Wet weather riding tips – the basics of riding in the wet are the same as riding in the dry. The secret is in staying smooth…
RELAX – Many riders don’t enjoy riding in the wet and most actually avoid it where possible. It’s completely the wrong approach. The reality is that the skills you need in the wet are exactly the same as those you need when you’re riding in the dry, namely you need to be smooth with your inputs and you need to be relaxed on the bike.
The biggest secret to good bike control is to ensure you’re in the right riding position. You need to be comfortable and leant forward slightly, with your arms bent – they need to be parallel to the road, and this allows you to steer the bike with the lightest of touches. This is important. If you’re holding too tight and the bike slides in the wet, this movement will be amplified and you’ll actually stop the bike from correcting itself.
CORNERING – Another mistake many riders make in the wet is that they corner too gingerly. I’m not talking about really attacking bends, but riding confidently and making progress. If you tip-toe through the corners, virtually upright, on a closed throttle, you’re not generating any cornering force and your tyres will be generating very little grip. It’s a viscous circle – the bike’s feels nervous and twitchy, you back off, the bike feels even worse, so you back off more.
It sounds crazy, but by riding more confidently and smoothly, you’ll actually be generating some cornering and braking forces, which in turn allows the tyres to grip. Still not convinced? Then try this – gently side your fingers across glass and they will simply glide across. Now try it again but this time push down with increasing force and they will begin to dig into the surface. Again the secret is smoothness.
ACCELERATING – Good throttle control is the key to wet weather riding, and I’m amazed at how few rides are able to demonstrate this basic, but essential, skill. Again, it’s all about smoothness – any big input will break traction and light the rear up, whereas smoothly winding the throttle provides drive and traction.
BRAKING – The best way to brake in the wet is to brake exactly the same as you would in the dry – squeeze the lever and apply it progressively. Never, ever grab, as any sudden input will break traction.
You won’t be able to brake as hard as you would in the dry, and this needs to be reflect in your riding, but you can still brake surprisingly hard.
The rear brake comes into its own in the wet, and by trying to provoke a rear-wheel lock up I can use it as a gauge for assessing how much grip is available – a vital tool for helping you to ride to the conditions.
ROAD POSITIONING – Wet weather means you’ll have to compromise your road position. Road markings, cat’s eyes, manhole covers and overbanding will all be very, very slippery and all should be avoided where possible.
You may also have to adjust your position on corners as gravel could be sitting on your ideal line, so keep your vision up, look as far forward as possible and try and anticipate any hazards.