Motorcycling in Wet Weather: Ride Safe When It Rains
Florida’s warm weather throughout the year and scenic roadways make it the perfect place for motorcycle enthusiasts to put some miles on their bike. Yet, even with all of Florida’s sunshine, bikers might get caught in the rain; some even like to ride in the rain.
Knowing how to ride safely in the rain is critical for avoiding crashes and injuries. The Florida Department of Health’s most recent data estimates 574 biker fatalities in 2016. Additionally, motorcyclists visited Florida’s emergency departments more than 10,000 times and were hospitalized about 3,700 times in 2016. Not all of these accidents, injuries, and fatalities were a result of wet roads, but riding safely when it rains will help you to avoid becoming another statistic.
The rain creates dangerous wet riding conditions that include reduced traction, decreased visibility, obscured obstacles, increased braking distance, and lightning. These wet weather safety tips will help you to avoid accidents and injuries while you are riding in the rain and learn about the best way to deal with wet riding conditions.
Get the Right Gear
Although you may think that your gear doesn’t matter more in the rain than when it’s dry, that is not the case. First, no one likes being soaking wet on their bike in the rain, but being wet isn’t really the danger. Being cold, however, can lead to an accident. This may not be a factor in the summer, but cold wet rain in the winter months might cause mild hypothermia. Once your body core temperature is too low, your brain and nervous system don’t function at full capacity, making it hard to do complex tasks like operating a motorcycle.
At the very least, you should have an inexpensive, sturdy rain suit stored in your bike or strapped to your bike for rainy days. Make sure that a rain suit or any gear that you buy has reflectors or comes in bright colors. The rain reduces visibility and reflective striping makes it easier for cars to see you. Also, carry a towel to dry off your hands and an extra pair or two of gloves. If you don’t have extra gloves, try not to take your gloves off; wet gloves become colder once you take them off.
Eye protection is also gear, but it deserves a special mention on its own because of how important vision is to riding your motorcycle safely. If you are wearing a full face helmet, make sure that you have a clear anti-fog face shield. In Florida’s warm weather you might prefer a dual-sport helmet and goggles or safety glasses that don’t fog up easily when it’s raining. Making the extra investment and taking the extra time to get the right eyewear for rainy days will ensure that you see what is going on around you and avoid any potential accidents.
Water droplets that build up on your face shield might also give you problems, especially in light rain when the smaller drops build up more densely on surfaces. When you are traveling at low speeds, wipe your visor with your gloves; when you are going faster on the freeway, a quick turn of your head both ways will let the air blow the drops off of your shield. You can find products at your local big box retailer or motorcycle dealership to apply to your face shield that will help with fog and rain.
Inspect and Maintain Your Bike
You might choose to ride in the rain or you might get caught in the rain. In either case, you need to inspect and maintain your bike as if it will rain every time you go for a ride. Tires are the most important maintenance item. Tires that are too worn will easily slide around in the rain, as will tires that don’t have the proper amount of air pressure. You should also remember that tires take a little longer to warm up during rain. If you absolutely need to warm them a bit, do some stop-and-go riding to heat them up more quickly in the rain.
You should also check your brake pads to make sure you have plenty of wear and tear left to stop safely on wet roads. Next, make sure you aren’t leaking oil or brake fluid. These things aren’t a big deal on dry roads, but when they mix with water during the rain, they create slippery conditions that might result in an accident. Finally, make sure that your chain is adjusted properly to avoid problems with your rear wheel grip. Too much slack can quickly transfer power to the rear wheel, causing a break in traction that might lead to an accident when taking a corner.
Be a Smooth Operator
Traction is reduced in the rain, so you need to be extra cautious to not make sudden changes when accelerating, braking, and steering. You need to change the way you handle your bike in the rain by making smooth throttle adjustments a little at a time, using less of a lean angle, and gradually braking. Better tires and anti-lock brake systems (ABS) over the last decades have increased the safety of riding a motorcycle in the rain. Yet, putting on the brakes too quickly in the rain will result in them locking up or ABS taking over; both of these situations are less than ideal. You might find yourself hydroplaning across a puddle, a wet area, or a slippery surface.
Even if you are riding smoothly in the rain, you still might come upon a situation where you need to brake hard because of another driver or pedestrian. If you have to suddenly hit your brakes, do it progressively by slowly squeezing the lever to load your front tire and compress suspension. Next, gradually increase your force until your bike has slowed down enough. This keeps the chassis stable during braking so you can stop more quickly.
