While many riders are happy to hang up their helmets when the weather gets bad, there are plenty of you who ride all year or are more than content to ride in the rain. There are lots more of you who would, if you knew how to do it right—and that’s where we come in.
Riding in the rain doesn’t have to be dangerous or scary. It also doesn’t have to include you being soaking wet, freezing cold, or miserable to get to your destination.
The first step is getting the right gear.
You can’t control the bike appropriately if your hands are too cold and wet to operate the controls or if you’re paying more attention to water dripping down your neck than the road ahead of you.
The best option I’ve found is a one-piece suit like the Aerostich Roadcrafter ($1000). The Roadcrafter keeps the wind and water out when the weather sucks, vents well when it’s hot, and has great armor so you can wear it right over your normal clothes and zip it off at your destination. They even started selling a blacked out Stealth version after Wes and I begged for something we could ride around LA in.
Motoport fans are worse than us Apple fanboys, and I’ve only heard about the brand from wearing my Aerostich and having Motoport owners tell me I should be wearing Motoport. Their stuff also comes sans armor and is designed to be worn over your normal gear.
With the bulk of your body covered, you’ll still need some decent waterproof shoes (preferrably something that rises fairly high on your leg). Don’t go for that “rain treated shoe” nonsense, but find something with an internal gusset where the boot opens that runs most of the height of the boot. The Dainese Latemar Goretex boots I wore on the Africa Twin, or something with similar features, would be perfect.
You’ll also need some waterproof gloves. Look for something with Goretex if possible as a lot of the manufacturer versions still don’t quite get the job done. If you’re riding a cruiser or adventure bike, and your arms are near or at shoulder level, get some gauntlet gloves that go over your jacket. If you ride a sportbike or something where your arms are pointed directly down, shorter, under the sleeve gloves will keep water from running down into the interior of the glove.
Most decent helmets are void of any major leaks, but make sure to get something with a pinlock insert. Also, while every helmet maker on the planet will tell you to keep the Rain-X away from your visor, we’ve been doing it for years without any negative effects. Do so at your own risk (and don’t sue me please), but the benefits far outweigh the risks even if you have to buy a dedicated “rain season” visor.
Also, keep in mind that rain makes bad car drivers worse, and maybe consider a high-visibility option for your rain gear if that isn’t already your thing. No one looks cool riding in the rain, but you might as well be safe.
If you plan on riding all rainy season, you’ll also need to make sure your bike is prepared. Don’t try and squeeze that last 500 miles out of those balding tires or push off oiling your chain. Traction is low, things are gonna get wet, and your bike needs to be in tip top shape.
Asphalt is a very porous material that likes to soak up the oil, grease, and dirt left on it. When it rains, water lifts that slippery stuff up to the surface, which creates the slipperiest of surfaces. I don’t even bother riding immediately after the first rain of the year, when the puddles all have that rainbow coloration from the grime lifted from the asphalt.
Manhole covers, painted lane lines, train tracks, and metal grates all just became infinitely more slippery. So stay off those too if possible.
Fortunately, the profile of your motorcycle tires mean you’re far less likely to hydroplane on a bike than in a car, but we’d still avoid trying to play in puddles.
If there’s anywhere on the road that’s dry or less wet, stay there, otherwise I like to stay in the cars’ tire tracks. Having been run over by countless tires before yours, this section of road will hopefully be void of any oil patches that might be sitting untouched in the center of the road.
The key when riding in the rain is time. You need to give yourself and the drivers around you more time to react and your bike more time to respond. Reduced traction means you want to be smooth, so avoid hard acceleration or braking at all costs.
Slow down, increase your follow distances, and be smooooooooothe. Also, loosen up on the bars. A death grip will only make your reactions more exaggerated. Think of it sort of like riding a dirt bike, and get more of your breaking done early and with the bike more upright.
I prefer to ride the bike in a gear too tall, which puts me below the powerband of the bike, to help smooth out throttle inputs. Wes always told me he did the opposite, per the advice of Grand Prix racer Ron Haslam, who liked to stay higher in the rev range with the thinking that needing less throttle application to speed up meant less tire spin. Personally, I like my way better, as most don’t have the throttle control of a GP racer, but who am I to tell him he’s doing it wrong.
Slow down a bit. Relax. Pay Attention. Be gentle on your inputs. Use less lean angle. You’ll be fine.
After all, it’s just a little water.
Share your rain tips and favorite rain-proof products in the comments!
Helmet: Arai Defiant
Pants: UglyBros Smith Jeans
Gloves: Rev’IT Roadstar GTX Gloves
Boots: Dainese Cooper Boots
Photos: Scott Sorenson and Getty Images