Riding in both rainy and dry conditions can be equally dangerous. I’ve been caught in the rain a couple of times on my motorcycle and I can tell you, it wasn’t fun. I would never choose to ride in the rain as it’s not a good option. Unfortunately, popup storms can happen and when they do, you should be prepared to ride in those slippery conditions. It can be safe to do, as long as you’re prepared with the proper skill set and gear.
You shouldn’t ride a motorcycle in the rain, but if you have to, you should wear reflective material on your person and that all lights on your bike are working. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure you have good tires and the skill set to ride in the rain as it can be dangerous for you and those around you.
If you feel it’s necessary to ride in the rain, I’ll cover everything you need to know about doing it safely. Riding in the rain requires skill, knowledge, and the proper gear. You should never ride your motorcycle in the rain dangerously or for fun. It’s a danger to you and those around you if you’re not paying attention.
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Precautions To Take Before Riding Your Motorcycle In The Rain
Before you take your bike out in the rain, there are various precautions you should take.
Inspect Your Ride
I inspect my ride before every ride, but when riding in the rain, you have to inspect the bike even more thoroughly. The first thing you want to inspect is the tires. Your tires need to be ready to channel water, so they need to have tread. Inspect them for even wear and make sure the tire pressure is suitable for your bike. A tire that’s under or over-inflated will react differently in water than on dry roads.
Next, inspect your brakes. Your brake pads should have plenty of friction material so that your bike can stop as needed. If your motorcycle has an ABS unit, make sure that you check this as well to ensure it’s in food working order.
Lastly, check the oil and brake fluid. You have to make sure there’s no leakage of oil and brake fluid. An oil leak won’t cause a serious safety issue in dry conditions, but in watery conditions, it becomes a recipe for a slippery disaster.
If you know it’s going to rain, you should always have an alternate plan in place. Plan your route so that if there’s any chance of a downpour or you encounter one, you will have a path or a rest stop to take shelter in for however long it takes for the road conditions to be safe again. Slow rainstorms can become something more dangerous very quickly. Mark down a couple of restaurants, rest stops, or alternate locations that you can quickly get to if needed.
Additionally, you should consider putting anti-fogging treatment on your helmet visor, goggles, or windshield. Fogging is a huge concern for me in wet weather, especially if it’s warm outside. Fog appears when there are humidity and temperature differences on either side of the object.
Before you leave on your trip, wipe any surface prone to fogging with an anti-fogging treatment. You could also keep your visor open a crack for ventilation and to prevent fogging from happening.
Wear The Appropriate Gear
Proper riding gear is essential if you plan to ride in the rain. There are two different types of water prevention clothing; waterproof and water resistant. Waterproof clothing won’t allow water to penetrate it unless under extreme circumstances. Water-resistant gear will shed water from the material but will allow water penetration after a certain period of time when constantly hit with water.
Water-resistant or waterproof clothing can include jackets, pants, and one-piece suits. Riding gear should have overlapping seams that don’t align and zippers should have a flap or two that covers it completely. The cuffs on the jacket should be long enough to cover your gloves and have a cinching mechanism that can be tightened around the cuff.
Waterproof riding boots and gloves are also effective at deterring water penetration. These should fit tightly to prevent the exposed areas for water to get into. They should fit tight enough to be tucked into a jacket or rain suit.
Full-face helmets will offer the best protection from water. If you don’t have a full-face helmet or don’t like them, you can use goggled with your ½ or ¾ face helmet. You could also use a balaclava with a protective outer layer that will shed water and block wind from getting to your skin.
Lastly, plastic bags are a lifesaver. They can keep your valuables dry during a downpour.
The Dangers of Riding A Motorcycle In the Rain
Wet roads can cause some serious problems for both experienced and inexperienced riders. It may seem like the roads are clean, but sometimes they can have oil and other slippery residuals on the surface. Here are all the hazards you can run into while riding your motorcycle in the rain.
When it rains, oils can create slippery, wet surfaces that reduce the traction on your tires. The most dangerous time after it rains is the first hour. This is when the oils are raised to the surface of the road and have not yet been washed away. If you can stop for a break, now is the time to do it. Wait until the storm passes or until it has rained enough for the road to be thoroughly washed from oils. Once the rain is done or has slowed, try to ride in another vehicle’s tire tracks as they’ve already propelled some of the water, allowing you to get better traction.
