Riding your Motorcycle in the Rain; Don’t do it unless You Must!

California Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Norman Gregory Fernandez discusses the dangers of riding your motorcycle in the rain.This is my first article of the New Year 2008. As I write this article California is enduring extraordinary rains which we are not accustomed to.

I was out yesterday riding my cage in the rain, and I saw a guy riding his motorcycle with normal street clothes on, tennis shoes, and a half helmet. I could not believe it. I would not ride in normal conditions wearing what this guy was wearing in a constant downpour of rain. He must have been soaked to the bone and very cold. Not good to say the least!

I have said many times in my articles that I do not ride my motorcycle in the rain unless I have no other choice. There have been many instances where I have been on the road and have had to ride through storms to get to my motel, or a safe place to wait out the rain.

Some of these instances of riding through the rain were severe, such as in Durango, Colorado, and in San Francisco, California. One time riding through the Arizona desert I literally ran into a thunderstorm out of no where that was so violent that it left welts on my face from hitting the rain at the speed I was riding at. Anyway…………..

If it is raining outside, it is probably a better idea to drive your car than ride your motorcycle. We have had a bad drought here in Southern California for the past couple of years, and when the rains come, the oils that have built up on the roads come to the surface of the road and make them slippery.

Since we only have two wheels on a motorcycle, a slippery road can mean disaster if your motorcycle slides out from under you.

Secondly, hydroplaning can make your ride a disaster as well. Hydroplaning occurs when water gets between your tires and the road surface. A layer of water builds between the rubber tires of the vehicle and the road surface, leading to the loss of traction and thus preventing the vehicle from responding to control inputs such as steering, braking or accelerating. It becomes, in effect, an un-powered and un-steered sled. Hydroplaning on a motorcycle with only 2 wheels in a heck of a lot different than in a car with 4 wheels, on a motorcycle it can mean disaster.

If you absolutely have to ride in the rain, my advice would be as follows:

(1) Wear full protective gear, including water proof boots, full face helmet, leather jacket, gloves, etc;

(2) Wear a good rain suit that is preferably designed for riding motorcycles in the rain;

(3) Do not accelerate or brake fast, take it easy;

(4) Leave plenty of room between you and the cars around you. Try to keep a very good distance between you and the cars or trucks in front of you because their spray will impact your visibility, and as you know on a motorcycle we do not have windshield wipers; and

(5) Take turns or curves very slowly and cautiously. It only takes a split second to eat asphalt if your motorcycle looses traction and goes out from under you.

Above all, do not ride beyond your comfort level. If it does not feel right, it probably is not right! In other words if you are riding in the rain, and you do not feel comfortable in the conditions, pull off and wait it out at a restaurant or some place like that if you can. I have been stuck in conditions which left me no choice but to ride or leave my motorcycle in the middle of no where. I chose to ride, but I rode cautiously!

One of my worst experiences was on the 101 freeway south of San Francisco when I got stuck in a torrential downpour at night. I did not have rain gear on, and the rain came out of no where. It was so bad that I could barley see anything and there were lots of cars doing 70mph plus. There was no safe place to stop or pull over. I had to ride it out. Luckily I made it to my hotel in one piece.

Do not let your friends or others assert peer pressure on you to ride your motorcycle in conditions which make you feel uncomfortable. I am not afraid to say “I do not ride in the rain unless I have to.”

Take it easy out there folks. It is supposed to be raining for the next few days here in California. Cage it if you can.

By Norman Gregory Fernandez, © 2008

28 Responses to Riding your Motorcycle in the Rain; Don’t do it unless You Must!

  1. If it starts to rain before I leave the house, I don’t ride. But, like all riders, I have been caught it in. Slowing down and being diligent is so important. Here, in the summer, we also get the lightening and that is scary when there is no place to get out of the rain. Great article.

  2. Either you guys ar wuzzies or us people over here in Europe are a lot more manly, macho and cool … I can’t make up my mind on that one ;D. Right here in western Norway (at 60 deg N) we can ride for most of the year (8-10 months) but half the time it’ll rain. So who cares? We’re already (more or less) wearing full clothing on account ot the temperatures so a few drops of eau de vie won’t do no harm. Would make your Electra Glide water-cooled, too. Common sense as you preach pertains to all riding, not just rain but also dark roads, unfamiliar areas etc.

