You might as well face it - sooner or later in your lifetime of riding motorcycles, you're going to end up riding in wet weather. Rain-soaked pavement brings with it a whole new set of rules, and the consequences for riders careless enough to forget them can be pretty severe. Skilled wet weather riding isn't a death defying feat - it just requires that you practice some basic techniques and tactics that will enable you to continue enjoying the ride instead of skittering down the road.
The biggest point to remember is that the line between master and disaster narrows considerably when the sky opens up. Ham fisted riding techniques that you can get away with in the dry will put you on the ground in the blink on an eye when it's wet.
Which brings us to the first rule of rain riding: BE SMOOTH. Unlike a car's four relatively massive tire contact patches, the puny pair of footprints laid down by a motorcycle are easily overpowered on wet pavement. Though today's premium tires possess impressive wet weather traction, accessing that capability requires smooth control inputs to gradually load the tire in order to avoid blasting through the rain shrunk traction range.
This means no quick flick GP-pilot turn entries or handful of throttle turn exits; no jerking on the brakes like you've been jolted with electricity. Just apply smooth, firm control actions that allow you to positively sense tire traction, without being overly timid. This takes some practice, but once you learn to initiate a turn or apply the brakes smoothly in the wet, you'll find a surprising amount of maximum braking or steering deflection is available.
Panic stops in the wet require a lot of practice and concentration. Remember, wet discs and pads have a certain "lag" time between initial application and braking power that can easily catch you off guard; skilled brake modulation is a must here.
You also have to scan for future traction as well. Painted surfaces, tar strips, smooth pavement (bricks, non-roughened concrete) and metal (manhole covers, bridge grates, railroad tracks) become extremely slick when wet. Puddles can hide deep potholes or mask a slippery surface beneath. And be especially cautious of riding through areas where cars leak fluids, like the center of the lane, approaching intersections, or freeway on/off ramps.
Increased reaction and stopping distances means leaving extra room to permit evasive action without pressing the limits of wet traction. You also need to increase your surveillance of traffic ahead to help you predict possible trouble spots, look even farther down the road than usual. And if you thought drivers had a hard time seeing you in dry weather, think how it must be in the wet. Awareness means survival.
Although helmet shield fogging is a major problem in wet weather, there are various anti-fogging compounds available. Most helmets today allow you to crack the shield open slightly, allowing defogging ventilation while still providing eye protection.
Last but not least, make sure you stand out like a sore thumb in traffic. Running with your high beam on and wearing a brightly colored rain suit will make you considerably more visible during the day, while reflective material will help you stand out at night. Once again, your best defense is to stay out of harm's way and never take it for granted that they'll see you.
Some people approach wet weather riding with trepidation; others seem to enjoy the way it heightens their awareness and concentration. Hopefully, by using the tactics and techniques we've mentioned here, you'll gain the confidence necessary to have fun even when the ride turns rainy.
A proper seat, large enough to hold both of you without crowding is suggested not only for the safety value but also for the comfort value.
Foot pegs, a firm footing prevents your passenger from falling off and pulling you off too.
Adjust the bike suspension and tire pressure if necessary (check your manual).
While your passenger is sitting on the bike with you, adjust the mirrors according to the change in the motorcycle angle.
Start the engine before your passenger gets on the bike. Squeeze the front brake while the passenger mounts and dismounts.
Tell your passenger to tighten their hold on you when approaching surface problems or when starting from a stop.
A 400 pound motorcycle with a 150 pound rider and a 110 passenger creates a vehicle where the passenger represents more than 15% of the vehicle total weight. Even at the opposite extreme, an 800-pound motorcycle with a 220-pound rider and a 120-pound passenger, the passenger represents 10% of the total vehicle weight. When the motorcycle is at highway speed, weight shift of a few pounds will cause the motorcycle to turn. At low speeds, the same weight shift could cause the motorcycle to topple.
Only experienced riders should carry passengers. Carrying a passenger changes the way the motorcycle handles. It affects balance in a straight line and when turning, accelerating and braking. It is advisable that before taking a passenger on the street, you should practice away from traffic.
Please don't try to impress your passenger with your skills or boldness. For a new passenger the best experience will be a smooth relaxed ride with, No Surprises.
Prior to a ride as a passenger, especially if it's your first ride with this rider, take a minute or two and ask the rider some questions. The following should only be used as a guideline.
How do you want me to mount and dismount? Most riders will want you to mount from the left after the engine is started and with the bike pointed in the right direction. Dismounting will usually is from the left as well.
Does the rider want you to help with the hand signals? If so, cover the hand signals together prior to your ride to ensure you're both talking the same language.