No matter how good your tires are, there’s always the chance for hydroplaning. Hydroplaning happens when a layer of water prevents your tires from making contact with the road. If you’re going fast enough, your bike can get out of control and you’ll glide over the water with little to no traction. You should ride as slowly as possible when you see painted lines, manhole covers, tar snakes, and rainbow-hued puddles.
Just like driving in a car or truck, you can be subject to decreased visibility when riding a motorcycle. Visibility of the road while riding is a major concern. You should always wear reflective and/or bright-colored high-visibility gear. In dark conditions, this can be a discerning feature that keeps you visible to other vehicles.
Braking in wet weather is reduced when compared to dry riding conditions. You should ensure you’re giving yourself plenty of braking distance on wet roads. Braking should be slow and steady and you should ride as vertically as possible so your tires have the best contact patch. When you brake, apply a lighter application to the front brakes. This reduced application can be compensated by adding more stopping distance.
If you see lightning accompanying the rain, get off the road immediately. If lightning strikes somewhere near you, it can go somewhere in the ground and if everything is wet, including you and your bike, the tires aren’t going to completely insulate you from electricity traveling throughout the ground.
When riding in wet weather, you have to keep an eye out for other drivers and riders near you who are struggling with the same conditions. The rain makes it difficult for other people to see as well. If they can’t see and you can’t see, it’s a recipe for disaster. As long as you have your reflective gear, they should be able to see you better. Additionally, keep a lookout for their headlights. If you see them getting close to you, pull over and get out of their way. If they look like they’re coming at you, pull over.
Driving Habits That Will Increase Safety During The Rain
If you must drive in the rain, it’s important to practice driving habits that will increase safety during the rain.
The rain and any fog that comes with it can reduce visibility and increase reaction times. You should ride slowly so that you can react calmly to anything that may happen in front of you. This also helps other drivers see you better and have more time to respond to you safely. Additionally, if you ride slower, you’ll most likely avoid hydroplaning.
Don’t Lean As Much
Leaning may sometimes be necessary, but it can be a problem when you don’t have much traction. You should keep the bike in as upright a position as possible until conditions improve. If the roads are slippery and you try to lean around a corner, you’re most likely going to slide and drop your bike. This can cause harm to you, your motorcycle, and anybody or anything in your path.
Avoid Sudden Changes
Keeping control of your bike in the rain can be a challenging task. Swerving, sudden braking and sudden acceleration make it much harder to keep control of your motorcycle. When you’re maneuvering, make sure you’re doing it gradually and smoothly. This will help make you more predictable for other drivers to avoid hitting you.
Scan The Road
Always keep your eyes wide open. Look out for puddles, oil spots, and any change in the pavement’s texture. Anything that doesn’t look right will offer less traction. Standing water is particularly risky and you can easily hydroplane on it.
Is It Too Dangerous To Ride A Motorcycle In the Rain?
Some may say yes and some may say no. It all depends on who you ask. I’m an experienced rider and I still hate riding in the rain. Inexperienced riders should never ride in the rain and experienced riders should ride with caution. Inexperienced riders are a risk to themselves and others as they don’t quite know how to react. Experienced riders know how to react when to stop, how to ride, and more.
In all honesty, the age and kind of motorcycle don’t make much of a difference. It all depends on the rider, their experience, and the tires that are on the bike. Sure, if you’re riding a racing bike with bald tires, you’re probably not going to have a good time in the rain and are more susceptible to dropping your bike. As long as you have tires that can deflect the water and you ride slowly, you should be fine on any bike.
Modern motorcycles have more technology that can help manage wet weather better such as ABS and traction control. Not only do these manage unprecedently large horsepower numbers, but they add safety in poor conditions.
No matter who you are, driving in the rain should be done with caution. In all reality, it’s dangerous for you and other riders/drivers around you. It’s important to ensure you’re following all of the precautions before and while you’re on the road. Always wear reflective clothing, drive slowly, and avoid strange-looking road textures.
Even though some people think riding in the rain is fun, it’s not. I don’t suggest anybody does it. There are far more dangers in those conditions than in dry conditions. Lightening can be especially dangerous. Keep an eye out for other drivers on the road and if you follow the precautions, you may be alright to ride in the rain if you absolutely have to.
I’m William Guzenski, ASE certified master automobile technician & automotive expert. I love to attend race events and car shows throughout the country. I also loves to travel 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns. I’m currently building another car for Bonneville Salt Flats and will be campaigning a drag car at several events.