I am sure many will have been revelling in the hot weather and will have been out on the bike at every opportunity and making the most of great visibility, slightly quieter summer holiday roads, warm conditions and warm tarmac and sticky tyres (lack of potholes permitting).
There is no doubt the summer months are what bikes were invented for, and many would no doubt love to see these conditions all year round.
However, from a riding driving point of view, there is always an imminent hazard just around the corner during long, hot spells – and that is when the first rain that falls.
Most of us across the country have not seen any rain for quite a few weeks – but some areas of the country have started to experience sizeable thunderstorms and heavy downpours, with more forecast for the coming days.
Having had such a long time without rain, rubbish has become deposited on the roads. Rubber, oil, dirt, diesel and fuel spillage water, lubricants and all manner of substances that stick to the road.
In some cases, the road surface may have started to melt and this mixed with all the substances makes for a potentially dangerous combination just waiting for a catalyst.
As the weather remains hot and dry, it does not present too much of a problem.
However, when the first rain comes down, (and it need only be nothing more than a short sharp shower) the catalyst I just mentioned comes into effect and will start to do its worst, making the roads like a skating rink.
It can be like driving on sheet ice until such time as the roads have been well soaked and all the debris has been washed away.
Time to slow down on the roads to account for less grip
Do any of you watch Formula 1? If you do, I am sure that many of you have seen what is called the marbling that collects at each corner as the race cars tyres shed their rubber.
If a racing car goes offline and runs across this marbling at speed, it invariably results in a loss of control at high speed, often with disastrous consequence.
Now, we are not driving or riding at anywhere near the speed of the top race guys (or any racer for that matter) but the principle remains in that rain falling onto a hot unwashed road will cause this marbling to form, which in turn can cause a loss of control. If caught unawares, it can be with horrendous consequences.
Tips for bikers driving in the rain
- Slow down – This may seem obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me as to how many cars as well as bikes have gone past me as if I am standing still, assuming that grip levels are still top level. On slippery surfaces the relative two small patches of rubber on your tyres will have greatly reduced grip, so be smooth in your cornering technique and enter bends slower than maybe you normally would. Remember all this marbling will have been pushed out to the edge of the carriageway.
- Ride below the speed limit – If you ride slower than normal you are giving yourself more time to adjust and react to the changes in conditions. On dry bitumen, you should maintain a minimum of a two-to-three second gap between you and the vehicle in front to give you time to respond to an emergency. On other surfaces or when it’s raining, you should double this gap.
- Be gentle – with your operation of the controls of the vehicle, and this applies to cars as well as motorcycles.
- Be aware – that your visor may also steam up quite quickly despite the great ventilation that modern helmets have. This could reduce your visibility and ability to forward plan.
As road users we have to consider all eventualities and the first rain after a long hot spell is one that many fail to consider, probably because we don’t get such long hot spells that often.
As the saying goes, “Be prepared” and remember that the guidelines don’t just apply to motorcycles, but all forms of motor vehicle.