Riding in the Wet

“For me the wet road surface is less of an issue than the fact than I cannot see a damn thing in a downpour!!

My visor mists up inside and the raindrops on the outside flare the lights of the oncoming cars.”

Enter the household aerosol anti static cleaner called ‘Mr Min’ (available in Europe as well). Treating your visor with this product once a month retards misting and ‘fills’ the tiny scratches on the outside of your visor that causes flare. NB Do not spray it directly onto the helmet as the propellant (usually butane) causes severe damage over time to parts of the inner lining and visor. Instead stand away from the helmet and spray it onto a clean dry cloth and then apply.

The most dangerous time during a rainstorm is the first ten minutes, particularly if you live in a country like South African where rain is not part of our popular culture. This allows a layer of brake fluid, oil, dust, diesel and other crud to build up on the road. When it starts to rain this mixes with the water and forms a deadly mixture just waiting for the unsuspecting biker or motorist. The good news is that after a good few minutes of hard rain this wicked cocktail ends up in the gutters leaving the road surface rather more grippy than you may imagine.

I enjoy riding in the rain as long as I have the right riding gear. For the most part I arrive at my destination dry and in high spirits.

Their are five guidelines when riding in the rain.

1) You are most likely to dump your bike on the tarmac when braking. Many bikers loose their fear of riding close the vehicles as they get more experienced. During a rainstorm the driver brakes a bit harder than usual – you snap the front brake and down you go!

Check yourself. If you ride a certain road at 80km in the dry, should you not slow down in the wet? Reduce your speed by 20%. You do not have enough traction to brake hard.

Ride behind one of the vehicles brake lights (not in the middle behind his number plate). If the car should stop suddenly you can slip your bike past him and therefore earn a few more meters to stop your motorcycle.

Brake with your rear brake first and then progressively pile on the pressure on the front brake. If the rear wheel should lock up, LOOK UP, LOOK AHEAD, GO STRAIGHT. Yes, the bike will fish-tail around but it should remain controllable and upright.

2) Keep your bike more upright when cornering. This is not the time to countersteer and knee scrape.

3) Keeping your tyres on good surface. Avoid puddles and places where the tar has risen to the surface and covered the embedded pebbles forming a shiny-smooth surface. Never ride on the painted surface of a road (even in the dry – make this a riding habit!) . Avoid manhole covers and large steel plates near roadwork. Go very slowly when turning through intersections as there is more oil here due to slow moving traffic than anywhere else. Lean forward and keep lots of weight over that front wheel.

4) Only stress your tyre traction moderately and then only in one direction at a time e.g.

  • Brake in a straight line and then turn,
  • Complete the sweeping bend and then pile on the power.
  • Release the clutch fully and then lean the motorbike over into the turn (especially true for single and twin cylinder motorcycles).
  • Apply the rear brake first (and more than usual) and then brake progressively on the front.

5) If you are going to ride in the wet for an hour or more, decrease your tyre pressure by 25%. A wet road is a slippery surface – fact! But! A tyre grips the road surface because the rubber ‘flows’ into the dimples of the road surface. A slightly deflated tyre warms up more, is more flexible and is therefore able to fill these dimples more easily. (click here for more . . . )

6) Do not ride through puddles where nails and other sharp objects can accumulate. A wet nail penetrates a tyre more easily than a dry one!!

7) Know your limitations. When the rain, hail, lightening etc becomes a danger, pull off and wait for it to pass. Ted Simon on his round the world trip took an umbrella with him. That way he could stop and keep the rain off his bike as well!

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