I don’t know about you, but unlike a mustache-twirling cartoon villain, I am unable to control the weather. This means that sometimes a curveball will be thrown my way, and I end up having to deal with some precipitation (what am I supposed to do, take a car?). Truth be told, I actually enjoy it. There’s something about the air when it rains, and riding in it has a quality that is rejuvenating. I know I’m able to enjoy it thanks to having put together the skills necessary to ride safely and with confidence in the rain. So, here’s some tips to getting the most out of those wet rides.

Be Prepared

Have motorcycle rain gear on hand that is waterproof, or at least has a degree of water-resistance. Being soaked to the bone is distracting, will tire you out faster, and if it’s cold out, may even cause hypothermia. At the very least, it’s uncomfortable and less fun. Add some waterproof gloves, boots, and a rain suit (or a jacket and pants which are inherently waterproof) to your gear arsenal.

Take It Easy

There’s less traction available on wet roads. Do everything a bit slower and more gradually than you would in dry weather. Give yourself more of a safety cushion between yourself and other drivers. Accelerate more gradually. Lean into turns slowly and take them at a lower speed. Most importantly, brake more gently and progressively. You shouldn’t be grabbing a fistful of brake under any circumstances, but doing so is especially important when it’s raining. Take your time and brake progressively, in stages. Use an initial gentle squeeze of the front brake lever to load the bike’s suspension, which will put weight on the front tire and give you more grip, then continue to apply gradual progressive pressure on the front and rear brakes. Gradually let off the brakes as well.

Trust Your Tires

Even though there’s less overall traction available, you likely have more traction available to your tires on wet pavement than you may think. Modern street and touring tires feature compounds which include a large volume of silica and specialized rubbers, and advanced tread designs for siping, repelling, and dispersing water. If your tires are in good running condition, you’ll have plenty of traction available, so trust your tires, they’ll be able to accelerate, stop, or lean more than you think if things get hairy. Worn tires are no good in the rain. If yours are dried out or worn down to the wear bars (or worse, the belts), get them replaced ASAP.

Avoid the Slippery Stuff

Manholes. Painted lane markers and crosswalks. Metal grates and plates. Sand, gravel, leaves, and other debris. While wet pavement still has pretty decent traction, all this other stuff becomes dangerously slippery when wet and you’ll have much less traction available. Endeavor to avoid these things, especially when braking or turning. Avoid puddles, too. There’s not only the risk of hydroplaning, but a puddle may also be hiding a pothole which would really ruin your ride.

Pick a Good Line

When you’re riding in traffic, choose a lane position that puts you in the wake of car tires in front of you. The car’s tires will push the water on the surface of the road away, leaving you a patch of pavement that is (relatively) more dry. Avoid riding down the center of the lane, too. There’s oil, fluids, and debris deposited by cars there, which will create a slicker surface in the rain.

Practice

There's only one way to become skilled at something, and that's to actually do it. Take the opportunity to actually ride in the rain and develop your skills. Do it in lower risk scenarios, like a short errand run, a jaunt down to the local coffee shop, or find an empty parking lot to practice in. Get a sense of how well your rain gear works and if there are any weak points (ie. leaks) that you need to plug. Maybe even go out in your regular, less water-resistant gear, and get an idea of how well it stands up to the rain, to at least have a rough idea of how much bad weather you can...weather...before you need to get to shelter or bust out the rain gear.

Coffee is your friend.

Take a Break

Sometimes a thunderstorm might just get the better of you. Maybe it’s coming down so hard that you can’t see the road in front of you. Maybe a freak storm just caught you off guard or rolled through quicker than you expected, leaving you sans rain gear and soaked. Whatever the case, don’t push it if you’re not feeling it. The road isn’t going anywhere. It’ll still be there after the storm passes. Stop and fill up your gas tank. Grab a coffee. Sit down and have a bite to eat. Hunker down somewhere and browse the ol’ interwebs while waiting for it to pass. There’s no award for most badass biker who kept riding through a storm when they shouldn’t have.

Now get out there, and don't be afraid of a little rain. Be smart, be safe, and you'll get where you’re going in one piece.