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Let It Rain - Riding Motorcycles When It's Wet

Tip #3: Avoid shiny-smooth surfaces.

What do I mean particularly? Most obvious is anything metal - train tracks, man hole covers, metal grates on bridges, etc. Less obvious is anything painted: lane lines, turn arrows, etc. I guarantee you that trying to stop on one of those giant painted turn arrows at an intersection is going to be much more difficult than plain old asphalt.

Tip #4: Slow Down!

Ok, so this one is pretty self explanatory but, for those of you that have been dropped on your head a few more times than rain, surfaces are slicker than usual - water acts as a lubricant. This means your brakes are less effective, which means its going to take much longer to stop when it's wet than when it's dry. Plus, when it boils down to it would you rather start fish tailing at 20 miles an hour or 40 miles an hour?

No rainsuit is going to keep you dry from peeing on yourself.

Tip #5: Ride behind one of the rear wheels of the car in front of you.

This has two benefits, first if the guy in front of you stops suddenly you will be able to swerve to a side and get a few more feet of braking distance (which you'll need).

The second benefit is, remember that watery sludge that we described above? The car's wheel in front of you basically acts like a plow pushing all of the water on the road out of the way for a brief period of time. Take advantage of that (slightly) dryer pavement!

Tip #6: Unsure about traction? Test it!

As it should be, traction is usually any rider's biggest concern in the rain. Surprisingly though, wet pavement can offer significantly more traction than some riders think. If you're concerned about traction, take a few seconds to test it.

While riding at a moderate speed on a straight, level surface, feel for how much traction you have with your rear wheel (not your front!) by trying to lock it up. You are not trying to do a 50 ft skid here, just a brief test to see how much traction you really have.

Tip #7: Use a full face helmet, or buy a detachable face shield.

Rain drop's hurt at 50 mph. In fact, you will think it's hailing. If you ride with an open face helmet you'll want to get something to protect your face. I always carry a bandanna and cover my face with it in the rain.

Don't get caught with nothing to cover up with, you will be pink in the face by the end of that ride (and I'm not speaking figuratively here).

Tip #8: The Rule of One Action.

I know that you are a very complicated person, but in the rain, you need to be a very simple person. Specifically, in the rain, you should think about your tires and what I call the rule of "One Action." What do I mean by "One Action"?

In normal conditions, we put our tires through many different stresses (or actions):

  • We accelerate while turning. (two actions)
  • We downshift while coming into a turn. (two actions)
  • Shifting weight while turning and accelerating (three actions)
  • Etc.

In the rain, you should focus on only putting your tires through one action at a time.

In other words, accelerate (one action) after you make a turn (one action). Downshift (one action) before you start to turn (one action). Etc. Don't combine actions on your tires together in the rain. Less tension on your tires in the rain is going to result in better traction.

Motorcyling in the Rain Summary

I'm sure there are more great tips out there for riding motorcycles in the rain, these are the main ones I follow while riding when it's wet out.

To say the least, rain is no longer my kryptonite after taking these tips to heart!

I hope that you'll find that riding in the rain safely is quite doable and even enjoyable if you get the right gear, stay sharp, and pay attention to your surroundings.



bburnie says:

good info! didn't think about waterproof gloves with squeegee on thumb,
and "you get what you pay for" will be taken to heart when looking for Gear,
Sat Mar 5, 2016 at 5:02 PM

dannylatham says:

Some really good info here......get caught in a heavy rain and you'll appreciate this info.
Thu Apr 23, 2015 at 2:58 PM

LuckstedM says:

My brother-in-law and I have been hired by many drought ridden states to ride in that direction. We do several five day trips every year, and often spend one or two days in a deluge. I just bought a new full face helmet, Dainese goretex gloves and Bates goretex boots to start the new riding season. I carry all my raingear in a Cortech bag which sits on top of my luggage to be readily accessible.
Tue Mar 10, 2015 at 3:44 PM

scottie409 says:

After a 3000 mile trip in September this year from Niagara Falls to the Gaspe Peninsula which gave me a chance of 10 days out of 14 in rain and fog I used a set of Frogg Toggs rain jacket and pants and would recommend them to any one.
Provide great rain and wind protection and are very light weight as well as compact when rolled up. I think they are made out of some form of Tyvec material used in house wrap. On my Honda ST 1100 the only thing that gets really wet are my hands so I bought a pair of high visability rubber gloves and other than sweating they worked great. I quite like the rain unless the temperature drops and causes visor fogging, and I'm thinking heated visor of some kind.
Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Cjohnson says:

Definitely the same way I first felt until I actually got caught in a very serious rain storm. Frogg toggs are great for rain gear. I am literally completely dry when I wear these rain garments. You can get them at sports authority. You pay for what you get so I suggest you invest in good rain gear. My suits was not expensive at all but they do a great job keeping me dry. Thanks for your wise advise.
Mon Nov 4, 2013 at 3:40 PM

Macker5649 says:

Excellent advice! This should be required reading for anyone getting a cycle endorsement on his/hers operators license. Thanks also to those of you who contributed good advice and experience.
Wed Aug 7, 2013 at 9:00 PM

Senorjeem says:

This is great stuff! Don't give in to the urge to go like mad as you get closer to home. You are already wet, don't compound things by laying your bike down & potentially hurting yourself.
Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 10:36 PM

lawman28 says:

Great advice!
Sat May 18, 2013 at 5:19 PM

Twistedsteel says:

One thing that I discovered and would like to add to riding in rain. Get yourself a travel size shampoo plastic bottle. It should have a cap that you can pop up and squeez out shampoo. Empty the shampoo & clean out bottle very good. Fill it with RAIN-X. Squeez some on a rag or paper towel and rub it on your goggles,face shield,glasses. It is like having windshield wipers on your eyewear!! Works great. You might have to reapply it every so often. All depends how long your in the rain. But this does work. Try it it's a cheap way to ride a little safer in the rain. Peace
Tue Jul 24, 2012 at 8:37 PM

bikerrainchaps says:

This is a great article. Lots of points that I've not thought of previously. I specifically liked the comment about only doing "one action". Wonderfully put.

