Rain

Rain creates several rider problems:

  • Wetness. Rain makes you wet and uncomfortable.
  • Slipperiness. In rain, the road is more slippery and one cant stop as fast
  • Reduced visibility. Rain reduces vision and the distance you can see ahead.

Wetness, slipperiness and reduced visibility make rain dangerous.

The rain prayer

You dont have to get on your knees or light a candle or anything

I ride in the rain a lot, and am not scared of it. If it rains, I go anyway. However before I ride in the rain, I say "the rain prayer". It goes like this: "Let me take care out there!" Its also a sincere wish. You dont have to get on your knees or light a candle or anything. The main thing is to put the thought out into the world. The problem is old habits die hard, so we tend to drive the same in the rain. You cant do that. Most people see rain and worry about getting wet. If is warm, wet is no big deal, as we are all wet on the inside anyway (we are made mostly of water). The big thing is: change your attitude when it rains. With that, and wet-weather gear, rain is no problem.

Wetness

Riders want to travel through rain and arrive as they started

Rain soaks your clothes, and makes you feel uncomfortable. If it is also cold, wetness makes it doubly so. Wet gloves feel horrible, and water in your boots wrinkles your feet. When you arrive soaked, you feel a wreck, and have to dry your clothes. For these reasons, riders want to travel through rain and arrive as they started - warm and dry. The answer is waterproof gear that sheds rain like water off a duck's back. While everything around you is wet, you are nice and dry.

Plus the gaps

You are as waterproof as your first leak

Water has a way of getting in to places. At riding speeds, the wind forces water into any gaps. While each thing you wear might be waterproof, their combination may not be. If you have a leak at one point, it will seep in and spread. You are as waterproof as your first leak. To keep dry, pay attention to your "gaps", as follows:

  • Neck: A scarf stops water dribbling down your neck and back.
  • Wrists: Gloves (gauntlets) should overlap your jacket sleeves
  • Waist: Make sure your jacket is long enough to cover your leggings, especially when in the riding position.
  • Ankles: Leggings must be long enough to overlap your boots

Very light raincoats

I always carry a very light raincoat (VLR). A VLR, sometimes called a wind-breaker, is so thin it can crush up to the size of a fist. It is easy to carry on a bike. It is not fully waterproof, but has two uses:

  • Layering. Add to your main jacket for additional protection against cold or wet.
  • Passengers. If you have a passenger, they can wear it for protection.

Slipperiness

Whatever you do, do it more carefully in the rain

The main problem with rain is slipperiness – any safety practice you have, double it in the rain! This means everything to do with cornering, stopping, speed and accelerating. Whatever you do, do it more carefully in the rain. You have only half the stopping power, so double your normal following distance. If you normally take a corner at a certain lean, reduce it in the rain. Wet roads combine dangerously with other road slip factors, like white lines or manhole covers.

First wet

If you are riding in the first rain after a dry spell, take special care

During a dry weather spell, oils from cars build up on roads. When it rains, the water cleans the roads, by loosening the surface oils, and in time, washes them away. However if you are riding in the first rain after a dry spell, take special care, as the oils are still on the surface. The first wet is the worst wet. Until they wash away, the roads are more dangerous for motorcycles. Rain after a long dry period makes roads more slippery.

Reduced Visibility

You cant clear the drops with your gloves, as they smear the visor

Rain drops cover your visor outside, and the layer of drops makes it hard to see. You cant clear the drops with your gloves, as they smear the visor, which is worse. If you have windflow, turning your head can blow the raindrops off briefly. If your visor is clean and polished on the outside, the water drops should form so you can see through them. Altering your head position may give a better view, as sometimes there is a clear patch. If not, you have to stop and clear. Without good vision, you cant see problems coming.

An outside visor droplet layer is tolerable, but an inside one as well is not

Over time, or if you lift your visor, rain gets inside it. This can give an inner layer of raindrops as well as an outer one. Now you have two overlapping layers of drops obscuring your vision. This is usually so bad you have to stop to wipe it clear. Usually an outside visor droplet layer is tolerable, but an inside one as well is not. Whatever you do, dont just keep riding like a macho fool. If you cant see, then stop!

Fogging

Just raise your visor slightly, and let the airflow clear the fog

Fogging occurs when moist air, mainly from your breath, condenses inside your visor. While raindrops obscure your vision, fogging blocks it entirely. The natural reaction is to lift your visor to see, but this creates windblast problems, and also make it hard to see. Avoiding this, and safety, is why you have a visor in first place. A better idea is to just raise your visor slightly, and let the airflow clear the fog.

Dealing with visor fogging in wet weather is my pick for worst riding problem

For some reason, fogging occurs especially when it is raining. This creates special problems. Dealing with visor fogging in wet weather is my pick for worst riding problem. Hot, muggy rain creates a catch-22 between the fogging problem and rain problems. Both can seriously obscure vision. If you keep your visor down, it fogs up from your breathing, and you cant see. If you raise it slightly for airflow, rain gets inside the helmet, and soon obscuring layers of water droplets form inside the visor (as well outside). If you wear glasses like I do, water drops also hit your spectacle lens, giving . three overlapping droplet layers blocking vision!

Fogging in the rain is not an easy situation to deal with. Here are some options:

  1. Anti-fog. Put anti-fog liquid inside and outside your visor, and on your glasses if you wear them. This reduces the fogging so you can keep your visor only very slightly open. I always carry anti-fog for this reason.
  2. Visor vents open . Most visors have vents – make sure they are open in hot muggy weather.
  3. Airflow. Click your visor up a fraction. Even a little air flow can prevent fogging. Your helmet visor should have a position notch to let you do this. On a trip, after a time, the drops will still get through. Stop periodically and clean your visor inside..
  4. Breathe down. I don’t even know if this works, but often at traffic lights when fogging starts because there is no airflow, I breathe gently down and it seems to fog less. I also lift the visor up a notch or two and look a little down, to get more air but avoid drops inside the helmet.

Fog

On a motorcycle in the fog, try to find a “sweeper”

Fog is when little droplets of water condense in the air around you to block vision. It is not common, but when it happens, it reduces visibility considerably. There are stories of people being unable to see their hand held out in front of them in fog. Fog reduces your main line of defense - vision. In fog, your warning time for danger goes down, and so must your speed. Speeds of 20 or 10 mph are not unreasonable in fog. Fog on a highway produces 50 car pile-ups when drivers ignore visibility conditions. On a motorcycle in the fog, try to find a “sweeper”. A sweeper is a large truck or car, with strong headlights you can see, that can blaze a trail for you to follow. Following a sweeper you can travel faster than your lights would allow, as their lights give you a safe distance.

Water-planing

Sometimes a body of water, several inches deep or more forms on the road, and you must ride through it. If you hit solid water at speed it becomes hard, and like a water-skier you can skid across it. To avoid water-planing, slow down coming in and your tires will simply enter the water. A motorcycle can move through quite deep water, even deeper than most cars. If it is deep, slow down to enter but then dont stop. Keep the revs up, and move through at a steady pace without trying to force it. Water-planing happens when people try to force their way through water. If you go through gently, the water simply moves aside for you.