Are you a fair weather rider? If you are, you’re not alone; many motorcyclists wouldn’t dream of taking the bike out in anything other than glorious sunshine.
We get that, but limiting your riding to dry days massively reduces your options in the UK and, you can’t guarantee that the weather you get when you set off is the weather you’ll get when you’re on your way home.
Also, riding in the rain can actually make you a better rider.
Yup, that’s right, riding in wet conditions is a sure-fire way to improve your skills: building up your confidence in tyres; smoothing out throttle and clutch control, and increasing your awareness, observation and reaction times – just think how much faster you’ll be when the roads dry out again.
Like the sound of that? Here’s our pick of top tips for riding in the rain:
1. Make sure you have good riding gear
Riding in the rain needs concentration, and if you have hands like ice pops and a trickle of water running down the back of your neck and into your trousers, you’ll be focussing on that and not the road.
- Make sure what you’re wearing is waterproof and warm, but that it also allows you to move around easily on the bike and operate the controls properly;
- You’ll also need to be seen by other road users – rain generally reduces visibility – so make sure it’s bright and/or reflective;
- Don’t forget your vision; check that your visor is clean and in good condition. It’s also worth investing in a Pinlock or other anti-fog product;
Bonus tip: even waterproof gloves will eventually allow water in, because your hands are exposed to the full might of the elements, while holding onto the handlebars. Carry a spare pair of gloves with you and you’ll have something warm and dry to change into.
2. Get your bike rain-ready
Just like your kit, your bike should be performing at 100% too, so that when you ask it to do something it does it promptly, predictably and reliably.
- Check that your tyre tread, pressures and general condition are all good – you’ll be relying on them even more than normal in the wet;
- Thoroughly inspect and test your controls – riding in the rain requires delicate and precise use of the brakes, throttle and clutch, so make sure they’re all on point;
- Do the same with your lights and indicators – you’ll be needing these more too, both to see and be seen;
Bonus tip: If you think you’ll be doing lots of riding in the rain, consider some specific wet-weather tyres for extra levels of grip.
3. Slow and steady wins
The basic rule to staying upright in the wet is to do everything smoothly: no hard accelerating or braking, go nice and easy on the clutch and brakes and go easy on speed.
- Try to stay loose and relaxed on the bike; a tense rider panics, affects the way the bike handles and tires quickly;
- Take it steady on the downshifts – the reduced grip makes lockups much more likely;
- Look well ahead and leave plenty of room between you and the vehicles in front, to increase your reaction time and reduce the need for heavy braking;
- Go easy on corners: drop that speed, turn in gently and don’t be trying to get your knee down.
Things to watch out for:
- White lines, manhole covers, puddles, wet leaves and standing water can all cause you problems – be aware of the road surface, but try not to get overly focused on it.
- Be careful at junctions, traffic lights and roundabouts – oil and fuel leaks have time to accumulate where vehicles are stationary for extended periods.
- Keep an eye on other motorists – their visibility, reaction times and grip etc. are also affected, so give them time and space.
- Don’t forget pedestrians – rain tends to make people get their head down and pay less attention to what’s around them.
A word about wind:
Wind often goes hand-in-hand with rain, so you need to be ready for that too.
There’s no easy fix, just try to figure out which direction it’s coming from, drop your speed and alter your road position so you’ve space and time to react to being pushed off course.
Again, try to stay loose and relaxed – especially your grip on the bars – so if you get blown about it won’t affect the bike too much.
If it’s really bad, stick to a lower gear so you have more drive and control over the bike and counter steer to help correct your road position.