Personal signals between the rider and the passenger need to be agreed upon. A basic set should include:
How does the rider want you to hold on? Most riders will want you to hold on to the rider waist. Holding on to any other parts like the belt, belt loops and jacket may not be a good idea. These items can let you down when you need them most and can interfere with the rider when control is needed the most; e.g., encountering a large unseen bump. Always, keep your feet on the pegs, even at a stop. If you find the need to remove your feet from the pegs tell the rider first.
The most important question a passenger should ask is. "What if any experience do you have riding this bike with a passenger?"
Intercoms are wonderful. They allow free concise communication between the rider and passenger to warn one of upcoming situations, such as bumps. It also enhances the enjoyment of the ride. As mentioned earlier, have agreed upon hand signals even if you have an intercom.
At slow speed, the bike is more difficult to control and any weight changes can have a more pronounced effect. High speed riding produces certain air pressure conditions. As a passenger during high speed do not stick an arm or leg into the air stream as this could change the dynamics of the ride.
When riding in formation with other bikes a passenger can pass signals back to bikes behind freeing the rider to keep both hands on the bars. Passengers can read maps and help navigate. As mentioned earlier, work these details out prior to your ride.
Working and communicating together
Road Guards agree to work toward the improvement of each other as Road Guards, their personal riding skills and judgment by providing constructive feedback to each other as appropriate. Road Guards agree to accept and give input in a constructive manner for growth both personally and as a group, without ego.
The Road Guard Panel is made up of the Chapter Director, Assistant Director, Road Captain, Safety Officer and a minimum of one Road Guard at large who is in good standing within the Chapter and the RG Team.
Be a member in good standing of both Biggs and National H.O.G.
Have submitted a written application to the Road Captain stating a desire to become a Road Guard.
Have ridden with the Biggs Chapter for a minimum of at least the previous 12 months. (This can be waived by the Road Captain.)
Have attended at least one Formation 101 within the previous 12 months.
Have participated in a minimum of 24 Chapter rides, including a minimum of 6 Get Acquainted Rides and 6 non Get Acquainted Rides to ensure a good mix of Chapter riding experience.
Road Guard Ride Positions:
Three Road Guard positions have been established:
- Ride Leader
Requests for Road Guard Applications:
Periodically, requests for applications are made to the general membership for Road Guard positions. Applications will be normally accepted in the November to February timeframe. Applications are available from the Road Captain or can be downloaded from the website. Road Guard Applicants are called Road Guards in Training (RGIT’s).
Road Guard In Training (RGIT) Classes:
Two Classes are developed that cover each of the three Road Guard positions of Ride Leader, Mid-Pack, and Sweep, as well as general Road Guard requirements and techniques. Classes will be given at the beginning of the training cycle and prior to riding on the RGIT Practice Rides.
Road Guard In Training Practice Rides:
After the RGIT Classes are held, three Road Guard Practice Rides are conducted. Each practice ride focusing on each positions of Ride Leader, Midpack and Sweep. These official rides will be conducted at structured times within the year and will not be in conjunction with any other type of ride.
Additionally, you will ride as a Ride Leader, a Midpack and a Sweep on actual Chapter rides under the supervision of a Road Guard.
Road Guard In Training Evaluation Ride:
Upon completing the RGIT Practice Rides and riding as a Ride Leader, a Midpack and Sweep for the required number of rides a final RGIT Evaluation Ride will be conducted. On this ride you are evaluated on your ability to be a Road Guard in all three positions. Upon the successful completion of this ride you will voted in as a Road Guard.
Riding is great. Crashing stinks. Here's a top-10 list of riding tips, based on the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course.
Accept The Risks
If you want to be totally safe, stay at home. Manage your risks by keeping your skills sharp.
PO'd at the Volvo driver who just cut you off? Chill out! Riding safely takes concentration.
Peer Pressure Hurts
Don't listen to your squidly friends. Racing goes with racetracks. Street racing goes with skin grafts.
Body Vs Road? Road wins every time. Give yourself a chance with good quality gloves, boots, long pants, jacket and approved helmet.
Watch Your Posture
Keep your knees against the tank, your feet on the pegs, your hands on the bars and your butt in the seat. You never know when you might need to react instantly.
Know Your Limits
Be aware of the capabilities of your motorcycle and yourself, especially in changing road conditions. Then-duh-don't exceed those limits.
Aggressively scan both sides of the road at least 12 to 14 seconds ahead. If you can't see that far ahead - slow down.
Keep Your Eyes Up
The most common bad habit in motorcycling is looking down, especially when cornering or braking.
Remember: You go where you look.
Know When To Say Yes
Riding is a rush all by itself. Save the alcohol for bench racing sessions.
Practice, Practice, And Practice
If you're lucky, you may go years without a close call on the road. Be ready when it happens. Take a riding course, then practice what is preached.
T = Tires and Wheels
C = Cables and Controls
L = Lights and Switches
O = Oil and Fuel
C = Chain/Belt and Chasis
K = Kick/Side Stand