Riding in the Rain

By Miller Langhorne

It may be called the “Sunshine State” but Florida motorcycle riders know that sooner or later they'll get caught in the rain. For some riders, when the rain starts, the riding stops. That's the right thing to do if you don't feel comfortable riding in wet conditions. But if you understand a few things about the mechanics of riding on wet roads, combined with the right gear, you can survive and arrive mostly dry. 

ROAD CONDITIONS

Riding on a wet road requires some adjustments to your riding style. The smoother you are with throttle and brakes, the better. Starting out slowly will give you better traction. Increase your following distance and begin braking sooner and more gradually if you can. Locking up the brakes will likely put you on the pavement.  Unless you're on an adventure style bike, avoid deep or moving water. If you're not sure how deep it is, go around it. 

The road is the slipperiest when it first starts raining as the small debris and oil deposits are being raised to the surface before being washed away. Be wary of slippery surfaces like painted road markings, metal bridges, tar snakes, rail crossings, and oil droppings from vehicles at intersections. Keep the ride smooth and straight and those surfaces shouldn't give you any problems.  

TIRES

Remember this, “Tread is your Friend”. Tires that are properly inflated with good tread will funnel away more water to give you better traction. Keep the tires perpendicular to the road for maximum traction. Leaning into a curve is fun when it's dry, not advisable when wet.

Any vehicle can hydroplane, including motorcycles. Hydroplaning happens when the water causes the tires to lose contact with the road surface. You and your bike are floating. It's a scary feeling but don't smash the brakes. Ease off the throttle slowly and keep a firm, but relaxed grip on the bike. As your speed goes down you will regain traction.  

Rain Gear

Buy a quality rain suit designed for riding. An important key to staying dry  is to put the rain gear on before you need it. And yes, once you put the gear on, many times the rain will run scared. That's the truth. Look for rain gear with reinforced seams and reflective material to help make you more visible. If you can find one in a bright color, buy it. The hood should be detachable or able to be tucked away when not needed or you'll have a mini-parachute on the back of your head. 

Watching a stream of water empty out of your boots at the end of a rainy ride is not a good thing. Waterproof boots can help but in my experience they tend to be hot to wear when it's not raining. There are other options. You can buy boot covers which slip right over your regular riding boots. Make sure they're anti-slip. You can also find waterproof socks which will do nothing for your boots but will keep your feet dry. Not too long ago when newspapers were still flourishing, the plastic bags they were wrapped in made for a cheap solution to keep dry. There are also dozens of waterproofing treatments you can buy. Some work better and last longer than others.  

There are good gloves and bad gloves for riding in the rain. The good ones are waterproof, flexible, and help you easily grip wet controls. Some will have a small rubber wiper on one of the fingers to help clear your face shield. The bad gloves will get wet, make your hands cold, and likely leave your hands covered with black dye. Voice of experience. 

If I don't have a face shield, I prefer anti-fog goggles. They keep the water from dripping or blowing in my eyes. Like the goggles, face shields also need to be anti-fog. 

VISIBILITY

The word for bikers in all types of riding weather is visibility. The darker it is and the heavier the rain, the less visible motorcyclists become. Along with the wet stuff falling from above, you've also got the spray from all of the vehicles around you. Be bright. Be reflective. Be seen. 

Use your lights. I always ride with my high beam on during daylight storms. And now it's legal for vehicles to use hazard lights in Florida while driving when the conditions create “extreme low visibility”. The law applies to roads with speed limits over 55, but I'm going to use everything I can to be seen, no matter the posted speed limit. I doubt any cop will want to stop me in the rain to write a ticket. 

MENTAL FOCUS

There's really never a good time to be gawking around when you're riding a motorcycle. During a rain storm it's even more important for you to be paying close attention for all of the reasons listed above. Keep your head up and your eyes looking forward and to the sides for any potential trouble spots.

  

CELL PHONE 

Use your favorite weather app to check the local radar and see if you've got a good escape route or if you should make plans to wait it out. 

LIGHTNING 

While the number of riders struck by lightning is low, it does happen and the results are most often fatal. If you can see the lightning, or hear the thunder, park the bike in a safe area and wait it out. 

Finally, always remember to ride your own ride. If you're feeling uncomfortable in any riding situation, don't do it. Your goal should always be to live to ride another day.

© Copyright Florida Motorcycle Rider

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