I guarantee you that in Florida, besides heat and humidity in the summer, you are guaranteed rain, and lots of it. Only question is will you ride?
I hate that saying “real bikers ride in the rain.” Whatever! I ride better than 98% of the riders out there and if I can, I skip the rain. However, sometimes there is no avoiding rain. So, what can you do to make your ride better, if not more enjoyable, but more importantly, safer?
A basic requirement. If it is important for your car, it is even more important for your motorcycle. Tire tread is the key when it comes to your motorcycle tires. The picture you see below I actually took at a Home Depot in Miami. I hope he has good health insurance.
Tread wear is simple and basic. Common sense should suffice. Now, those that like to push the limits with their tires, usually because of money or lack thereof– I guarantee you an accident, medical bills, and missing work is a lot more expense that a brand new set of tires.
Also, make sure to check your tire pressure.
Roads get slippery; it’s that simple. Even during dry weather you should not be riding in the center of the lane, but too many riders do as a force of habit.
The center of the lane is where all the oil has accumulated and that is only compounded when it rains.
It can be pretty damn embarrassing to drop your motorcycle at a traffic light in front of all those cagers. Even worse, in front of your buddies. No matter who you are, it is impossible to look cool doing so, but, again, to prevent that, not only watch out for oil stains and marks, but do not stop on the white traffic line.
Even if you are wearing motorcycle riding boots, when your boots hits that line, it is like water and soap on tiled floor. Your foot will slip out from under you. Not only stop short of the line because of the slip factor, but also in case there is an accident at the intersection. You never know if the cars collide and come towards you and the difference between a good day and a bad day is a few feet.
As a kid, riding my bicycle through puddles while kicking my feet up was a blast! On a motorcycle, not a good idea. You never know what lies underneath that dark, murky water. Imagine if a manhole cover has been removed!
Not to mention you have no idea how deep that puddle is. So either walk through it if you can’t see the road, let a car go ahead of you, or a figure out a way to skip it all together.
Rainbows are pretty, but not so much when you see it on the road. Be especially careful at gas stations where fuel drips on the floor. That, like the traffic light, is a quick way to lose your balance while standing still.
A friend once told me he had his feet slide out from underneath him next to the gas pump, and since he wasn’t wearing a helmet, his head hit hard the elevated concrete platform where the pump is located. He was knocked unconscious.
If you think railroad tracks are slippery, you should try it when it is wet from the rain. Even worse, when the tracks don’t cut across horizontally, but angled.
I once felt my front tire slip because of that and unless you are in love, when your heart skips a beat, it’s not fun.
My mistake that one time was it had not been raining, but it rained in this one specific area, so I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. Here is a blog on the importance of knowing where you are.
Just like your car, understand you need to increase your stopping distance. By the same token, you should be riding at a slower speed.
Also, be careful when applying the front brake as your motorcycle dips down and that could cause you to lose control.
An issue for everyone is when those raindrops stay on your lenses. Not much you can do but I do like to clean my lenses with wax, which does cause the drops of rain to slide off. I do the same for my motorcycle helmet and the windshield of my motorcycle.
I used to love wearing motorcycle riding googles, but since the frame sticks tight to my face, with the heat of south Florida, my lenses would fog up in a hurry. Since then, I just wear regular motorcycle glasses.
A downpour decreases visibility. Keep that in mind when riding and what cars may see. Your little tiny tail light may not be seen clearly. At the minimum, have a product that flashes your brakes lights when you apply it like like “back off” or, just squeeze (tiny light squeeze) the brake yourself every few seconds so the car behind you sees the brakes flashing.
Not fun! Ever!
Usually, speed is a contributing factor during that fraction of a second where your tire is riding the surface of the water and not hugging the road. Realistically, you are not going to be hydroplaning or aquaplaning across a lake.
The biggest issue here is the “oh sh” factor. I learned what the “oh sh” factor is when learning slow speed maneuvers. I was taught that when your motorcycle is doing something you never had it done before, you panic, think “oh sh**,” apply the front brakes, and that is why I dropped the motorcycle, and an endless amount of motormen before me when training the same techniques.
Once I trained my brain to not freak out every time something new happened, for example, when I locked the bars on a turn, when I scraped the floorboards, or felt the motorcycle lean more than I was accustomed to, I no longer dropped the motorcycle.
With hydroplaning, the “oh sh**” factor is important. That second or two you feel your motorcycle gliding on air, causes many to panic and hit the brakes. You will go down!
Let the motorcycle “do its own thing.” Don’t fight it, start hitting brakes, etc. You should be riding loose anyway so if the front wheel directs you to the right, then let it. I know that 1 second will feel like a minute, but trust me, you’ll be fine. Again, keep the speed low.
Years ago, cutting through Jacksonville, I was on the highway. The cars were driving aggressively and I was riding through a storm. More importantly, I was seeing puddles accumulated on the road. Fearful of hydroplaning and aggressive drivers on the highway, I simply got off the next exit and continued through back roads. No biggie.
Spend the extra few bucks and get some good rain gear. It is money well spent. However, know that sometimes water sneaks into your rain gear through the neck area and if you are like me, you hate cold water. But, an old motorman trick, put a small towel or T-Shirt around your neck to absorb the water.
More importantly, more than anything else, take your time. I know you may have made certain plans and don’t want to lose time or mileage, but you will lose more than that if you don’t make it all.