The onset of the monsoon also means the onset of the riding season for many motorcycle riders. But the risk of a mishap happening is way greater when it rains. This article shall help you be in a better position to avoid any such potential mishaps.
On a wet road, the traction between the tires and the road surface reduces by a significant margin. Thus, it is important to check the tread depth of your tires. The treads (grooves) in the tires help displace the water on the road, thus enabling a good contact patch between the tires and the road. The deeper the treads and more the grooves, better the grip on a wet surface. So the first step for a safe ride in the monsoon is to ensure adequate tread depth. The general thumb rule is a minimum of 2 to 3 mm of tread depth. Check your motorbike manual to know the minimum tread depth.
The wet road:
The next important thing to know is how the grip is affected by varying degrees of road wetness. If you are riding on a completely wet road, then you will have better grip as compared to a drying or very slightly wet road. A slightly wet road translates to a very slippery and greasy road surface. This is because the treads are not able to cut through the water, resulting in much reduced traction. It is therefore very important to be extra cautious on such type of road conditions. Apply your brakes much more gradually compared to the way you brake on a dry piece of tarmac. Do note that the first rains of the monsoon season cause any oil remnants to come out onto the surface of the road, so be extremely cautious.
Coming now to a highly wet road. By highly wet, I mean there is more than 1 or 2 cm of water layer on the road. In such situations, grip is better. There is a caveat though: Do not ride at speeds greater than 70-80 kph. This is because of a potential chance of aquaplaning. For those not aware of this phenomenon, in simple terms, this means that the tire is no more in contact with the road surface, causing the bike to be totally unresponsive to rider input. So if the phenomenon occurs, say you turn your handlebar to the left, then the bike will still continue straight on and you will be at a high risk of crashing down. The risk of this happening is higher at higher speeds and when the road has more than 1 or 2 cm of water. So ride slow and careful in these conditions.
Braking and Acceleration:
Braking and acceleration are two extremely important skills one must master to avoid mishaps in the rain. If your motorbike is not equipped with ABS, then braking skills are even more important. The best way to master your braking technique is practice and experience. Remember that in the rain, your brake discs and brake pads get wet too, resulting in reduced braking power due to reduced friction between the disc and the pad. Another important change in the wet is the increased chance of the tires sliding during sudden braking. The chance of a slide is greater when the front brakes are abruptly jammed. So say, in dry conditions, the ratio of front to rear brake pressure you apply is 70% front and 30% rear. In the wet, I would suggest to change it to around 60% front and 40% rear. This is because, even if the rear tire slides, it is easier to control the bike and avoid a fall. Another important point to note is to avoid sudden jamming of the brakes as far as possible. Be more gradual in your braking approach, brake earlier than you would normally do.
When it comes to acceleration, especially on bikes with power figures greater than 25 bhp and without traction control, control over the accelerator is paramount on a wet surface. The tendency of the rear wheel to spin in the rain increases. Thus, be very gradual while accelerating on a wet surface. This holds even more true when accelerating out of a turn, as the chance of a slide increases even further.
In the rains, avoid riding in the night as much as you can. The rain splashing against your helmet greatly reduces your vision, and increases the headlight glare of oncoming traffic. If at all you need to ride on a rainy night, ensure your riding jacket/pants/helmet have adequate reflective elements, and if you are using a saddlebag/tailbag, ensure your tail lamp is not obstructed by any straps. Moreover, at night: diversions, potholes, stones, sudden turns, etc, go unnoticed and are recipe for disaster. To enhance vision at night, you should try upgrading to better and more powerful headlight bulbs, provided your bike battery can support it.
During the monsoon, the number of potholes on the road invariably increase. And since these potholes get filled up with water when it rains, one often does not realize how deep the pothole is, which leads to this advice: ride slowly and carefully at all costs. Another aspect often ignored is the slippery nature of painted road surfaces. All those white or yellow painted lines on the road are slippery, so avoid riding or braking on these painted bits. Also avoid riding over manholes as they get very slippery when wet. Rain sometimes displaces gravel onto the road, making it even more slippery.
One common mistake that often leads to a mishap is: Say you are riding on the road. On the same road, on the right or left side of where you are riding, there is an extra layer or road that is greater in height compared to where you are currently riding. Now in the dry, if you turn slightly and ride over the raised piece of tarmac, you will safely climb over, but in the rain, due to reduced friction, the tire doesn’t climb over and instead induces a slide and causes a fall. Hence, in the rain, avoid diagonally climbing over raised tarmac surfaces at all times.
Coming to the type of road surface: Concrete based roads are much more slippery vis-a-vis tarmac roads, so ride extremely cautious on concrete stuff.
Last but not the least, ensure you wear a protective full face helmet, riding jacket, pants, gloves, and boots. Make sure no water seeps into the helmet in heavy rain. In the rain, fogging is a big issue where your vision can get severely impaired. For this, go for pinlock anti-fog inserts if your helmet visor has the provision for them, or go in for helmets that have an anti-fog mechanism. Ensure you wear an effective rain liner/ raincoat for your jacket and pants. Also ensure your boots and gloves are waterproof. Trust me, a soggy torso, soggy feet and soggy fingers are very uncomfortable, increasing the probability of a mishap as you are now concentrating more on reaching your destination early rather than concentrating on the road ahead. If you do not have waterproof gloves, you can wear a pair of surgical gloves on the inside of your riding gloves, or wear a pair of large rubber electrical gloves over your riding gloves.
When carrying along your rainwear in your saddle bag, ensure they are at a location which is quickly accessible, to ensure you can quickly put them on before getting too wet.
If you have any other tips or practices you follow while riding in the rain, please do add your comments in the comments section below.
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