Allow More Time and Space
It’s always best to leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, but this is especially true in the rain when traction is reduced and braking suddenly might be dangerous. When you reduce your speed while riding in the rain, it allows for increased braking distance. If a car makes a sudden move or you come upon a hazard on the road, you will have time to brake or avoid it without dumping your bike.
It’s in your best interest to allow more time to make turns too. Trying to make last minute turns on wet, slippery roads during the rain might not only lead to an accident, but could be fatal. If you miss a turn, go around the block, turn around, or take another route. Using your mirrors will allow you to evaluate your time and distance more easily for a safe ride.
Ride on a Dry Line
If you are new to motorcycles, especially to riding in the rain, try riding in the tire tracks of the cars in front of you. The wheel of a motor vehicle pushes water away from the track for a brief time, leaving the road dry for a bit. Dry pavement offers bikers the ultimate traction and ability to maneuver their bikes, so always try to ride in the driest section of a lane. As you ride on a dry line, pacing a car might help you during a rainstorm, especially when conditions greatly reduce visibility. When you follow a car—not too closely—your turns will be easier and the car’s brake lights will indicate the need for you to reduce your speed as well as providing better visibility.
Even while riding on a dry line, avoid puddles and other standing water. It might be fun to drive through the water and puddles, but you never know what lies beneath. In addition to debris, the puddle might be hiding a huge pothole. If you can’t avoid a puddle, hold your throttle steady and don’t brake. Similarly, hugging the center or outside line of a lane might lead to riding on painted lines which become dangerously slippery during the rain. Avoid those painted lines, but if you need to drive over one, continue to smoothly operate your bike.
Take Special Care at Intersections
Wet pavement is the norm when riding your bike in the rain, but intersections can be especially dangerous. Try to avoid the center of a lane and stick to a dry line. As previously mentioned, you have more control on dry pavement, but the sides of the lines are often cleaner than the center. Places where cars stop frequently have a high concentration of residue. Leaks, drips, and rain make these areas extremely slick when it’s wet. Additionally, it’s difficult to always see these oil or diesel residue spots while riding. Intersections that have railroad crossings are of special importance. As you cross tracks, makes sure to keep your bike upright so your tires won’t slide on the slippery steel tracks.
The best way to avoid an accident at intersections is to slow your speed considerably and don’t accelerate or brake suddenly. Also, don’t try to run yellow lights. If you need to make an abrupt turn or brake quickly, it’s likely you will have a traction problem which might result in an accident. Finally, take special care to leave distance at a red light, avoid putting your boots down on extra slippery areas, and watch your mirror for cars that might slide into you from behind.
Avoid Smooth, Shiny Surfaces
Any surfaces that are kind of slippery in dry weather will be treacherously slippery in the rain. Things like manhole covers, metal plates, and tar snakes pose extra risks to those riding motorcycles. When you come across one of these types of hazards, make sure to avoid all inputs—no braking, acceleration, or quick turns. Allow your bike to roll over the hazard. Metal bridges and metal bridge expansions also pose a similar risk.
If you have experience driving in northern climates, these surfaces behave like black ice in the winter months. If you’ve only driven in warm, Florida weather, just know that smooth, shiny surfaces are often the most slippery areas on a road. When you travel over them in a straight line, they aren’t as much of a threat, but you should continue to scan ahead while you are riding. When you encounter one of these slippery spots with reduced traction, look for ways to drive around them safely. If you must drive over them, take care not to lean your bike more than necessary.
Take a Break
Operating a motorcycle safely on dry pavement takes skill and requires quick thinking; wet weather riding increases the need for concentration and complex maneuvering. When you start to feel taxed, you need to take a break, dry off, and give your mind and body a rest from the rain.
Additionally, other motorists already have a difficult time seeing motorcycles. In monsoon-like weather and storms of biblical proportions that pour buckets of water, it’s almost impossible for drivers to see motorcycles. Keep yourself safe by waiting for the worst of the storm to pass.
Heavy storms often produce lightning; when you see lightning, you should immediately get off the road. Your motorcycle isn’t tall, but when lightning strikes, the electricity goes somewhere in the ground. Your tires won’t completely shield you from the danger, so it’s best to not take the chance. Riding on a machine that is mostly metal during a lightning storm might be fatal.
Contact a Florida Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today
Even when you make a concentrated effort to ride safely in the rain by operating your bike carefully and following all the safety tips above, you still might fall victim to a motorcycle accident. Unfortunately, you can only control what you do on the road, not what the other motor vehicles around you do. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident on wet roads because of another party’s careless driving, you might be eligible for compensation to recover damages. Contact one of our skilled motorcycle accident attorneys at Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900 to discuss your options during a free consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765