Thursday, November 03, 2016
The Art Of Riding In The Rain
The Art of Riding in the Rain
I have heard a lot of riders who don’t like to ride in wet conditions. I remember when as a new rider it would start to rain and right away I would tighten up and be afraid of leaning my bike for fear that I would low side. Over time I learned to relax, be smooth, and trust my tires. That was even before all of the new bikes came out with abs, traction control, and tires that are made for adhesion in wet conditions. Some of the most challenging and rewarding rides for me have been in adverse conditions. I guess I have a feeling of accomplishment when I feel that I have ridden in conditions that many riders may shy away from. I would like to point out some ways that can make you feel more comfortable when you need or want to ride in wet conditions.
- The right riding gear can make all the difference. Of course many of you have heard me say that there is no bad weather, there is only bad gear. That may be a stretch, but I say it to make a point. There is a wide variety of “water proof “gear on the market. Make sure you test it before embarking on an extended trip. At 60+ miles per hour it doesn’t take much of a hole, faulty seam, or gap to allow water in. That also goes for boots and gloves. Stick with Gore Tex or similar breathable & waterproof material. In cold wet weather heated gear can also help you remain comfortable. If a little water does seep in it is better to be warm. Hypothermia comes on much faster if you are also wet. If you are wet, cold, and shivering you are unsafe because your muscles will not react in a timely manner.
- Be smooth on your input to the bike during acceleration, deceleration, braking, and gear changes. Even with the electronics of modern bikes abrupt input can upset the bike and cause you to lose traction especially in a turn. Be smooth and you won’t unsettle your suspension. Use a little more back brake than you would on dry pavement. This will help keep your suspension settled. Don’t forget to lean into turns by transferring your body weight to the inside. This will help keep your bike more upright and help you look through the turn. Remember what we teach in our novice classroom at our track days. Your bike will go where your eyes are looking so look through the turn. My most significant improvement in wet pavement riding came after a track day at Mid Ohio years ago where I was one of three riders who continued to do laps in a down pour. With good DOT tires I was amazed at how good the traction was even with a significant lean angle.
- Increase your riding envelope. You can’t stop or change direction as quick as you can on a dry day. Watch for cars running too close behind you because they can’t stop as quick either. Speed up or get out of their way if possible.
- Be aware of and avoid if possible slippery parts of the road such as railroad tracks, manhole covers, painted lines and road markers, tar strips, metal bridge grates, oil slicks, and wet leaves. Keep the bike as upright as possible if you encounter any of these potential obstacles. Also be aware of where water is puddling that may cause you to hydroplane.
- Avoid riding at night if possible because it may be more difficult to see things in time to react.