Riding your Motorcycle in the Wet

"For many riding their motorbike in the wet for even a short distance is intimidating. It is in fact merely a decision"

I pulled up at the robot this morning. The rain continued to fall as it had done for three days previously. I heard a ’thump’ and the noise of plastic on asphalt as a biker sprawled across the intersection in front of us all.

Within minutes we had him and his motorbike parked at a local garage where he could wait for his wife to come and collect him. Besides his one shoulder he was unhurt - possibility he would be in worse shape once his wife got hold of him!

For the purposes of discussion (and not for blame) there are a good number of things about this accident that deserve to be mentioned.

The first and most obvious, was the huge oil (or diesal) spill on the road at the intersection. The shape and distribution of the spill screamed one thing - the spill was not accident! It had been planted earlier that morning by the vulture who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere seconds after the bike came to an untimely halt (vulture - an independently owned tow truck driver). Any leaking truck using the intersection would have deposited the oil in a logical way as it passed through. This spill was random and illogical throughout an large area around the entire intersection. There was nothing to be gained in accusing the dog and he disappeared as quickly as he arrived once he realised that no business would come his way.

Secondly, the biker was onboard a light off road bike with enduro tyres. This is not the ideal commuter as these tyres offer no traction in wet weather on a hard surface. Deflating them by 25% does help however when faced with no other alternatives

The biker rode downhill into the intersection. Braking on the downhill is always a problem even in dry weather. With poor training the rider can pitch more weight onto the front wheel than is needed thereby stressing the already limited traction. When braking under these conditions it is important to brake early, sit upright, grip the bike with your inner thighs and relax your arms - this keeps your body weight off the handlebars while braking.

For the biker, snapping the brakes on (whether the front or the rear) was a survival instinct when the robot suddenly changed to red. This is difficult to fight in practice. Linked brakes and ABS systems go a long way in cancelling out this problem. In a perfect world, bike brakes are always applied progressively. This way the tyre traction increases throughout the braking process (especially true of the front wheel)

The rear brake should be applied first in the wet. The back brake must work harder. Sitting upright as possible and an under inflated rear wheel does increase its traction under braking. If the back wheel locks up and the bike begins to fish-tail, no problem - LOOK UP, LOOK AHEAD, RIDE STRAIGHT. ’Forget’ about the rear wheel and start progressively applying the front brake - even in the wet it offers more stopping power than the rear if applied progressively.

The bike in this incident bore all the typical signs of a crash - broken controls. The controls i.e. handlebar levers and foot levers always take a pounding during an accident. This is why during long distance, rural touring always take a spare clutch lever mechanism and gear lever. If you cannot operate your gears you will be looking for a ride to the nearest town for both you and your bike with a possible long wait for spares. Things like damaged turn indicators can be repaired by duct tape (repair tape) and should be an essential part of a touring bikes essential equipment.

The rider mentioned walked away with only an injured shoulder and dented pride. This is where his protective clothing came into its own and saved his bacon.

Fact is, all bikers will find themselves separated from their pride and joy and dumped on the asphalt at one time or another. For some however it happens less frequently than for others


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