likely send the rear end drifting.
It’s also very important to keep a healthy bubble of space between you and the other cars—even if that means riding in the far-right lane with the hazards on. Everyone’s ability to maneuver is affected in the snow, so make sure there’s a good margin for error. Also, when in doubt, stay home or stay put! Whenever you feel unsure about the conditions, it’s better to air on the side of caution than to take an unnecessary risk.
Riding in bad weather can seem scary, but with some caution and consideration, it doesn’t have to put an end to your riding! Safe travels!