Since I’ve been riding, I’ve made considerable efforts to avoid riding in the rain, and this practice isn’t without good cause.  If you’ve ever gotten caught in the rain while riding, you quickly realize that this isn’t the ideal situation to find yourself.  Depending on when the rain begins, you’ll have to deal with the oil/debris movement which occurs within minutes of the onset of rain and generally lasts about 15 minutes.  This is the point that is most treacherous for riders because as the oil/debris moves from the center of the lane to the sides, you can’t avoid riding through it.  And since we have only the two wheels, our stability can be greatly affected by this.

Along with the oil and  debris, our traction is reduced, more so in turns than in straight and level rides.  Finally, depending on the helmet you wear, you have to contend with the constant pounding of water on your face.  If you have a full-faced helmet, then you need to worry only about wiping the visor clear of water periodically.  However, if you are like me, one who wears a half-helmet, then you will feel the water hitting your face, which feels like little rocks bouncing off you.  Water is soft when it isn’t moving at a high rate of speed, so water drops aren’t your friend on a motorcycle.

To be sure, the ladder of risk rises when it rains, but you can mitigate those risks by doing just a couple of things. First, reduce your speed.  This shouldn’t be too hard since you have to deal with the spray from cars in front of you and the rain; thus, reducing your speed by 5 to 10 MPH can be very helpful.  Also, if you are wearing a half-helmet, there are items available that can cover your face to take the impact of the water drops.  This won’t always keep you dry, but it will eliminate the pain associated with it.  Finally, if it is a shower, then riding isn’t a bad thing; however, when you are threatened with thunderstorms or heavy downpours and/or lightening, you should pull over and try to wait out the storm.  At the least, stop under a bridge and take a quick break to allow the heaviest part of the rain to pass by you.  If it appears as though the rain is traveling in your direction, give it some time before you get back on the road.  Your destination will still be there, even if you get there a little late.

These are some of the tips I’ve learned over the years while riding and, more recently, by watching videos and taking classes.  Understanding where your hazards are can lower your chances of having to deal with a bad situation.  For instance, the paint or “stickers” they use to identify lane separations and crosswalks are slippery when wet, so avoid stopping or turning on them.  Bridge seams are also slippery when wet, but may be harder to avoid in turns.  Just be prepared for a slight slide to the opposite side of the turn when you cross them.

To point out, my confidence in riding has improved, and I’m not as fearful of riding in potentially bad weather.  I’m not saying if it is raining or if rain is in the forecast that I’m going to pull out the bike.  I still say if the weather forecasters, in their infinite wisdom, say there is a 30% chance of rain or less, then I will ride; and if I have to deal with rain, then I am comfortable enough to know what to do.  Usually a percentage higher than 30 will keep BB in the garage for another day.  While in riding season, I don’t want to keep her parked because just about everyday is questionable when it comes to rain.

Ultimately, each rider must make the decision to ride or not to ride in the rain.  However, being prepared is the most important element of riding; also, know your skills and limitations, and always remember to T-CLOCS (T-CLOCS_Inspection_Checklist_2012) your bike.  

Keep the rubber side down and happy riding.

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