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Riding in the rain can be a huge psychological battle for many riders. The reality is, wet weather motorcycling doesn't have to be that daunting, or that risky.
Photo credit: http://esr.cc/NDJi4X
Yes, there's less grip available and you need to take extra care. But there's tons of stuff to learn from riding in the wet, and once you know what you're doing you can enjoy it a lot more and feel at ease.
Patience is an absolute must. Experience is essential to recognize where you and your bike's limits are likely to be. As long as you approach those limits progressively, then you'll stand a chance of dealing with them when they arrive.
Roads are at their slickest during the first 15 minutes of rain, so go get a coffee, stare at your bike, just don't ride too soon. Think of tire grip like lifting weights with a strand of cotton, pull it up gently and you will manage it, but yank it suddenly and the cotton will snap. Being smooth is the key, every movement has to be gradual and not sudden.
Consider the weight transfer. Try to realize what sort of forces you're putting your bike under when you brake, accelerate, or turn into a corner. The motorcycle has two ends, sometimes one is doing all the work. For example, braking transfers most weight to the front tire. When it's loaded up, it will grip better. At the other end, the rear tire is unloading and can't grip because there's no weight on it.
Knowing how to recognize slippery sections of wet roads is vital too. On good, clean, well surfaced roads there can be much more adhesion then you'd think. Water acts as a lubricant. This means your brakes will be less effective, meaning it's going to take much longer to stop when it's wet than when it's dry. Some riders never use the rear brake at all in the wet. When you're cornering, hang off the side of the bike like racers do to keep it more upright. That way there's less lean angle created and less force pushing the tires off the line. If the motorcycle stays on the fatter, more central part of the tire, the bike is less likely to slide.
In town where oil and diesel are consistently deposited it can be like ice. Junctions where vehicles are frequently stationary are especially prone to this. Don't ride over shiny surfaces, avoid running over manhole covers, metal grates and large road paint, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a tougher time riding or braking on these surfaces then plain old asphalt. Out of town, shiny worn out surfaces should also be given a wide berth where possible, or at least run over in an upright position with a neutral throttle.
Photo via: Motorcycle McAMS
On the other hand, deeper sections of water can cause hydroplaning and instant reduced control. Look out for oncoming cars using their wipers or with wet wheels to give you a hint of what lies ahead. Checking weather forecasts can help too.
Riding behind cars shouldn't be feared, just make sure you ride behind one of the rear wheels, that way if that car suddenly stops, you have time to swerve. Abrupt engine power or braking characteristics themselves won't help. Understanding your bike's likely behavior will help you understand what it's capable of.
Wear good gear too, a wet rider is usually an unhappy and apathetic one who'll lose concentration. A good clean, clear visor with a demisting devise will be a godsend, and a wiper of your glove to keep it that way is just as useful. After you have the right gear, riding motorcycles in the rain is no longer uncomfortable or miserable.
Riding in the rain doesn't need to be feared and on a hot day, a light rain can be quite enjoyable. Riding in the rain becomes a simple exercise in common sense and knowledge of the road around you. Needing to ride in the wet is going to happen at some point during your lifetime. When it happens, riding well and confidently will pay crucial safety dividends. Enjoy the ride! Eat Sleep RIDE