Infos pratiques > Ten tips for safe motorcycle driving in the rain

Ten tips for safe motorcycle driving in the rain

 - 10/12/2015

Good road holding and looking after your tyres are among the precautions that motorcyclists must take to drive safely in the rain.

Good road-holding

It stands to reason that wet roads are more slippery than dry roads. Loss of grip on a motorcycle can lead to accidents with more or less serious consequences. To avoid accidents due to rain, motorcyclists must first and foremost ensure they have the best road holding possible. One of the first rules is not going round bends too sharply. This is related to wheel camber and the choice of trajectory is vital to avoid any deviation from the chosen path. Whilst of course remaining in his or her vehicle lane, the motorcyclist riding in the rain should approach the bend as far as possible from the outside, moving gradually inwards and finally exiting the bend towards the outside. This simple technique will ensure safer, risk-free motorcycling, even in the rain.

Adopt a smooth driving style

The more relaxed you are at the handlebar, the less risks you will take. A smooth driving style involves remaining focused but not tense. Many of us are unaware of how important the eyes are, particularly in these types of conditions. Many motorcyclists have a tendency to look just in front of their front wheel, whereas they should look as far ahead as possible. This makes it possible to relax and anticipate. If you do so, you will notice that your driving style is smoother. This is a non-negligible advantage in rainy conditions because sudden braking or accelerating can unnecessarily put you in danger on a wet road surface.

Choosing the right tyres

Some hypersport or “race” tyres are totally unsuited to rainy motorcycling. Preparing for a variety of weather conditions means choosing a road tyre that is suited to a wide range of surfaces and climates. The MICHELIN Pilot Road 4 is the perfect example of a tyre that can adapt to changing weather conditions. Specially designed and developed, it is highly secure in the rain and offers road-holding properties far higher to those of the competition.

Right tyre pressure

Despite popular belief, it is pointless to reduce or increase tyre pressure in the case of a long journey in the rain. Michelin’s engineers, developers and testers are all adamant on this point. Whether the road surface be wet or dry, it is essential to respect the tyre manufacturers’ recommendations regarding tyre pressure.

Knowing how to brake in the rain

On wet road surfaces, many motorcyclists don’t know how to brake effectively. Once again, try and look as far ahead as possible, rather than just ahead of your front wheel. Many unexperienced bikers have a tendency to brake hard with the rear wheel to avoid locking the front wheel. However, in reality you should brake almost entirely using the front wheel, grasping the brake handle decisively and carefully applying firm, even pressure. While it is obviously important to avoid braking sharply, you can nonetheless exert steady and progressive pressure on the brake without losing road holding.

Beware of roundabouts

Roundabouts are an increasingly common feature of our road networks and it must be admitted that in rainy conditions, they can be particularly hazardous for motorcyclists. Roundabouts are tricky to manoeuver in the rain because they involve leaning into the curve at low speeds. It is better to ignore driving school rules which specify that you should be in the outer lane if you want to exit before the first half of the roundabout and in the inner lane if you intend exiting in the second half. On a motorcycle in the rain, it is more important to reduce the angle of the curve as much as possible, which means “cutting” across the roundabout, whilst obviously making sure you are not bothering other road users. An added reason in favour of this technique is that many HGVs keep to the outer lane of roundabouts where their fuel tanks sometimes overspill, rendering the road surface even more slippery and dangerous for two-wheelers.

Preventing hydroplaning

Hydroplaning occurs when there is large amount of water on the road surface, which the tyres no longer have the ability to evacuate. While the phenomenon was quite common in the 1980’s, it must be said that hydroplaning is something of a rarity today. Improved road conditions and the spectacular progress in Michelin tyre performances have largely contributed to making driving in rainy conditions much safer than in the past. However, a violent rainstorm combined with excessive speeds can mean that your rear wheel may skate over the road surface. If this happens, maintain your initial path so that the tyre can regain its grip as soon as possible.

Anticipating road conditions

At the risk of repeating ourselves, looking far ahead is one of the keys to safe driving in the rain. It makes it possible to anticipate potential hazards and, with experience, to recognize which surfaces are more slippery than others. White painted lines on the road and pedestrian crossings are well-known risks in rainy conditions and most motorcyclists know that is better to drive on the tarmac between the painted lines of a pedestrian crossing. It is perhaps worthwhile reminding bikers that it is also preferable to avoid braking on a wet painted line or on drainage manholes, to avoid slipping.

Make sure you can see out of your helmet

Driving in rainy conditions often results in reduced visibility, partly due to the rain itself, splashing from other vehicles on the road and finally mist that can accumulate inside the helmet visor. Concerning the latter phenomenon, most helmet manufacturers now equip their helmets with quite effective “anti-fog” properties. Similarly, to avoid water remaining on the outer surface of the visor, applying a hydrophobic product will enable the water droplets to slide off more easily and thus improve visibility.

Keeping dry

There are few things more unpleasant than being soaked to the skin on a motorcycle. What’s more, unless you live in a tropical region, rain generally also means cold weather. The combination can make the prospect of a long journey daunting to even the most hardened bikers. It is essential to wear proper, protective gear. In this vein, all-in-one suits are ideal, even if they are rather cumbersome to put on. Make sure you buy one that is sufficiently roomy to fit a warm jacket underneath. Waterproof over-gloves and over-boots are also available on the market. It is also worthwhile remembering that motorcycles equipped with fairings offer more protection than a naked roadster.

Michelin motorcycle tester, Bruno PĂ©rard’s advice

“I can’t really give any tips as such, because to be quite frank, I’m not a great fan of riding in the rain. However, part of my work as a Michelin tester is to test tyres in all types of conditions, in particular on wet road surfaces. Strangely enough, our wet road trials all take place in dry weather. This may sound contradictory, but in fact it isn’t. We carry out extremely precise measurements during our trials and to do so, we have to be able to measure the exact height of the water on the road surface. Our trials take place on special tracks with varying grip properties to which we add exact quantities of water. It would be unthinkable to entrust this type of measurement to fickle weather conditions. So, in fact, I’m extremely lucky because I only drive in the rain when the sun is shining.”