Don’t Fear the Rain!

Raining at the office.

It's a wet-ride day.

Do you fear riding your motorcycle in the rain? Do you cancel a road trip just because rain is in the forecast? Do you pull over and wait out the slightest rainfalls? Don’t fear the rain, conquer it! I’m not directing this at those who ride a status symbol only on sunny days and then trailers it for longer distances. Rather, I’m directing this at those who truly WANT to ride in the rain, but have a basic fear or preconception about what it’s like to ride in the rain and feel like they cannot do it without hurting themselves. I’m by no means a professional rider or a paragon of motorcycle safety, but I am a rider who’s ridden in a variety of conditions countless times for many years. I’d like to share what works for me.

Let’s first start with some basic equipment recommendations that I find essential to “safer” rain riding (I’m an ATGATT rider- All The Gear All The Time):

  • Rain suit or equivalent
  • Helmet/visor equipped with anti-fog capabilities (Pin-Lock or any of those spray on solutions you find that works).
  • Waterproof gloves or at least some that provide a solid grip when wet (you don’t want ones that have a liner that starts sliding around when wet).
  • Waterproof boots with good tread on the soles.
  • Decent tread on tires
  • Hand grips with good gripping characteristics and firmly glued to handlebars.
  • *Optional – Finger wiper; essentially a blade of rubber on a ring that you can fit over your left-hand index finger (if you’re gloves don’t already have one built-in).

There’s other niceties you can have such as heated grips, hand guards, windscreen, but they aren’t absolutely necessary.

Here’s my rather informal rain-riding tips:

  • Slow and steady wins the race. No sharp movements during turns, hard accelerations from stops, or hard decelerations. You’ll greatly reduce your chances of upsetting the status quo…i.e. your bike with the rubber side down. Don’t be a dick at a stoplight and try to pull a drag-racing start…there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in an embarrassing situation. Suck it up and take it easy; trust me, you’ll live.
  • Intersections are slippery when wet! Approach any intersections with caution and increase your awareness. Not only do oils from vehicles tend to accumulate here, but your fellow motorists might not be as aware as you. If possible, avoid a lane placement that puts you in the middle of a lane, where oil accumulation is at its highest.
  • Painted lines are very slippery when wet! Danger, danger! Spend as little time as possible on painted lines and don’t try turning on them if you can help it.
  • You CAN use almost normal braking. I find that I can use my normal braking process in the wet, albeit a little more gently. The key is to ALLOW YOURSELF MORE TIME TO SLOW DOWN when it’s raining.
  • Visibility WILL suffer in the rain; give yourself the best view. If you’re behind a vehicle kicking up spray, back it off a bit; that reduces the spray and gives you a boost in visibility. If it was affecting your view, you were too close anyway. I’ve ridden down to zero visibility (rain so hard that even cars slow down or stop); I only go as far as I can until I can find a safe spot to pull off and wait out the heaviest rain. If you stop on the side of the road during a heavy fall, expect to get hosed by passing cars. I’ve ridden 8+ hours in a constant downpour on an interstate highway many times, it’s not fun, but I gave myself ample following distances and kept it under the limit…no major problems with visibility.
  • A turn of the head will clear your visor. Unless you have a bike with a high windscreen that prevents it, if your visor is coated with rain and affecting your view, turn your head. The wind, at speed, will quickly clear that visor. On my FJR, I simply lower the screen a bit (it’s electrically adjustable), turn the head to clear the view, then raise the screen back up. Easy peasy. If you’re not going fast enough, then use that finger wiper I mentioned in the equipment list. It doesn’t do a super job, but it will get the job done.
  • Dress appropriately for the conditions. If you’re comfortable, then you can handle the wet just fine! Being soaked to the bone affects your comfort and your overall ability to control your bike. Shivering while using the handlebars is just not safe. If you’re dressed comfortably in a dry suit, you’ll find the experience damn near pleasurable. In addition, if your gloves are wet, but have liners that are sliding around inside, you’ll have a hard time keeping things under control. Good wet weather gloves will make all the difference…I end up with wet hands many times, but the gloves I use are designed to work just as well when wet.
  • Keep your head on a swivel. People are crazy, we all know it…drivers more so! If there’s traffic around you in the rain, your head should be moving all of the time, keeping tabs on what those other drivers are up to. You’re in the same slippery conditions and you know it…sometimes “cage” drivers fail to properly account for it…keep that in mind.

That sums it up for now. ANY rider can handle rain conditions when properly equipped. If your bike is “your car”, then you’ll learn fast. The real key point here is to TAKE IT EASY and give yourself MORE TIME to do everything; don’t allow the bike to get ahead of you (it shouldn’t in the dry either). You can conquer that fear and actually enjoy another facet of riding that so many riders miss out on exploring…it’s all part of the experience! Stay safe!

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I live in Eastern NC, work on websites all day, and enjoy motorcycling immensely. What more need be said.