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What precautions should you take for driving in the rain?

Why do so many people dislike riding their motorbikes in the rain?  Is it because they feel that the tyres won’t grip?  Is it because to them riding on wet roads is like riding on a bed of glass? Is it simply the thought of getting wet that puts people off?  Regardless of the reasons, wet weather riding is something that we riders in the UK have to contend with from time to time, even if it is no more than being caught out in a shower in the middle of summer!

Tips for riding your motorcycle in wet weather

Believe it or not, wet weather riding is not an issue if you are mentally prepared for it, and by applying a little bit of thought to the subject it shouldn’t be an issue for any one of us.

Firstly, the most potentially dangerous period is after a long hot dry spell, the rubbish that gets left on the road such as rubber and oil deposits can cause a problem in the first few hours after it starts to rain.  These deposits tend to roll up into little balls and the marble affect will be a factor not dissimilar to those experienced by racing riders when they go off the racing line in the dry, so obviously care is required in that initial period.

However, the main problem in many cases is not the road but the rider, as a mental block often kicks in and they believe that an accident is just around the next corner.

Why?  Well in most cases it is a combination of two things, one is the belief that the tyres will not grip as well in the wet as they do in the dry.  Well that is true to a point, but  (unlike when I first started riding when tyres were 95% nylon and 5% rubber) modern tyres are actually very good at providing wet weather grip, and the level of grip will actually far exceed the ability of the average rider.

The second factor is that often at the first sign of rain, many riders tense up, and this tenseness is transmitted to the bike and so the whole operation of the motorcycle becomes what I term “mechanical”.  What this means is that rather than just relaxing and let the bike handle normally, they feel that they have to be in the permanent braced position where even the slightest of movements on the handlebars is over exaggerated as they try to negotiate the bend as upright as possible.

A modern motorcycle will handle just about anything that is thrown at it in terms of weather conditions these days, the key to good wet weather riding is smoothness and  the ability to relax.

Harsh or jerky throttle movements will cause the bike to shake its tail particularly when exiting a bend, excess speed in conjunction with poor throttle operation will cause serious problems, but smooth delivery of the power in combination with a relaxed riding style will eliminate the majority of the problems that might otherwise be encountered.  As an example, next time you see a wet race on the television, look at how much smoother the riders are in comparison to when it is dry.  Look at the angles of lean.  OK they won’t lean as far as they would in the dry and their speed through the corners will not be as high, but the bikes will still turn in very respectable figures simply because the riders are relaxed and smooth. This is a principle we can transfer from the track to the road.

Braking distances as well as speed need to be adjusted to cope not only with changes in the road surface, but also to counter the fact that visibility will be reduced which will affect reaction time, but, much to many peoples surprise bikes will actually stop very well in the wet providing it is upright and travelling in a straight line.

The key to safe riding

The whole key to good and in some cases enjoyable wet weather riding is smoothness!  Smooth power delivery, smooth braking (done in plenty of time as well) along with a relaxed riding style will often have a very positive affect on the way the bike performs and your overall enjoyment of riding in wet weather.

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