When I go out riding, I usually wear my Biker Rain Chaps. I know this sounds odd, but I usually ride to and from work and they keep my britches clean... And then if it does start raining, they rock at keeping the road spray and rain off my legs. And in situations where the rain really did kick up, I find someplace safe to pull over, get my rain suit out, and just slide it over the chaps. They're a great first line against crappy weather.

They were really dirt cheap... Like $20. Check them out when you get a chance.

Again, great article. You've got me wonderin' what's in the pro section. I'll probably sign up tonight. - Ray
Sat Dec 24, 2011 at 7:46 AM

e48948 says:

Great article... required reading. You will get caught in the rain, be prepared both mentally and physically
Fri Sep 2, 2011 at 7:15 AM

felon says:

I hate rian gear! I have the best you can buy from Harley-Davison and if I am cross country riding and the day starts with rain, I will put it all on, including helmet with visor, etc. And roll on. But if I am riding down here in Florida, I very seldom put it on because most of the time it will only last a few miles or less. At 55 mph you will dry out in 20 minutes. One thing I will do is change glasses, as far as I'm concerned, being able to see is the most important! Just one bikers opinion.
Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 8:53 AM

markdub says:

You must have read the minds of so many of us. I love to ride and plan to take longer trips and for that reason think of the limitations of rain subconscientiously(?)"ALL" the time. I read everyword of this well written article and appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge and insight.
Thu Aug 4, 2011 at 4:54 PM

markmark says:

Reading the beginning of your article brought back memories of early riding days & rain. Like you rain gear was the answer for me also. Just this past summer I rode from western Maryland to Philadelphia, Pa. I started out in the mountains & it rained the entire ride. Only thing that was wet was my face & collar on my t-shirt. Good tips on how to handle bike in the rain.
Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 10:52 AM

flashgordon23 says:

Great article! I have one question about breaking in Tip 6 above. Should the front break be used minimally or not all in testing and in wet weather in general?
Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 6:28 PM

WSM says:

I just bought myself one a pair of these:

You'll look like a giant, neon green marshmallow... but that's a good thing!
Tue Sep 8, 2009 at 5:50 PM

Marshallmoto says:

I took a trip to Alaska last summer. Spent a lot of time planning. I made a couple of wind/rain deflectors and zip tied them to my 1800 Goldwing crash bars. They keep the rain, rocks, heat off the legs. A good waterproof, vented jacket, non leather. Full face helmet. When raining, just pop up for 2 seconds and shield is clear. Heated grips and seat. Gortex pull over pants. Waterproof ankle hiking boots. I drove all day in the rain at times and never got wet or minded the rain or hail.
Mon Jun 15, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Evros says:

One more point:

I always put my bike in one higher gear than usual when riding on slick surfaces, you don't want to have too much torque hitting the pavement, this creates too much wheelspin and it goes without saying that too much wheelspin + wet surface = emergency if you are usually in 3rd gear at a certain speed on dry surfaces, put it in 4th.
Mon Aug 4, 2008 at 8:47 AM

RESCO6 says:

Great artical-new rider-no rain yet-thank you for the tips
Sat Aug 2, 2008 at 8:13 AM

hhdinc says:

Excellent info - many thanks. I got completely soaked a day ago and these tips would've served me well. At least I'm getting the info now before getting caught again!
Thu Jul 31, 2008 at 12:06 PM

bmbrick says:

Great article! Another point I have noticed that should be added....Wear CORRECT EYE PROTECTION (i.e, Sunglasses should be taken off and clear goggles put on, full face helmet,etc.) If you can't see you shouldn't be riding.
Mon Jul 28, 2008 at 9:00 AM

BlaSTr says:

Thanks for the write up. I'd add 3 items. (1) Put the gear on early. Riding wet robs the body of heat and increases the discomfort factor. Shivering can be dangerous. At the sign of that first sprinkle or when day turns to night down the road, pull over and put the gear on. You'll be drier, have an easier time of getting the rain gear on, and size up the situation. (2) Buy the brightest riding gear you can. If fellow riders complain they need sunglasses to save their eyes, you're getting close to the right color. Cars have a hard enough time seeing bikers and blending in with the road is not going to help. (3) Know when to get off the road and stay off. Pull as far off the road as you can (interstate) under a bridge, or under some kind of overhang. If you're under an overpass on the superslab, get away from the bike, preferably behind the guard rail. Let the heaviest rain go by before considering getting back on the road. You'd be surprised how many fellow riders you'll meet under the awning at a local gas station or underpass. Relax. Watch the rain fall, the lightning crack, and the boom of thunder. And when you get back on the road, be extra careful.
Sat May 24, 2008 at 2:33 PM

MJ5898 says:

Thanks for the awesome article. Like you before, I am petrified of the thoughts of riding in the rain. I am a fairly new rider (2 1/2 years) and on the few occasions when I have had to ride in the rain - needing to get home - I have white knuckled the grips, which I am sure did not help the bike's performance. No accidents or anything, but I was just feeled with tension from thumb to toe. With your tips in mind, I might actually be OK out there is a rain blows up on me - but first, must get a rain suit.
Thu May 22, 2008 at 11:12 AM

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