  3. To Electra Glide Man

    When it comes down to it, when I ride and why I ride is MY personal choice. Just like itÂ’s your personal choice and I respect that. It doesnÂ’t deserve name calling.

  4. Sorry BikerBetty you must have overlooked the smiley ;D The entire sentence is meant to be read as joking; the point of the comment being that rain is a natural occurence that shouldn’t limit your biking habits.

  5. Oops, Electra Glide Man, I’m really sorry. I’m not used to seeing those kinds of smileys. I sure didnÂ’t mean to get it the wrong way. Sorry to ream you for no reason. Rain is a natural occurrence, but so in the lightening we usually get with it in Colorado. We usually get about 3 deaths from lightening and about 1-2 people who get hit and are lucky enough to talk about it. It only rains in the summer/autumn here. For the Winter & Spring we get that snow. We also get hail with rain. Thanks for the correction on the misunderstanding 🙂

  6. I have been riding many years and am a third generation biker.
    Your advise about not riding in the rain unless absolutely necessary IS THE BEST ADVICE.
    The only thing I would add is that in a real downpour, finding shelter under a bridge has worked for me (and sometimes not depending on the direction the rain is falling, how deep the water is getting , and how heavy the traffic is !) I only use this option when there is no other.
    Jazz

  7. I’m enjoying your articles. Riding in the rain is a matter of confidence. Same as any riding. Confidence comes from experience. Sooo, if you are short on experince here is what you do. When it rains at home, ride! Ride in your home area where you are familar with the roads and conditions. Test out your apparal, etc. Then, when the time comes you are stuck in the rain you’ll have the experince and confidence to handle it. I personally enjoy the rain, althogh not as much at night – to much work. I do not have a car sitting around just for the rain.

    • Gerald,Great input I have been riding for years when ever I get a new bike new or old. The first thing I do is ride her HARD… and get to know her. I also take her out in rain as much as I can near home this way. I know the good & bad and I am better prepared for when I get caught somewhere. Don’t get me wrong I don’t plan trips in the rain. But we ALL get caught in the rain sooner or later. Avoid it when ever possible. Confidence is key.. NOT cockiness..

      May the sun be at your back and the road ahead be clear..

  8. I think the point to this article is; don’t ride in the rain unless you are prepared to ride in the rain. I live in Seattle. I ride a motorcycle. Motorcycles are meant to be ridden. If you ride where it rains, ie Seattle or the Pacific North West, be prepared to ride in the rain.

    Personally I donÂ’t wear sneakers when I ride period. I always wear full protective gear but thatÂ’s just me. I agree with GeraldÂ’s comment about practice riding in the rain on familiar turf.

    Some additional tips:
    DonÂ’t ride in the center of the lane with it first starts raining. The center of the lane is where all the oil is and it bubbles up to the surface when it first starts raining.

    To minimize hydroplaning ride in the tracks of the vehicle in front of you. There tires momentarily part the water like Moses.

    Go slow. Better to arrive late than injured.

    Invest is a motorcycle rain suit. TheyÂ’re relatively inexpensive and pack easy. Always nice to have on hand when the rains come.

  9. Thanks for the info. I pretty much had the right idea from my own knowledge about riding in the rain. I agree with this the most though: If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isnt.

  10. I rode year round in Oregon in the 80’s and had a tangle with railroad tracks in the rain that ended my riding days. I didn’t have troubles with rain. Made bad decision with the tracks. Should have got off and walked out. Rotor shot. Insurance company totaled bike. Want one now at 50 yrs old. Besides safety, what damages to bike are there from rain itself? See ads for bikes saying never ridden in rain. That scares me as a buyer. Will it having sat mean a money pit for me to get it ready to run again?

  11. I agree with one statement. Ride at your comfort level. Having said that, riding in the rain is part of motorcycling. You need to be comfortable in the rain, at night, cold weather, and bright sunshine. Do not exceed your personal limitations, however one can build confidence over time and become proficient in most weather conditions. Snow and Ice are the exception. Riding in the rain is ok, freezing precipitaiton is a whole different story.

