The following information relates to HART wet weather riding. The information has been broken up into the following sections:
No matter if you ride daily, once a week or only ride on weekends, eventually you are going to have to ride in the rain. A very common question we get asked is tips on wet weather riding. Here are a few points of wet weather riding which briefly covers braking, following distance, vision grip and wet weather gear.
Accident investigation data shows that in 85% of accidents, riders have not used the brakes correctly. ie. Not applied the brakes at all, applied too much (locked up) or used too little or too much front or rear brake. It would seem that very few motorcyclists regularly practice emergency braking in the dry, let alone the wet.
Waiting for the next emergency to practice your braking, is not a great technique. A very common question is "How hard can I brake in the wet?" The answer is simple, try it. The only way to get better at braking is to practice. This is not advocating waiting until the next downpour on the way home from work, in heavy traffic, and going for it, we are suggesting you ease into it with some practice in the dry, somewhere safe away from traffic, starting at a speed you feel comfortable with. Even attend a HART rider training course to further improve and refine your riding skills. Once you have practiced and feel confident, increase your speed gradually and work your way up from there.
When you are comfortable with the dry, try braking in the wet again at a speed you feel comfortable with. Increase your speed as your confidence increases.
Many riders are concerned with the amount of grip/traction the motorcycle tyres may or may not have particularly in corners. In the wet you will have less grip than in dry conditions. A solution is to limit your demand on the tyre grip you need. Be smoother, don't change anything too suddenly, ie. accelerate, brake or change direction.
To improve tyre grip, the rider can adjust their body position. If the rider shifts their body position to the inside of the motorcycle when turning, the motorcycle will not have to lean over as much, allowing greater tyre contact to the road and more grip.
GP racers offer very obvious examples of the use of rider's body position to assist with tyre grip, (at an extreme level) tyre tread depth is important in the wet. The more tread the easier it is for tyres to disperse water, therefore bald tyres in the wet reduce grip. The myth that lowering tyre pressure helps the tyres to heat up and give an increased contact patch is incorrect.
Recommended pressures are going to help grip by allowing the tyre to maintain the correct shape and keep the tread open to disperse the water.
Would a car or a motorcycle stop quicker in the wet? Generally the car is the answer. Cars have the advantage of four wheels, and a greater combined tyre contact area. If the car driver panics and locks the wheels, the car will generally just slide. Motorcycles tend to fall down when the wheels skid.
In the wet leave a greater distance between yourself and other vehicles. If you were to make an error and lock a wheel when applying the brakes, having a greater following distance will give you more time to release the brakes and then re-apply.
Wet weather makes it hard to see and look ahead, particularly in heavy rain. Keeping your visor clean will help water bead away. If your visor is clean, doing head checks will help the water bead off. Looking further ahead, particularly in the wet, is one of the hardest things you will have to do on a motorcycle. The further you look ahead the more likely you will be able to anticipate and respond early to changing road conditions and the actions of other road users.
Wet Weather Gear
Once you are wet, cold will set in not long after. The colder you are the more feeling you lose, particularly in your fingers and toes. Feel is an important part of riding a motorcycle with braking, clutch control and gear changing all requiring feeling to operate efficiently. Being cold also takes focus off your riding. Try having a set of wet weather gear small enough to fold up and store in the bottom of a backpack, seat bag or under the seat. Being able to pull it out during a downpour and not get soaked will make your motorcycling more enjoyable.
Get Out There
Now that you have all this information about wet weather riding you need to put it into practice. No need to stay at home because of the weather report. With the right gear and your motorcycle in good order, riding no matter what the conditions are is still great fun. Get out in the rain and get riding!