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Whether you ride to work or enjoy the thrill of the open road on weekends, motorcyclists who ride long and far enough are bound to be confronted with bad weather sooner or later. Riding in the rain carries added risks particularly for those on two wheels, so be ready for it to ensure safety while avoiding damage to your bike.
Rain or shine, preparing for any ride is important. This is especially true when you know you are going to hit bad weather and have no choice but to carry on. The following pointers will help you get through the rain safely:
- Make sure the motorcycle is in good operating condition. The primary focus should be on lights, tyres, shocks and brakes.
- Check that all the lights work. This includes tail and brake lights, indicators and headlights. Get into the habit of riding with your main beam on at all times, but particularly in low visibility conditions.
- Tyres should have good tread depth and preferably should be wet weather capable, displacing water traction.
- Brake pads and discs should be checked for wear. Check to make sure brakes arenâ€™t â€˜spongyâ€™ â€“ if they are, have the brakes bled.
- Check tyre pressures frequently. Underinflated tyres are more likely to hydroplane; underinflated tyres can also suddenly deflate in corners or allow the rear wheel to spin inside the tyre, causing sudden deflation. These conditions are extremely dangerous.
Getting caught in the rain
As the weather changes so should your mindset. Slow down as soon as it is safe to do so and increase your following distance. If convenient, pull over under a bridge or stop at a petrol station and wait 30 minutes for the muck to float to the surface and to be washed away.
Avoid painted lines and other road markings, manhole covers, railroad tracks and anything else that might jeopardise traction. Also, avoid puddles as they can hide potholes and debris.
Riding techniques for bad weather
Naturally, on wet roads, speeds should be lowered and careful movements are key. For better control of the bike, keep your body relaxed and avoid a â€˜death gripâ€™ on the bars. Progressively use the brakes; be a lot gentler on them than in the dry to avoid locking up a wheel and going into a skid. Corner with caution and accelerate smoothly with restraint to avoid losing traction and spinning the rear wheel. Consider gearing down to reduce torque on the back wheel, especially while cornering.
Safe riding in different weather conditions
Thunderstorms: It is not advisable to ride when lightning is striking in the vicinity. Riders have been killed or knocked unconscious by lightning strikes.
Strong winds: A motorcycle in a crosswind can act a little like a sail; lighter bikes are especially susceptible. Be prepared to lean into the crosswind to stay upright. If you are leaning into the breeze, also be ready to compensate if the crosswind abruptly stops when entering a tunnel or passing particularly larger vehicles. Some motorcyclists ride parallel to cars or trucks, using them block extreme crosswinds. However, take care to avoid riding in blind spots.
Wear the right gear (All The Gear, All The Time)
Remember the motorcyclistsâ€™ mantra: ATGATT, or All The Gear, All The Time. In addition to the essentials which include helmet, gloves, jacket and boots, always pack a rain suit when going on a long trip where thereâ€™s a good chance of precipitation. All boots arenâ€™t made equal: choose a quality pair of all-weather footwear and apply the same logic to gloves. Remember to pack your rain suit at the top, not bottom, of your saddlebag. Choose a rain suit in a bright colour to boost visibility in poor conditions.
While most motorcyclists will avoid bad weather, itâ€™s not always possible. If you are caught in the rain, take into account your experience, skill and preparation, and adjust your riding accordingly to minimise the risk of anything going wrong.
Image: Julian Povey via Flickr.