Some of us will avoid it at all costs, while for others it’s just another part of everyday motorcycling. Whatever your point of view, there’s no doubt that riding in wet weather can be less pleasant and more tricky than going out in the dry.
If you’re less confident than you’d like in the rain, we’ve asked our expert for some top tips on how best to ride in wet conditions. Here’s what they said:
‘All the gear all the time’ is a solid adage for any kind of motorcycling, but it’s never been truer than when riding in wet weather.
Getting soaked through is not just unpleasant, it can reduce your body temperature which, in turn can lead to a loss in concentration – not good when you are riding a motorcycle. And it’s not just the journey that’s unpleasant, sitting at the office in wet clothes is not cool either!
Good quality, waterproof textile gear can take all but the worst weather while rain oversuits can be a godsend while touring. These pack down quite small but can be whipped out and stuck on in minutes should the weather turn for the worse.
Depending on your destination (ie sitting at work or going out for a meal) you might want to take a spare T-shirt and pair of socks with you to get changed into (make sure you stick them in a poly bag to keep them dry) while many of our experienced riders suggested taking a spare pair of gloves, to wear on the return journey.
Top tip: the disposable gloves used a petrol stations can be worn under your motorcycling gloves and will keep your hands dry!
Don’t be tyred
Maintaining your bike should be an everyday task, but tyre condition becomes even more critical when riding in the rain.
Check your tyre pressures religiously and ensure that there is adequate tread on your tyres if you expect to be riding in the rain. The tread (grooves) in the tyre are vital for displacing water on wet roads, so if the depths are low this will be less effective than it could be.
The legal limit for tyre tread depth is 1mm across three quarters of the tyre (and the tread pattern must still be visible over that final 25%) but this is the legal minimum rather than the ideal amount.
Top tip: if you expect to ride regularly in the rain, look to fit a tyre known for its wet weather capabilities. All tyres have different tread patterns and rubber compounds and some will perform better in certain conditions than others. Tyre manufacturers normally state which of their products are best suited to wet conditions, and these are usually backed up by group tests from magazines like MCN and Ride.
Ok, so this goes without saying but slowing down is definitely advised when riding in the rain.
Speed should always be appropriate to the conditions and in the rain you will be faced with diminished adhesion and possibly reduced visibility, so take it easy.
Some road surfaces are grippier than others, some will feel barely different from wet to dry, while other can feel like riding on ice. Manhole covers, and the like, can have you down in an instant if not paying attention.
Slow down, expect the worst (in terms of grip) and be smoother on the brakes and the throttle. MotoGP racers are the best riders in the world and go slower in the wet. So should we!
Top tip: If riding in a group, ride to the pace you are comfortable with, even if it means you tail off at the back. All riders, bikes and tyres are different, so keep at a speed you are happy with and keep the bike upright.
Use the power (modes)
Many modern motorcycles have riding modes, selectable options that change the engine mapping and change the character (and sometimes power output) at the flick of a switch.
Setting the bike to ‘Rain’ mode (or the softest map if it’s not directly called that). That will make the power delivery less aggressive and may drop the power output. If your bike has traction control it will probably set it to the maximum too.
These electronic interventions help you in the wet, so do use them. Again, racers change their engine maps in the wet, so there’s no shame in dialling down the power and turning up the electronic aids.
Top tip: If your bike has switchable or programmable ABS, don’t forget to turn that up too. If ABS is going to come into its own in any conditions, it’s in the rain.
Don’t forget the aftercare
When your wet ride’s finished, it’s tempting to simply park up and crack open a beer. It’s best, however, to give your bike a quite wipe down and dry off, to reduce the chance of corrosion.
The same goes with your riding gear. Hang it up somewhere dry, where it can air out, and give it a clean when you can. Bike gear’s expensive, so look after it and it will look after you. And you don’t want a pile of stinky old clothes!
Once you’ve done that, get yourself into some dry clothes – and then get the beer out!
Top tip: A liberal application of a corrosion inhibitor, like ACF-50, is always useful after riding in the rain. Don’t forget to keep it away from the tyres and brakes though.