Riding In the Rain Is Unavoidable, So Here's How To Do It Right
If you’re a serious rider, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to ride in the rain at some point, and when you do, you’ll need to keep your mind on the task at hand and know a few tricks of the trade to keep you upright and get you home safe.
So how, you ask, can I do that? We’ve put together list of tips to help you down the road when the weather turns ugly and the road stretches out in front of you like an asphalt skating rink.
- Wear Proper Gear – Proper gear is every bit as important as the techniques you use to control your bike. A helmet and rain gear keep you from getting wet and suffering the sort of discomfort that will interfere with your concentration. Wear them.
- Tire Pressure – Your bike’s tire pressure, correctly adjusted, can help you find extra stability on wet roads. By adding a slight amount of pressure out to your tires, you can increase the ability of the tire to cut through water on the road and avoid hyrdroplaning. It gives the bike that much more traction and stability. Be careful, riding on under or over-inflated tires can be dangerous, so a little goes a long way here. Something like a five PSI change should do the trick.
- Technique – Keep yourself relaxed and avoid sharp turns. Braking at high speed can be a problem as well, so go light on the binders and distribute your braking power between the front and back brakes.
- Monitor Road Conditions – Watch out for rainbow-looking patches on the road as they’re signs that oil is rising to the surface in those spots, and that means a lack of traction. Go light on the brakes through the corners and expect metal surfaces on the road like manhole covers and train tracks to be greasy.
- How Deep Is That Pothole – Potholes are bad enough when the road is dry as bone and they can be downright catastrophic when the streets are covered in water. A pothole which looks small and harmless might be deep enough to swallow your book to the top, so avoid them at all costs.
I don’t mind riding in the rain. I generally wear goggles, and they keep out the water in a way sunglasses can’t. I also ride in a waterproof jacket all the time, and that helps me stay comfortable when I ride through a brief shower. The critical element in enjoying a ride in the rain is good rain gear. It’s doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to work and it helps if it’s easy to carry. If it’s easy to carry, you will, and you’ll be glad when you do.
A hard, cold driving rainstorm might persuade you to go with a full-coverage helmet, but I find them annoying, so I go with goggles a do-rag to cover my mouth. At 65 mph, riding through the rain can feel like getting sand blasted in a cabinet, so cover your face. Ditch the dark sun glasses in favor of goggles or clear lenses. I keep a pair of safety glasses on the bike for just that purpose, and they work well for nighttime riding as well.
At 65 mph, riding through the rain can feel like getting sand blasted in a cabinet
Watch out for road features that, while they might be relatively benign in dry weather, become serious hazards when wet. Metal fixtures like manhole covers, bridge gratings, painted areas of the road, and places where oil and grease build up like gutters and low spots are nasty when wet. If those conditions are present, you actually have a surprising amount of traction on asphalt and concrete.
It’s not a bad idea to lock up the rear wheel a couple of times when you come to a stop to get a feel for what kind of traction you can expect given the current conditions.
Turning your bike on slick surfaces requires you be smooth like butter. Stabbing on the brakes or making a sudden moves will put you over the high side. A conservative approach to speed and handling, downshifting and engaging the clutch smoothly and avoiding quick throttle input will keep you out of trouble. Stay with a taller gear than usual to keep even forces on the rear tire and give the drivers around you lots of time and room to react to what you’re doing.
Above all, ride in a way that’s appropriate to the conditions and you’ll ride safer, and that’s the critical element in getting home safe – not necessarily dry – but at least safe.
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