Staying safe in spring showers

By Ped Baker -

Riding Skills

 21 April 2011 16:35

Even if you're a committed fair weather rider the chances of being caught out in a heavy rain shower at this time of year are high.

If you're not used to or are not prepared for riding in wet weather a sunny Sunday blast can quickly turn into a bum clenching nightmare.

But it doesn't have to be like that. Here are our top tips to surviving and even enjoying riding in the rain.

1. Riders not used to the rain have a tendency to lose all confidence in their riding ability. They slow down too much and hug the kerb thuppeny bitting it round corners. The situations that panic the most is when the bike twitches over white lines, overbanding and manhole covers.

If you are able to stay relaxed with your eyes and the bike pointed and driving gently in the right direction, things will probably sort themselves out.

If you monitor the state of corners before you get there and pick a smooth, clean line through, you'll find it's easier to keep things sunny side up.

2. As in the dry, it's important to look well ahead. Staring just ahead of the front wheel is useless ­- by the time you can react to anything, you're past it. So check out the road for potentially slippery hazards as far ahead as vision allows. Watch especially for the telltale rainbow of spilled diesel ­- doubly lethal in the wet.

3. As riders become more experienced, a feel for what's happening at the tyre develops. It takes confidence and a lot of sensitivity to start exploring the limits of grip. Pushing the front is not recommended, so keep the load on the rear tyre by gentle acceleration.

Placing the balls of your feet on the pegs' ends gives added feedback and mobility.

4. Just as with putting power down at the back, using the stoppers requires weight to be transferred onto the working (front) tyre before power can be built up.

A snatch at the lever will cause the wheel to break away, but apply pressure gradually and a surprising amount of brake can be applied without the front locking up.

Do all your braking upright and enter corners cautiously, looking through the bend and assessing conditions to deduce the best line.

Go in slowly and the bike can be picked up and accelerated earlier ­ you¹ll make up most of the time you lose to lower corner speed.

5. Bikes feel at their most composed when some power is going through to the wheel, keeping geometry stable, so try to keep the bike balanced in corners by gently 'driving' it through.

Although you may want to ride a gear higher than usual in the wet, try to stay in a responsive cog so there is always drive there when you want it.

6. Your stopping distance will increase dramatically on a wet road surface so create more space between you and traffic in front.

Extra caution is needed at junctions, as drivers' vision will be obscured with rain and spray, so ride with lights on and move around in your lane a bit to give them a better chance of spotting you.