  12. I ride in the rain all the time. Those that don’t are not real motorcyclists. The season here in the northeast is only so long, so the car is parked. Buy some good rain gear and you will be ok.

  13. Norm: No offence, but if I had to take a car where I like to go, I would stay home. I have ridden 500 miles in the rain on several occasions in my life. That is because where I was going was for the ride.
    Having said that, I usually wait a bit to let the hard rain wash oil off the road. And I don’t go nuts when it is pouring. Frankly, riding at dawn and dusk around here with all the deer, it much more dangerous than rain.
    BTW, I have been riding for 43 yrs and have never been down because of rain.
    And I do ride BMW’s.

  14. Thanks for your comments Jazz. One time at the 4 Corners Rally in Durango Colorado, we got stuck in the hills in a massive down pour about 20 miles form the rally. It would have been suicidal to continue riding in the hills the way the rain was coming down. I made the decision to turn around and huddle under a gas station awning with a bunch of other bikers who made the same decision until the rain stopped.

    You have to do what you have to do to stay safe and alive!

    Norm

  15. Tim where I live in Southern California, riding in the rain is rare because it rarely rains out here. Furthermore, when it does rain out here, the roads are dangerous for cars because the oil and grease that has built up comes to the surface. In other words, it is even dangerous to drive a car out here when it rains. A motorcycle is a whole different animal.

    I have ridden in the rain. I do not think I will ever be comfortable doing it because it is a rare thing for me. To each his own!

    Norm

  16. 82 I disagree with your statement. I put on 20k miles on my motorcycle a year. I have been a hard rider for the past 28 years. Are you saying I am not a real motorcyclist?

    I have ridden through many rain storms. I rode in a bit of drizzle last Sunday.

    Because of my experience, I only ride in the rain when I have to. Let’s face it, on a two wheeled motorcycle, it is not as safe to be on a motorcycle in the rain, as it is to be in the car. If you don’t agree with this than you are not being honest with yourself.

    I have seen and represented too many bikers and motorcyclist who have been taken out in the rain. One biker during this past winter crashed in the rain storm and was decapitated by the truck who ran over him when he lost control on a rain soaked slippery surface on a curve in a tunnel in Pasadena.

    I understand the balls to the wall machismo in the biker world, especially with you BMW riders who think that your equipment is more equipped to ride in the rain and other such conditions. Well if you hit a rain soaked oil patch you may sing a different tune.

    If it is raining out, use your car. If you are on the road and it starts raining, be careful and slow down, if your gut tells you that it is not safe, get off and wait it out!

    Norm

    • Thanks for your input, Norman. I was going to finish reading all of the comments (as crazy as some of them are), before I made my comment. But, your comment is a perfect point to Segway into my comment.
      First, let me say this: I’ll be 53 years old on Jan 19th. I’ve been riding bikes since I was 14 years old, and have rode and owned everything from a “pull string”, to a 2015 “Road Glide”, which I currently own. I’ve rode in the rain on many occasions, and had no problem doing so…until recently. I rode through a storm from nyc to myrtle b each sc. It rained from ny to Va, without incident. And I rode at considerably high speeds in spite of the rain. Last month I rode from nyc to bushkill, pennsylvania. It rained the entire trip also. But, 20 miles before reaching my destination, it began to downpour, so bad that I couldn’t see. I found myself weaving in and out of my lane. So, I KNEW it was time to pull over. I saw a sign for “rest stop”, and proceeded to make my exit. The plan was to pull over until the rain let up. I exit the highway and get to the light. It’s pitch bkack, and no signs of light (or rest stop) in either direction. So, I decide to hang a right. I traveled apx 1/4 mile and didn’t see any sign of light or a rest stop. The road began to wind in either direction. So, I th I thought to myself “the rest stop must be in the opposite direction”. Before I could make a u-turn, the two way (no lines), road began to wind to the left. I was traveling maybe 20mph. All of a sudden, the bike Bagan to slide to the right (apx 3-4ft). Before I could respond, the tires suddenly regain traction, and launched me up in the air, landing square on my head. Thank God for helmets !! This happened SO QUICK there was nothing I could’ve done differently! Thank God I wasn’t hurt. The bike suffeed minor damage. My point is that I have an enormous amount of riding experience. Prior to this incident, I didn’t give it a second thought about riding in the rain. I consider myself lucky. This could’ve happened on the highway, having resulted in an incident similar to the one you described, Norman. To each his own. Riding in the rain, makes you no more of a rider. Personally, I have nothing to prove. I will CONTINUE to ride in the rain. However, I will never underestimate, or ride over-confident. I was completely blind sided by this fall. Btw, the bike landed slightly off the road.. sort of in a ditch. I managed to pick up this 900 lb. bike by myself. But it was stuck with the tire not making contact with the road and I had to wait for 2 good Samaritans yo be kind enough to stop and lend a hand!!
      In closing….whether you ride in the rain or not…..always proceed with extreme caution. I’ve lost count of the many funerals (from novice to “track certified”), I’ve attended in my 40 yrs of riding!! *NO ONE IS EXEMPT.
      *FALYING IS INEVITABLE
      *THE MORE YOU RIDE, THE MORE YOUR CHANCES.
      #THE LIFE I LOVE
      ##CatchMeOnAHighwayNearYou

