I love the rain; I really do. Without it, life would cease to exist. Water is the most powerful element on earth. It not only has the ability to create and sustain life, but it also the power to change topography and smooth the razor sharp edges on glass and rocks.
I love to feel the cool breeze when a storm starts to brew in the distance with the flashes of lightening in a dark sky and the roar of the thunder. Any show of force by Mother Nature has always intrigued me. Yesterday, I was in the terrace enjoying a cigar and a cold Heineken as the strong summer showers rolled by. I love the rain, just not while riding.
As lightening lit up the sky, I started thinking of past rides in bad weather. I blogged recently about riding in the heat, but depending where you are riding, the heat may be the least of your problems.
“Real bikers ride in the rain.” That macho attitude does you no good. Real bikers are the ones that survive and when they are too old to continue riding they relive their glory days by sharing their motorcycle adventures. I have ridden in all sorts of weather and honestly, being in the rain doesn’t interest me. However, there are times I have no choice.
I have a 3 week trip coming up and I’m sure I’ll come across desert heat, cold weather, high winds and wet weather, not to mention cars, deer and bison. I have ridden 300 miles in the rain before and it sucked. However, the most important thing is to get home without any bumps or bruises, which I did and you can too.
As I wrote in the “The Heat is On;” dress for success. Proper rain gear including motorcycle riding boots goes without saying and as cool as black is, go for the lighter/bright colors like yellow, orange, or any other fluorescent color. I even need to follow that rule myself as my rain gear is blue. I also like to clean my windshield and riding glasses with wax since it not only makes it spotless, but also because dust won’t stick to the lenses and the rain slides right off. Rain X or other similar products work just fine.
If on the interstate and the rain is coming down hard, get off the interstate if it is a heavily congested area. If you still want to ride, at least hang out underneath an overpass for a while because some drivers see the opportunity as others slowing down as their perfect opportunity to speed up. I avoid interstates when it is raining because I have seen too many water puddles and hydro-gliding should be the last thing on your “to-do list.” Not to mention, it is a fact more accidents occur in the rain, just ask a body shop owner.
Riding from Jacksonville to St. Augustine, I noticed lots of puddles sitting on I-95 and with cagers still driving aggressively, so off I-95 I went. Of course, if you are riding through states like South Dakota, you don’t need to worry about cagers. Puddles, while mostly overlooked and I definitely had fun riding through them as a kid on my Huffy Bandit, avoid it on your motorcycle. Potholes fill up with rain water and that is something you don’t want to hit at any speed.
Another issue I have seen especially for city dwellers is the rider has the rear tire come out from under them while taking a turn. This isn’t the time to lean and accelerate through the curb. As a matter of fact, make your turns with your bike straight up. I accomplish this by taking the turn much slower and turning in what I call “little 90 degree turns.” I envision straight lines instead of a curve.
Road lines are also a hazard in the rain. Even when stopping at a traffic light, be careful where you plant your feet because the road lines tend to get slippery. Also, avoid the light reflectors on the road and be careful with rail road tracks and man-hole covers. Cross the railroad tracks with your bike straightened out.
Whether riding in traffic or the open road, give yourself plenty of time for braking and of course slow down. Even in perfect riding weather, I start braking way ahead of time when the intersection light is red so that the car behind me sees it. Remember, cars usually stay close to bikes. The more time they have to stop, the better.
If you aren’t slowing down when reaching a red light, a distracted driver may think they have the green light. Also, a driver may be focused on your rear brake light (target fixation) instead of looking ahead of you or even the light at the intersection.
Also remember to apply the front brakes slowly since your front brakes are very powerful and use the rear brakes to slow down your bike. Make sure your tires are not under-inflated either and that you have enough tread on your tires. I took the picture below at a Home Depot in Miami. I have no idea what would possess someone to ride with a tire in that condition.
Whether riding in the city or not, be careful with the center of the lane. Next time you go for a ride or a drive in the car, look at the center of the lane and you will clearly see the marked path of oil stains and radiator coolant from cars. The center of the lane becomes even more slippery with the rain.
Planning your ride is also important. Sometimes you may have to leave earlier or later than expected to avoid the storms. If you ride in areas that have cover, even better. Be prepared to change your route when possible.
Finally, if the weather is that bad, pull over and wait it out. Yes, we are all in a hurry to arrive at our destination, but a hospital stay will delay your trip even more.