July 30, 2012 by Rider Newsletter Staff
In our last entry, we discussed the importance of staying dry, seeing the world around you and being seen when it’s dark and stormy. This time, we’ll provide a series of suggestions and hints to ease those nerves when drops fall from above.
In addition to what you wear, when you ride is an important safety factor. The most dangerous time to ride in a rainstorm is immediately after the rain starts. When the road surface is dry, oil and other lubricants can drip from vehicles and build up. When the rain begins, the water can pick up that slippery stuff and make the road into an oil slick. If you have time, try to sit out the first 15-30 minutes of a storm and let all that junk wash off the road. This is particularly true if it hasn’t rained in a while.
Pick your spot
Where you ride is also critical to safety in the rain. In traffic, you should ride in the tracks left by the car in front of you – at a safe distance of course. Generally, there’s more of the oil and fluids residue in the center of the lane. Also, the car’s tires will briefly sweep water and other crud aside, leaving a safer surface for you. Finally, riding off center provides you with an additional escape route, should the car in front stop unexpectedly.
As long as you’re paying attention to where you’re riding, there are a number of hazards present on just about every road. Anything shiny can become extremely slippery in the rain. This includes lines and other road markings. Railroad tracks are another potential slippery spot. If you must cross tracks in the rain, try to hit them at a 90 degree angle and don’t attempt to do anything else while crossing them, such as stopping, accelerating or turning.
One thing at a time
This brings up an important difference between riding on a nice day and in the rain. On a nice day, you’re likely to slow down heading into a curve, and then accelerate as you complete the turn. In the rain, actions like this can put you in the mud. The idea is to only do one thing at a time. In an article on OpenRoadJourney.com, the author gives examples like downshifting while beginning a turn and shifting your weight while doing almost anything else.
Perhaps the most important advice for safely riding in the rain is to be smooth. This means riding more slowly, doing one thing at a time and making your actions deliberate and calm. Hard-edged, snappy moves can be fun when it’s nice out, but deadly in the rain. Being smooth also means riding more slowly. You’ll make everything easier and safer by doing things more slowly.
Know when to quit
Finally, when the weather gets really bad, including heavy lightning, high winds or hail, it’s time to get off the road. Find a safe place to settle in a wait for the storm to pass. You may arrive a little late, but at least you WILL arrive. We were saddened recently to hear of the untimely loss of Ralph Frazier, a beloved Harley-Davidson dealer from Buford, Georgia. Mr. Frazier was caught in a serious storm in Tennessee and, as he was stopping to let the storm pass, he was hit by a falling tree branch. Mr. Frazier was doing the right thing by pulling off the road. His loss is testimony to the fact that, although riding in the rain can be safe, there are some conditions that are just too dangerous for motorcycling.