Some riders think that when the rain starts to come down, so too should the garage door, tucking the bike away until the sun shines again the following spring. Unfortunately, those people are missing out on one of the best motorcycling experiences, as riding in the rain can actually be fun, so long as you know what to expect and how to change your riding accordingly.
What exactly are those things that you should expect when riding in the rain, and how should your riding vary? Here are some tips:
Tip 1: Choose the right gear
A good waterproof rainsuit (two-piece or one), gloves, boots, and perhaps an electric vest, can keep even the most persistent storm from soaking you, which is the first key to enjoying a day spent in the rain. Generally, waterproof gear such as this means extra warmth, but if you need even more, consider wearing layers, but multiple thin ones rather than one thick undergarment, as those layers can be easily removed one at a time as needed.
Another oft overlooked piece of the gear puzzle is the helmet, which should be equipped with either an anti-fog visor, breath guard, or even a visor with electric defrost function. The nights are obviously longer during the winter, so chances are your commute will be in the dark—a clear shield is a must, as well.
Whatever combination of gear you end up with, make sure that it doesn't intrude on your riding or distract you in any way. For example, you can't work the controls with frozen fingers, but an extra-warm pair of gloves may be too bulky and not much better. Similarly, a neck warmer may be nice and toasty but limit you from turning your head enough for a shoulder check. You may have to search to find the right gear, but you should be able to find a nice balance between comfort and practicality for the conditions you intend to ride in.
Finally, if your winter riding includes commuting, keep a change of clothes ready at work—just in case.
Tip 2: Ride smoother and smarter
When riding in less than ideal conditions, you must change the way you handle the motorcycle. Throttle adjustments need to be made smoothly and in small increments; use less lean angle; gradually apply your brakes and get your braking done early, so that in the last bit of the braking zone you are not forced to stab the brake lever.
Tip 3: Be wary of intersections
We all know about the oils in the pavement that surface after a rain, but what about the oil that was already there? Any place in the road where cars come to a stop will have a higher concentration of the slick stuff. The rain makes it worse. You may not be able to spot this while riding, so it's best to decrease your speed when approaching intersections. Don't run yellow lights, because if you have to turn or brake quickly chances are you'll encounter a traction problem.
Also, when stopped at a red light, check the rear-view mirror for cars that could slide into you from behind. Similarly, double your following distance so as not to be surprised by cars stopping suddenly in front of you.
Tip 4: Watch out for manhole covers and sealer pavement
Two things we've noticed that drastically reduce traction during wet weather are manhole covers and sealer pavement, which are both almost like black ice when it's raining. When traveling in a straight line they pose less of a threat, but you should still be scanning well ahead and looking out for either as you turn the bike to enter an intersection. If and when you do encounter either of these traction inhibitors, check first if there is a line that you could easily take around them. If not, resist braking or accelerating hard and roll over them without making any aggressive inputs.
Note that in case you do have to change your line or turn over a greasy section, it's important to keep your hands relaxed on the clip-ons and don't lean the bike any more than necessary.
Tip 5: Find a dry line
Although this may seem obvious, it is amazing how many people we see riding in an area of the lane that is wet even though an adjacent area is dry. Dry pavement offers superior traction and maneuverability, so make sure you continually place yourself in the driest section of the lane.
Over time, and as you practice these riding tips, you will find that rain riding (and even touring) can actually be satisfying, not to mention make you a better and more confident rider. Sure, each ride will vary, with city riding in stormy weather almost always being the most nerve-racking, but just because the clouds roll in doesn't mean you can't ride almost every day. Besides, who wants to garage their motorcycle for five months out of the year?
Are there any tips that we are missing, or is there anything else you try to keep in mind while riding in the rain? If so, comment below and let us know.