Wet Weather Riding
Tips for your safety and comfort
Riding a motorbike in the UK, you need be prepared for any weather – but let's be honest, the main weather to contend with is the rain. Our green and pleasant land only looks that way for one reason. Riding in the rain can be just as enjoyable as riding on a summers day, if you prepare properly and adjust your riding style to fit the conditions. Our biking experts at MotorCycle Direct have come up with their top tips for wet weather riding.
Choosing the Right Gear
While leathers are obviously the coolest motorbike gear you can wear, in the wet they are less than optimal. A waterproof suit will be far more comfortable, providing both protection and flexibility.
But do you choose a one piece or two-piece suit? Each has their advantages: two-piece suits give flexibility and convenience, but can let in water through the gap between top and bottom; while one-piece suits are where it's at if you want the ultimate in warmth and dryness. Until you need to relieve yourself, that is!
Whatever clothing you wear, make sure it's well fitting – loose clothing will let in water and once it's in, you can get uncomfortable very quickly.
Most importantly, gloves should be insulated and waterproof, as should your boots. If you don't have waterproof boots, invest in some boot covers – it's better than having wet toes!
The final thing to consider is vision – both yours and other road-users. An anti-fog visor, visor spray or some other method of keeping your vision clear, is essential for safe and confident riding in the wet.
Just as your visibility is reduced, remember so is that of other road users – so if your waterproof gear is black, then some hi-vis tape or other method of highlighting you against the gloom will help keep you safe and visible to other road users.
You should also remember to stand up occasionally. In the rain, water will tend to pool in your lap and no matter how waterproof the suit, eventually it will seep in through the seams.
In the wet your traction is significantly reduced, so the key here is the two contact points you have with the road – your tyres. If your treads are worn then wet weather riding becomes a whole new ball game, and not in a good way. Tyre treads are there to clear water from your tyre, so if the treads aren't deep enough, then the water doesn't clear and you end up with a layer of water around the surface of your tyre. This then causes a 'fun' and 'exciting' experience called aquaplaning. Not recommended.
So, assuming your tyres are in good nick, what else should you consider? Well, keeping an eye on the road surface is also essential to staying upright. Don't trust puddles, especially the rainbow ones since they probably indicate oil or diesel residue on the road which will remove any grip you still have.
Another hazard to be aware of are road markings and ironworks such as manhole covers, grates, drains and especially level crossings, all of which can cause problems due to their smoothness and non-porous nature.
If you are forced to ride over any of these hazards then try to keep the bike in a straight line, as upright as possible, and avoid braking or accelerating on the surface, meaning leave the overtaking manoeuvres until its dry!
A good trick is to ride in the tyre tracks of the vehicle in front (but not too close – remember stopping distances increase significantly in the wet). All tyres are designed to disperse water, so the person in front has done half the job for your tyres already.
Style it Out
The third pillar of wet weather riding is your riding style. There are several ways to adjust your riding style to suit the wet to keep you safe and upright.
The most important thing is to relax. Loosen your shoulders, arms and neck, keep your hips supple and the balls of your feet on the pegs. Don't grip the bars like you're hanging on for dear life. If the bike does twitch or slide, then this looseness will allow the bike to correct itself without any major inputs; whereas if you're tensed up then any movement of the bike will be amplified by your rigid riding style.
Smooth braking and acceleration is key to maintaining traction, and good judgement of speed is obviously paramount to keeping control. Reduce your pace, increase your distances and be very aware of your braking requirements which, as you remember from your highway code, are at least double in the wet. Always overestimate how long it will take to stop.
Don't tailgate and don't weave around the road - it doesn't warm your tyres in any significant way. If you need to warm your tyres, then stop-and-go riding is the best way to put some heat in them, just make sure that you have enough room around you to do this safely and smoothly.
Hopefully these few tips will help you gain some confidence in riding in wet conditions – as we said before, in the UK you'll be lucky to avoid the rain, so better to go out armed and ready for it!