While puddles are fun to play in when you're five and wearing rubber gumboots

Throttle therapy: Riding safely in the rain

Here's just a few tips for staying safe in the rain, when riding your motorcycle.

Even though spring equinox has come and gone, and theoretically we’re now officially spring, the forecasters are saying that this season might look a lot like last: long, and wet.

Here’s just a few tips for staying safe in the rain:

1. Avoid the first few drops.

Roads are slickest when first wet. If at all possible, don’t ride in the first 20 minutes of a fresh rain shower. Residual oil rests on a dry road, waiting for the rain. And when the first bit of rain falls, this oil is lifted, and rinses off the roads. If it hasn’t rained for a while (an impossibility given that we’re on the west coast, just coming out of winter), the roads will be even more slick as there’s a bunch of oil waiting for the water to lift it off the road.

2. Avoid painted lines and metal service covers.

Painted lines can be super slick when wet. Word is, there is a paint available that is less slick, but since we don’t know which is which, just avoid all of them. This includes painted arrows, lines dividing traffic, painted islands, and those thick stop lines (the last three of four which you generally shouldn’t be on anyway).

3. Increase your following distance.

There’s no accounting for the IQ of the driver ahead of you. Slow down, increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to three seconds. And if you have a tailgater trying to read the fine-print on your driver’s manual, flash your brake lights at them. Nine times out of ten, they will back off. And if they don’t just pull over and let them pass (when it is legal and safe to do so.) Their anxieties need not become yours.

4. Dress appropriately.

I’m a bit of a cat. I hate getting wet. But being wet is not really the big danger here. Windchill factor is. When you’re dry and it’s five degrees Celsius outside, and you’re travelling at 90km/hour, it’s a windchill factor of -3. Being wet increases heat loss through evaporation, so you’re going to get colder faster. When you’re riding wet, your fingers will quickly become numb. And your fingers (and toes) are operating five of your six core controls. Riding numb is riding dumb.

5. Know your gear.

Have you ever wondered what that suede patch is for on the index finger of your leather gloves? If you were told that it is for wiping the rain off your visor, you were lied to. The only thing that does is smudges your visor and blurs your vision. Don’t fall for it. They were just being polite. The dirty truth is: it’s for wiping the snot from your nose — drying the, um, other liquid from inside your visor.

Interestingly, most accidents happen on clear, sunny, dry days. Probably because that’s when we’re least expecting it. According to the definitive MAIDS report (a U.K. study on motorcycle accidents, replacing the U.S. HURT report), “weather conditions at the time of the accident were most frequently dry (89.9 per cent).” It would appear that when conditions are adverse, we seem to ride just that much more cautiously.

Britt Santowski has been riding since she was 25, and served as a chief instructor with the Vancouver Island Safety Council, where she taught for nine years.

 

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