There is perhaps no one who looks forward to spring and summer more than a motorcycle owner. You’ve just spent a long winter staring longingly at your bike that has been parked in the garage. Finally, the first day of warm weather and clear skies brings with it an air of excitement that can only come from the first ride of the season.
And in the age of COVID-19, a backcountry cruise can double as the perfect socially distanced activity. After all, it’s just you, your bike and the open road.
But just like life, the weather can be unpredictable. Even the best forecasts aren’t reliable 100% of the time. Blue skies one minute can transform into a torrential downpour the next. And when you’re on a motorcycle, you’re exposed to everything Mother Nature throws your way.
If you’re new to riding a motorcycle, or if you’re an experienced fair-weather rider, here are some tips to help you stay safe in some of the most common types of bad weather.
RIDING IN THE RAIN
Every motorcycle rider will eventually get caught in the rain, so it pays to be prepared.
Driving any vehicle in wet weather will significantly reduce your available traction. But on a motorcycle, riding in the rain makes that instability feel far more exaggerated. Not only are you exposed to the elements, but you’re relying on just two small patches of rubber to keep you on the road.
Here are some tips to help you ride safely in wet weather:
- Cover up. If your clothes get drenched in a rainstorm, it’s going to make for a miserable ride. Investing in a one- or two-piece waterproof rain suit to keep on hand can help make the best of a bad situation. Combine that with waterproof boots and gloves to help keep your body warm and dry.
- Maintain visibility. It’s always important to have a clear view of the road ahead, but this is especially true when you’re riding in the rain. Wear a full face helmet with good ventilation and make sure the visor has an antifog coating.
- Take a break. The first few minutes of a rainstorm are often the most dangerous. That’s because dirt and oil trapped in the pavement will immediately float to the surface, leading to slippery road conditions. For this reason, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends getting off the road at the start of a rainstorm. Stopping for a cup of coffee can give the rain time to wash off the pavement before you hit the road again.
- Slow down. To stay safe in wet weather, reduce your speed and maintain a greater distance between your bike and other vehicles.
- Keep it smooth. Maintaining control in the rain requires a different riding style than you may be used to when driving on dry pavement. Avoid sudden inputs by applying the brakes and throttle slowly and smoothly. And instead of leaning into corners, do your best to ride upright and make sure to brake early, before you enter a turn.
- Avoid slick spots. When riding, take care to avoid areas with little or no traction. That includes manhole covers, painted road markings, reflectors, metal road plates and sections of road with rubber pavement sealer. These surfaces are likely to have low traction when it rains. Also learn more about driving in slick conditions like black ice.
- Choose a dry line. Be on the lookout for the driest pavement you can find. Often, this will mean riding in the tire tracks of a vehicle ahead of you. And avoid puddles at all costs. You never know how deep they may be, and puddles can be a recipe for hydroplaning, which happens when your bike’s tires ride on top of a thin layer of water. Read our tips for avoiding hydroplaning and how to stay safe if it happens.
- Stop for lightning. While it’s possible to safely navigate a rainstorm on your bike, lightning is a different story. Unlike a car, which can protect occupants inside the cabin, motorcycle riders are completely exposed to a lightning strike, so seek shelter immediately.
RIDING IN HIGH WINDS
Encountering a rainstorm on a motorcycle can be intimidating. But riding in high winds comes with its own unique set of problems.
Follow these tips to avoid getting tossed around by a strong gale:
- Be aware of your surroundings. By keeping an eye on objects like grass, trees and flags you can discern the direction of the wind and better prepare for any strong gusts.
- Stay small. To limit the effect of the wind on your bike, do your best to reduce your exposed surface area. That means tucking in your arms and legs, and keeping your head ducked down.
- Stay loose. In tense situations, it’s natural to tense your body in response. But in high winds, it’s important to keep your body loose. This will allow the wind to move your arms without allowing those motions to transfer directly into the handlebars.
- Stay to the side. When riding in a crosswind, keep your bike to the side of the lane that the wind is blowing from. By doing this, you’ll have a better chance of preventing a strong gust from blowing you out of your lane or off the road.
- Hang a knee. This is by far the strangest tip on our list, but many riders swear by it. If a strong crosswind is blowing from one side, stick your corresponding knee out into the wind. The force from the headwind will create a sail effect which can help to pull you upright and against the crosswind.
- Take a break. Riding in high winds can give you a mental and physical workout. Try to take frequent breaks to prevent exhaustion from setting in.
RIDING IN COLD WEATHER
In the spring and fall, it’s not uncommon to see significant drops in temperature when the sun goes down. And riding when you can’t feel your fingers is nothing short of miserable.
These tips can help you stay warm when it’s cold outside:
- Dress in layers. To keep your body warm, dress in multiple layers. This includes a base thermal layer, mid-layers and a waterproof outer layer. You can always remove or unzip layers if you get too warm and you’ll have them on hand when temperatures dip.
- Wear thick gloves. When riding in cold weather, your hands can get cold quickly. Dress for the occasion with a thick pair of winter riding gloves. You can also add glove liners for another layer of protection.
- Stay hydrated. Eating and drinking keeps your metabolism up, which can help keep the rest of your body warm.
STAY SAFE IN ANY WEATHER
While you’re out there enjoying the open road, the last thing you want to worry about is insurance. That’s why at Erie Insurance we’ve revved up our motorcycle coverage and revamped our motorcycle insurance prices, too. Talk to your local ERIE agent to learn how you can protect your bike—including your gear and accessories—all year long.