Riding Tips: Riding in the wet

By Chris Newbigging -

Riding Skills

 03 July 2009 17:37

Wet or damp roads adds danger – tarmac that grips perfectly in the dry could be like an ice rink in the wet. But making safe progress in the wet is still possible – bear MCN’s simple tips in mind to help you make your journey safer. 

  • Smoothness is the key. moving away from a standstill, accelerating, cornering and braking must be done smoothly to avoid overloading the tyres. Pull away at low revs releasing the clutch slowly and smoothly, then gently wind on the throttle. On high-revving bikes with a surge in the power – sports bikes and two-strokes especially – short shift to stay below the point where more power kicks in unless you really need to. Torquey bikes can cause tyres to spin unexpectedly too. Use more back brake than usual, and squeeze the brakes gently, progressively loading the front tyre. You shouldn’t apply as much force as you would in dry. Turn in to corners gently too, taking a sweeping line that requires very little lean to keep your bike on the fat part of the tyre.
  • Leave more room. You can’t brake as hard or manoeuvre sharply on wet tarmac, so you need to double the safety margin you have to ensure you can deal with unexpected hazards.
  • Keep your head up. Knowing the condition of the surface in front is important, but don’t fixate on it. Being fully aware of your surroundings puts you in a better place and puts you more at ease.
  • Read the road surface. Oil, diesel and mud is even more slippy when wet, and shiny-looking surfaces will offer less grip as rough guide. Shell-grip and chipping-based road surfaces are better. Avoid puddles where safe to – they could conceal pot holes and other dangers, and your bike’s tyres could lift clear of the road at speed (aquaplaning).
  • Warm your bike up first. It sounds silly, but modern bikes running on a fast idle may respond in unexpected ways until the engine is warm. Less engine braking and snatchy or fluffy pickup are common – things you can do without when you’re trying to be smooth.
  • Check your tyres. Good tread depth is essential, but if you have to ride in the wet regularly you may need to choose tyres more suited to the task – sports touring tyres are designed to grip better on wet roads than sticky, lightly-treaded sports tyres, for example. Set them to the pressure recommended by the tyre manufacturer (contact the manufacturer or ask a dealer) – don’t be tempted to raise or lower them, it won’t help.