Rainy season is definitely here. That means torrential rain showers will very likely be a part of your daily commute. Water on the road can greatly change riding conditions, so we’ve prepared some tips to help you ride in the rain more safely.
1. Before your ride
Inspect Your Bike
Before leaving home, it’s prudent to check your bike first to make sure it can handle some water on the road.
First, check you tires and make sure there’s enough tread depth and it’s at the right pressure. If your tread depth is less than 1.5 mm in the center, it’s time to change your tire. Shallow tread depths cannot channel water and will cause you to hydroplane. Tire pressure can vary with each bike so be sure to check your manual for the recommended pressure.
Second, check your bike’s oil and brake fluid level. Make sure they’re properly topped up. In addition, observe the underside of your bike for fluids dripping onto the ground. This is not only dangerous for you but for other bikers as well. Oil, when mixed with rain water can become a very slippery concoction.
Third, ensure your lights (headlights, taillights, and turn signals) are all working. Visibility is drastically reduced in the rain so make sure your lights are in working order so you can keep them on and be visible to other vehicles.
Finally, check your windshield and visor. Take the time to clean them and even apply a coat of antifog before you leave. These will help ensure clear vision if it suddenly rains.
Bring the right gear
If you’ve invested in rain gear, it’s more prudent to bring it along during this season. Many shops offer various kinds of rain gear that can be stored in a bag you can bring along. Be sure to also bring waterproof covers or extra plastic bags to protect your bag itself or other sensitive items.
While raincoats (kapote) are a cheap and easy solution, they can be particularly dangerous for bikes driven by chains. The edges can easily snag on the chain, causing your rear wheel to lock up and lead to an accident. They can also unintentionally cover headlights and tail lights while you’re riding. We recommend investing in proper rain jackets and pants as these are the best at keeping water out.
Finally, if you have the space on your bike or bag, consider bringing a set of extra clothes. While several rain jackets can effectively keep water out for some period of time, with our kind of torrential rain, water will seep in eventually. Having an extra set of clothes will give you something dry to change into when at your destination.
It also pays to be in the habit of wearing reflective gear. These can make you even more visible to other vehicles in adverse conditions.
Plan your route
By now, you’re already familiar with the areas that are likely to flood. As such, have alternate routes planned just in case your regular route becomes flooded and impassable. This will help you avoid the heavy traffic these flash floods typically cause and help you avoid any delays.
2. While riding
Wait it out if you can
The first few minutes of a downpour are usually the most dangerous. Oil doesn’t mix with water so the first few minutes of rain brings the oil on the road to the surface, making the road slippery. Some dust and debris can also mix with the water to become more slippery. If you can spare the time, wait a few minutes for the water to wash the oil and debris off the road.
If you can spare the time, wait it out in a dry area if you can.
Don’t stop your bike under a pedestrian or vehicle overpass or MRT station. You will block the road and cause more traffic. Find a suitable shaded area out of the main road and wait there.
If there is lightning, get off the road immediately. Lightning may only seek out tall objects, but that electricity has to go somewhere in the ground. If everything is wet, including yourself, your tires aren’t going to insulate you from electricity traveling to the ground.
Reduce your speed
If you can’t spare the time to wait it out, be cautious at the very least. Turn on your headlights. Don’t turn on your hazard lights. Wear your reflective vest OVER your rain gear.
When riding in the rain, do it at a slower pace than usual. This lets you spot obstacles further ahead and gives you time to cautiously avoid them.
Braking in wet weather conditions is quite different. It’s very easy to unintentionally lock up your tires in these conditions. Brake more cautiously and progressively. Suddenly pulling on the brake lever will very likely lead to a lockup and an accident. Brake earlier and give yourself more distance to stop. If you don’t have ABS, while braking, apply a lighter application to the front brakes. It’s better to risk locking up the rear wheels than the front.
The center of a motorcycle’s tire has the deepest and thickest tread to channel water. Take advantage of this by riding as vertical as possible. Bank or lean as little as possible to maintain that grip and avoid low siding.
Avoid staying in the center of the lane. Instead, ride behind another vehicle’s tire tracks. These lines are easier to see in the rain. In addition, they have already repelled some of the water away from the road and will give you better traction.
Avoid certain surfaces
Water on the road will drastically reduce the amount of grip available, so once it begins to rain, adjust your riding style. Ride more defensively, keep any eye on the road for debris and obstacles, and slow down.
There are some surfaces that instantly become slippery when wet so avoid these as much as possible. Avoid riding on painted lines, manhole covers, tar snakes, and metal crossings (found on bridges and overpasses). If you can’t avoid them, some can be ridden over, but cautiously. Ride in a straight line over painted lines and tar snakes if you can’t avoid them. Don’t lean, turn, or apply the brake when riding over them. Avoid metal crossings, manhole covers, and metal objects on the road as they can be dangerous to ride over even in a straight line.
Be on the lookout for rainbow-hued puddles on the road. These are indicators of oil on the road and will be particularly slippery if you ride over them. Be also on the lookout for regular puddles. They may look like just water on the road, but some of them can hide deep potholes. Avoid as much as possible. If you can’t, ride cautiously over them in a straight line, by squeezing your clutch (if in a manual bike), and coasting through the puddle.
Keeping these tips in mind will help you ride better in the rain and avoid any accidents. So get the right gear, make sure your bike is properly maintained and keep your guard up, especially during this rainy season.