Many motorcyclists often think bikes should be nowhere but tucked away in the garage during the rainy season until the downpour stops. Unfortunately, riders miss out on one of the best motorcycling experiences if they do that.
In a country like Bangladesh, where the roads are not very riding-friendly; traffic congestion, poor road conditions, and pedestrians' unawareness make two-wheeling pretty difficult and rain, on top of that, adds up to the "not-so-ride-worthy" factor.
However, riding in the rain can actually be intriguing if done right with a few factors taken into account.
Pick the right gear
A dual-layered waterproof raincoat with both upper and lower body additions, gloves, and shoes are very helpful for riding during heavy downpours. Various vendors are now importing good riding jackets that tend to be suitable for all weathers; it could be a resourceful monsoon wardrobe option.
Another overlooked gear is the helmet, which should be equipped with either an anti-fog visor, breath deflector, or a visor with a film coat of anti-fog insert.
Whatever gear you choose, it is important to find the right balance between riding in comfort and practicality. For instance, you cannot work the controls with frozen fingers but using an extra-warm pair of gloves may be too bulky.
Also, rain conditions can be notoriously dark and dismal so make yourself seen with bright colored gears and reflective surfaces for better visibility.
Line and ride on adjacent dry areas
It is startling to see people riding on parts of roads that are wet even though some parts are dry. Dry road conditions offer superior traction and maneuverability, so make sure you ride on the driest sections of the lane.
The drier sections not only stabilise tyre heat and traction but also aid in visualising pavement conditions better and improve braking reaction time.
We all know about the oily substances that surface on the roads after rainfall, but what about the oil that is already there?
The rain makes it worse. You may not be able to spot this while riding, so it is best to decrease your speed when approaching intersections.
Wet surfaces decrease traction, make sure to keep a safe distance from other vehicles or objects ahead - sudden stoppage can link to poor braking force, which can lead you to crash into what is in front of you.
While making sudden stops at u-turns, red lights, etc, make sure to keep the rearview mirror in check since other vehicles might also face braking time issues due to wet surfaces and poor traction. These minimum factors tend to be helpful in times of heavy rain.
Ride with care and observe more
When riding in wet conditions, you must change the way you handle the motorcycle. Accelerate smoothly and in very small increments; use less lean angle; gradually apply your brakes and that too ahead of your usual braking distance. Increase the braking area so that you do not have to stab the brake lever in the last bit of the braking zone.
Stroking the throttle bar frequently can cause torque steering or the rear to slide out in lower shifts, so slowly increasing throttle with gears in mid-condition can improve rain-time agility.
Motorcycles that come with dual-channel ABS (anti-lock braking system) help a lot in monsoon. They calibrate the sudden brakes quite smoothly over the wet surface even if tyre conditions are poor.
Rainy conditions can be windy too so be aware of the impact of wind on your bike. Be alert for signs of winds and duck down with your arms and legs tight. It can be tempting to ride next to a large vehicle to block the wind, but remember the effect will be reversed when the larger vehicle passes you, so turbulence is also a factor to take into account.
Manhole covers and uneven road surfaces
Manhole covers and sealer pavement reduce traction during wet weather and they are almost impossible to see when it is raining.
If and when you do encounter either of these traction inhibitors, check if there is a line that you could easily maneuver around. If not, resist braking or accelerating hard and roll over them without making any aggressive inputs.
In case you do have to change your line or turn over a greasy section, keep your hands relaxed on the clip-ons and do not lean the bike any more than necessary.
Painted surfaces are especially slick, so avoid painted lines and be aware of tar snakes on the road. These are areas where cracks on the pavement are filled with a tar-like sealant that becomes particularly slick in wet conditions.
Do one thing at a time
In normal conditions, we often combine several activities at once, such as throttling, shifting, powersliding, or trail braking. While turning in the rain, focus on separating these actions (i.e. finish your deceleration before you turn into a corner). This will reduce the traction demands on your tires.
To avoid fogging face shields completely, you can switch to dual-sport helmets and goggles. For off-roading or dual-sport riding in the rain, you can wear clear safety glasses instead of goggles, as the glasses fog even less.
Lube your chain more
Dry clean your chain more often and apply lube frequently as well. Mud puddles and water spikes cause erosion and rusting in chains. The chain's free playing capabilities are quite compromised in the rainy season, so it is really important for the chain to be lubed and set right since engine braking relies on the chain.
Brake pad maintenance
Road grit and water often result in quicker erosion of brake pads in such seasons. Most rims require a full revolution before the brake pads swab or throw the water from the braking surface and begin stopping, so plan ahead and brake early.
With these few tips, riding in the rain can become less of a hassle. Two-wheels will always be a bit calculative in such conditions but if safety and execution are taken care of, any rider can enjoy a good ride. Exercising the above precautions can help keep you stay safe and make the riding pleasurable.
Sahil Ahsan is an Operation Specialist of the automotive channel - Throttle Alpha.