We’ve talked elsewhere about how to stay dry on a bike. Now we’re going to talk about how to ride more safely when the road is wet.
Your biggest issue is reduced traction. Painted lines, manhole covers, and metal bridge gratings are real danger zones. Puddles may seem benign, but they can hide deep, sharp-edged potholes. If you see standing water on the road, pay attention.
A Gentle Touch
Gentle control inputs are the key. You needn’t ride significantly slower in the rain, but you won’t be able to lean as far, or as suddenly. Easy on and off the throttle; ditto for the brakes. Take conservative lines—this is no time to dive for the apex. Try to be smooth, like you’re giving your grandmother a nice ride on the back. Keep your brakes dry—this means you’ll have to drag them lightly every 3 or 4 miles (5–6 km), in order to heat them up and drive the water out.
It’s smart to short-shift the bike (shift earlier to keep the engine revs lower) on the street, but do just the opposite (let the bike rev higher) on the freeway. Short-shifting helps keep the wheel from spinning at low speeds and lessens the torque multiplication at the rear wheel so the bike doesn’t step out on paint stripes or manholes. Letting it rev higher on the freeway lets you use compression braking to gently slow the bike without depending on sudden brake inputs.
Finally, wear a full-face helmet. At speed, even small raindrops feel like bullets.