Living in Florida it means us motorcyclist get caught in the rain almost every time we head out on our bikes and especially if it's during the Months July and August. We put together a few tips and a guide for those of you who wanted to know the best way to ride when it starts raining and what you should do if you get caught out in a storm.
All motorcycle riders should take precautions when riding in any weather conditions. That being said, one of the most dangerous times to ride is in the rain, even light rain. Rain showers and heavy downpours mean road conditions are unpredictable and visibility (both your visibility and the ability of others to see you) is poor. It’s better not to ride in the rain; however, this is not always possible. This is why it is vital to be prepared in the event that a rain storm occurs.
During rain season, you need to be prepared for quick changes in the weather, and here are some tips to guide you through. Always remember to do your PRE-RIDE CHECKLIST before each ride.
#1: BE AWARE OF REDUCED TRACTION
Regardless of the condition of your motorcycle tires, rider traction is greatly reduced in the rain. Even light rain can create dangerous road conditions. Any kind of moisture effectively brings all the oil to the surface of the pavement, making spots and paint strips on the road as slick as black ice. Also, pay close attention to standing water on the road ways. Not only will puddles cause riders to skid, but also, there may be gravel or debris lying below the surface. Additionally, be aware of hidden obstacles, such as potholes, manhole covers and uneven pavement, as these can be extremely hazardous in wet weather.
#2: SLOW DOWN AND INCREASE BREAKING DISTANCE
Always reduced your speed in the rain, and allow a greater breaking distance between you and other vehicles. Furthermore, employ extended traffic tactics, such as increasing your blocking lane positions and space cushions from traffic in front of and behind you. Allowing more visibility of the road ahead and increasing your time to react will allow you time to correct any mishaps. If you happen to miss your turn, go down the road and make a safe U-turn, turn around or take another route, since sudden stops can cause you to aquaplane. Always apply breaks in a slow and steady manner, and apply them on a periodic basis to ensure they are clear of mud and debris. Breaking also alerts others on the roadway to the bike’s position.
#3: TAKE A BREAK DURING HEAVILY DECREASED VISIBILITY
Pull over in a safe location and take a break if the rain is coming down in sheets. Goggles and face shields will likely fog in all wet weather, unless they are treated with anti-fog coatings. It is also nearly impossible for other drivers to see motorcyclists (or anything else for that matter), so pulling off in a safe, visible and out-of-the-way place is preferable.
#4: GEAR UP
Proper riding gear is one of the most effective, precautionary measures bike motorists can take. A good rain suit or all-weather riding jacket, pants and water proof gloves and boots should be a part of your basic wardrobe. Rain gear should be durable, yet lightweight, as well as tear-resistant. Choose gear that is made of bright colors or has reflective materials to ensure increased visibility.
A rain suit can be easily folded down to a smaller size and packed away in a saddlebag or safely strapped to your bike with a bungee cord. Being caught unprepared in a storm without your rain gear isn’t ideal; however, the cold that will set in can cause a greater risk of danger. If the cold gets to your body, hands or feet, you’re going to have slower reactions and less control of your bike. Getting drenched while riding is unpleasant, but being cold is unsafe.
And don’t forget to store any valuable items such as wallets and phones in a waterproof case or Ziploc bag. Downloading weather apps or checking the weather before you leave can help you be prepared and geared up before the rain strikes.
#5: OVERTAKING OTHER VEHICLES
Be prepared for vehicles to pass you since you have safely slowed down. When vehicles overtake you, ensure you hold your lane position to increase maximum visibility. Expect a soaking or sprays of water when they pass, and be prepared for a momentary impairment of vision. Also, watch for vehicles overtaking other vehicles in the oncoming lane. Ensure your visibility is at its peak – this may include putting your high beam on temporarily, and moving to a better lane position to create space and increase visibility. Do your best to stay clear of the road’s edge where debris can accumulate. If in a group, riding in a staggered group formation at a slower pace will ensure safety for all. But ride single-file with a two second following distance through corners and turns.
You may also find that a vehicle will follow you too closely as they wait to pass. This can be a hazard to you, especially if you need to slow quickly or stop. The best solution is to move to the right-hand side of the lane, avoiding the shoulder (especially if it’s unpaved), and let the vehicle pass. Of course, communicate this to the vehicle by signaling the motorist to move past you with a wave of your left hand. Be careful to control this situation, and watch your space during the approach of vehicles in the oncoming lane. Not only will this resolve the impeding problem behind you, but also allows you to remain at a comfortable pace without pressure from other motorists.
#6: KNOW YOUR ROAD
It helps if you know the route you’re traveling and what’s coming up ahead, since signs and road markings can be difficult to see in the rain. Pay attention to road signs, and if you’re not sure what lies ahead, pull off the road to double check your map or ask for tips on upcoming conditions. Knowing your way is one less factor to worry about while riding in bad weather.