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Articles > Riding a motorbike in the rain - motorcycles and wet riding

A motorcyclist is at much higher risk of accidents during times of inclement weather. Wet weather and motorcycles are not a good combination, because it makes it much more difficult for the rider to stay upright. Being wet and cold is also unpleasant - cold hands and feet are less responsive and it is harder to have a 'feel' for the controls.

Wet weather does not affect cars too greatly. You can still drive at the same speed in rainy weather and only be at a slightly lower level of safety than in dry weather. Of course, you would take precautions such as increasing following distances etc. In this day and age, Anti-locking braking systems (ABS) mean modern cars can pull to an emergency stop on a wet road fairly quickly and neatly with minimal loss of control. Add to the fact that by their very nature, cars are dual-tracked vehicles and thanks to gravity, they stay upright almost all of the time with little effort.

A motorbike requires constant effort from the rider to keep the two patches of rubber firmly to the road. A wet road means greater concentration of effort, to ensure all movements and changes in direction are as smooth as possible. With less tyre grip during wet conditions, any unecessarily hard jerks, taking corners too sharply or simply grabbing too much of the brake lever could lead to traction loss, ultimately resulting in the bike falling down and sliding (into obstacles if you're unlucky).

So who practices wet emergency braking?
Whilst all riders will know how to apply the brakes in an emergency stop, how many actually practice the technique regularly? And out of that proportion, how many practice when it is wet?

Leaving it to a real-life emergency situation, in the wet, is far from the ideal way of practicing it. The problem is, when it is forecast to be rainy, the bike stays in the garage. Riders are simply not getting the practice they need.

At some stage in your riding life, you will encounter wet weather. It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when. So on that next wet weekend, perhaps you could swap that cozy couch for some wet two wheeled action.

If you have never practiced wet weather emergency braking before, you should start at a low enough speed at which you're comfortable with. Choose a quiet location, such as an empty shopping centre carpark. At most major shopping centres, the top of a multi-level car park (a.k.a parking ramp) is best - simply because no one wants to walk in the rain! Such places will be devoid of cars and people, letting you practice your emergency braking in peace. Increase your speed as you gain confidence.

Have wet weather gear, will ride!
You should also think about investing in some cold weather gear. Even lightweight waterproof trousers and jackets can make the difference between getting soaked and slightly dampened in a heavy downpour. Such items can be folded up into a small package and kept in your bag, under the seat or in your bike's storage compartment. Next time it rains and you're far away from shelter, you can whip them out not only to help keep yourself dry, but also your sanity.


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