Some people love riding in the rain, and others hate it. What it comes down to is your mindset: it can be an interesting challenge or a terrifying trip down Slippery Lane. One thing I actually like about riding in the rain is that it requires you to stay calm and be smooth, good things to practice for any kind of riding. So if you’re the type who hangs up your helmet when the weather turns bleak, take a look at our advice for riding in wet weather — you might find that, with a few adjustments to your technique and some tricks with your gear, motorcycling in the rain ain’t no big thing.
Don’t trust puddles. That fun-looking mini-pond of splashable joy could be hiding a foot-deep pothole, or who knows what else. If you can’t avoid riding through a puddle, hold the throttle steady, keep the bike upright, and don’t touch the brakes.
Avoid shiny-smooth surfaces. Surfaces that are kind of slippery on dry days become perilously slippery in the rain. Stay off of things like painted lines, manhole covers, metal plates, and even tar snakes. If you do find yourself caught on one of these, avoid hard braking or acceleration — just roll over it without any sudden inputs.
Keep your cool. Stay relaxed, and don’t make any sudden moves. Harsh, abrupt acceleration, braking, or steering can quickly eat up your limited traction. Make all your inputs smooth and gentle. If you have to brake hard, do it progressively: slowly squeeze the lever at first, to load the front tire and compress the suspension, then gradually increase force until you’ve slowed enough.
Do one thing at a time. In normal conditions, we often combine several actions at once, such as accelerating, shifting, or trail braking while turning. In the rain, focus on separating these actions (i.e., finish your deceleration before you turn into a corner). That will reduce the traction demands on your tires.
Loosen up. Clinging to the bars with a death grip will do three bad things: a) tire you out faster, b) exaggerate the effects of any movements you make, and c) keep your suspension from working as it should. Remember that your bike is designed to handle small bumps and wiggles, so let it do its job.
Rainbows are not your friend. Those magical, colorful swirls are just slippery oil pools of death. Do not aim for the rainbows. They tend to be worse at intersections, where vehicles sit for a while and leak oily puddles, so be extra careful when you’re stopping at or crossing through intersections.
Give yourself time and space. Take it easy. Reduce your speed, and put more space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Braking distances are much longer in the rain, and you can’t count on having traction when you need it. Plus, you need time to scan the road ahead and choose your lines, so you can avoid all the wonderful things we mentioned above.
Find a dry line. When available, try riding in the tire tracks of vehicles in front of you. A car’s wheel can act like a plow, pushing water on the road out of the way for a brief moment. Soak up that dry pavement while you can!
Dry gear isn’t enough. Waterproof gear is great and all, but visible waterproof gear is even better. Remember that rain makes it even harder than usual for cars to see you. If your rain gear is all black, invest in a hi-vis vest or other reflective accessories.
Orange is the new clear. Well, orange and yellow, actually. Try using a face shield in one of these colors to increase contrast in poor visibility conditions. An anti-fog or Pinlock shield is a plus.
Consider wearing goggles. Try dual-sport helmets and goggles. For off-road or dual-sport riding in the rain, wear clear safety glasses instead of goggles, as the glasses fog even less.
Be handy with gloves. A few key tips: If your gloves are wet, don’t take them off unless you absolutely have to. Wet gloves get cold very fast once they’re removed. Also, have a towel to dry your hands in case they get wet, as wet hands do not slide easily into gloves.
Stand up for yourself. In heavy rain, water will often pool in your lap, and if left too long, it may seep past the zipper (even on some top brands of gear — ever heard of ‘Stich Crotch?). It’s not a bad idea to stand up on the pegs now and then, to clear the rain from your lap.
Gore-Tex socks are the best thing ever. If you don’t have the budget for Gore-Tex socks, try wool ones, especially Merino. Even if your feet get wet, wool socks will keep them warm. That goes for your base layers, too. Compression layers help even more, and heated gear is super cozy.
Ziplock everything you care about.
Above all, remember to have fun playing in the rain!