Improve your riding: In the wet

Published: 11:59AM Aug 5th, 2011
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It’s fair to say we’re all obsessed by the weather. Especially, when we’re out on our bikes. Truth is, for many, the thought of rain is as daunting as a weekend away with the mother-in-law, but it shouldn’t be.

Improve your riding: In the wet

You simply need to alter your approach to suit the situation. Be smooth and be confident. Here’s how...

Confidence


Most people fear the wet because it increases the likelihood of an accident. Grip levels are reduced along with visibility and control. All of these factors are physical and can’t be helped, but the way you think can be. That’s something which you control and can make the difference between you having an enjoyable and relaxed ride or a tense and fearful jaunt of survival. Think right and you’ll ride right.

Dismiss all the negatives and focus on the positives. As uncomfortable as rain might be, we’re all waterproof so rain’s not going to hurt you, is it? Think about how lucky we are to have the technology we have on our bikes. Tyres have never been so good and neither have brakes or suspension.

Remember you’re the guy in control. You’re not riding a horse with a brain of its own. You’re the boss and you control how fast you want to go. If you’re more confident riding at a slower pace, back the throttle off. It really is that simple. Finally, remember to smile – you might just enjoy it.

Observation

Vision is important, regardless of the weather, but when it turns wet things get a whole lot more challenging. Especially if your visor is prone to misting or poor at dispersing raindrops. Visibility is everything. And if you can’t see, you shouldn’t be riding, it’s that simple.

The minimum distance you need to see ahead is your stopping distance, plus half again, just in case. This will mean you’ll have to alter the speed at which you’re riding if things get a little blurry.

Road edges, signs and other vehicles will be more tricky to identify and hazards like manhole covers, which you wouldn’t normally have to worry about, will become potentially lethal thanks to a few spots of rain. Diesel slicks are another wet weather woe to keep an eye out for, especially on the lead up to and from junctions, on roundabouts and near to filling stations.

Positioning

Positioning is never more important than when the roads are wet and slippy. If you use the road’s width properly, your lean angle will be dramatically reduced and your tyre’s contact patch will be larger on the Tarmac; meaning you’ll have more grip.
Try to identify your apexes ahead of time and control your speed to ensure you’re not running into a corner too deep or, in turn, exiting a corner too wide. Be prepared for the effects of a bumpy surface and give yourself a foot of leeway just in case your line does get compromised. If the road or a hazard prevents you from using the road’s width properly, reduce your speed to compensate for the narrower section of usable Tarmac.

Braking

You’ll be amazed at just how hard you can brake in the wet, providing you do it correctly. The secret is to be smooth and progressive with your brake lever pressure, gradually squeezing harder. The last thing you want to be doing is locking a wheel in the wet and that’s all too easy if you snatch at a lever and don’t allow the suspension to brace itself before the bike’s weight is transferred onto that wheel, hitting it like a sledgehammer and causing the suspension to bottom out.

If you’re observing properly, keeping a safe distance from vehicles and travelling at a sensible speed, there will be no need for you to snatch at your brakes. It’s also important to remember to only ever brake in a straight line when it’s wet and to avoid braking on painted road markings, manhole covers, drains, cat’s eyes or Tarmac seams.

Acceleration

Unless you’re riding a MotoGP bike on wet weather tyres, you should be wary of harsh acceleration if the roads are wet. If you grab a handful of throttle it’s likely to cause your rear wheel to spin beneath you, compromising the control of your motorcycle.

Be particularly wary when exiting junctions or when riding on poorly surfaced roads. If you’re riding a powerful bike with lots of torque, it often makes sense to short-shift up a gear to reduce the likelihood of wheel spin. As with your braking, be smooth with your bike’s throttle application and build the engine’s revs slowly, changing up the box far sooner than you would do normally to further reduce the risk of wheel spin.

Words: Bruce Wilson Photography: Mortons Media Archive

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