  17. No offense taken.

    I rarely have started a ride in the rain because no matter how many precautions you take, it is flat out not safe to ride a two wheel motorcycle in the rain. Hell two years ago I rode about 200 miles in a pack in a torrential downpour the entire way from California to Nevada. We were all very lucky to make it safely.

    I can give many reasons why it is not safe to ride in the rain, but the main reason is that we only have two wheels, and if you hydro-plane or loose traction on any of the two wheels, there is a very good chance that you will go down. This is not the case in a 4 wheel car.

    Each rider is different, with different riding skills and comfort levels. No one should ever ride beyond their comfort level.

    We can agree to disagree. You may be the greatest rider on earth. However if a cager cuts you off in the rain and you have to do an evasive maneuver real quickly in the rain, you have a much less chance of keeping her up, then when it is not raining.

    Norm

    • Great post!!! You obviously have an enormous amout of experience, as I myself also have an enormous amount of actual riding experience!! Kudos to you, my friend.
      #CatchMeOnAHighwayNearYou

  18. I disagree with you Vidar. Where I live it rarely rains. When it does rain, there is oil and slippery goos on the road from nearly a year of buildup. Plus we can have flash floods.

    Obviously there are some people that live in some areas where it rains quite a bit more. You should not be riding a motorcycle in the rain unless you have to, especially if you have a choice. It is dangerous and not the same as riding on a dry street.

    Norm

  19. dude if your not gonna ride in the rain don’t even bother buying a motorcycle. its a waist of money for you. yea theres been times ive rode in severe weather and in times ive rode in good weather, and its the same concept pay attention to what your doing and you wont eat asphalt. ive also heard where people blame others for the accidents on their motorcycle and while some of them are legitimate reasons begin ran off the road or hit while crossing a 4 way are not good reasons why it was someone elses fault pay attention to what you are doing or stay home.

    • Vidar. I’m SORRY. But I’m gonna have to tell you…while, I DO understand your logic Im here to tell you that YOU’RE WRONG! Norman summed it up very nicely. I’ve been riding for 40 yrs. Perhaps your number haven’t played yet. But, believe me.. the fact that you haven’t had any incidents in your experience is. Merely the stars alingning. Hopefully, you WON’T have an incident. I enjoy riding. I especially like riding in the rain. But, just as Norman pointed out, the danger rises considerably, when you ride in the rain. Because a particular circumstance (or cicumstances), escaped YOU….does NOT MEAN….THE DANGER DOESN’T EXIST!!! Ride hard. But ride SAFE.
      #CatchMeOnAHighwayNearYou

    • most states reiuqre you to have a regular drivers license plus the motorcycle endorsement added to your regular license to be able to ride a motorcycle legally. there are some states that will let you get just a motorcycle license only. i do not know if maryland is one of those. try calling your local dmv and ask.

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