The first Christmas trees are up, the days are shorter and there is a distinct arctic chill in the air… yes, it’s the start of December, so winter’s definitely here!
That also means we have to expect to be out there riding in heavy rain more often, with all the challenges that brings in terms of visibility, braking, slippery roads and obstacles hidden by flooding and pooled water
How do we remain upright given all these challenges?
First of all, it’s vital to check our motorbikes are well-prepared in advance. Double-check tyre pressures and tread depth to avoid skidding on wet surfaces, and make sure lights and indicators are working. Test the brakes, and that all lead connections are secure. Give the lenses a wipe: dirt collected from a previous ride could be obscuring them, making it even more difficult for other road users to see us when the light fades.
Once ready, think of the route we take on our journeys. Are any of the roads used prone to flooding? Sometimes taking a slightly different route can be a good idea.
Even in daytime, it’s advisable to ride with headlights and tail lamp on when the visibility is poor. Keeping the tail lamp on in wet weather and wearing reflective gear helps other road users see us more clearly. Hi-vis motorbiking jackets and trousers are ideal but if your wallet won’t stretch to those, the addition of bright reflective strips on your normal riding jacket, and helmet, can make a big difference.
Keep vision clear.
Use an anti-fog solution such as Rain-X to clear away condensation from helmet visors.
The right speed
It’s vital we reduce our speed in the rain, and increase spacing. The wet roads increase stopping distance when braking, almost doubling the space we need to stop safely, so it’s imperative we leave a bigger gap between our bike and the vehicle in front. Travelling at a reduced speed will also help our bikes to pass through large puddles smoothly, and give us more chance of avoiding obstacles in the road that are partially hidden by standing water.
Riding too fast in the wet puts you more at risk of a skid – and you can sometimes feel the start of one as the wheels begin to lose traction with the road. In such cases, avoid braking sharply and simply ease off the accelerator. Your speed will begin to reduce slowly, giving better control.
Torrential downpours may lead to breakdowns, so have a fully-charged mobile phone handy, and the telephone number of a breakdown service provider. Avoid trying to fix any loose connections by the roadside if you do break down, and wait for help.
Finally, is your journey necessary?
Ask yourself, ‘do I really need to use the bike today?’, especially if heavy rain is forecasted or has not subsided. If the journey is essential, plan ahead. Keep up-to-date with local weather reports to see if any planned road closures or severe weather forecasts are in place – and leave in plenty of time to allow for hold-ups or slower journeys.