Motorcycles in Rain

I just started riding a 150cc scooter a few months ago. Being that I live in Oregon I ride in the rain a lot. I try stopping quickly sometimes to test the traction of my tires, and I stop really well. However I notice that turning feels really differently when the road is wet. It’s as though the scooter is more “responsive”. I’m not sure if this is normal or if I am running up against the limit of my traction and should take it as a warning. It’s not like I’m going really fast. In fact, it seems more noticeable at slower speeds. Any of you experienced riders know what I’m talking about?

I’m a weekend fair-weather motorcycler, but have been caught in the rain on occasion.

To me, it feels…different.

Maybe it’s my own apprehension, but it feels like my wheels could slide out from under me at any moment.

That’s exactly the feeling. But when I brake real hard I still seem to have traction.

I suggest you explore that limit at low speeds on a parking lot that is not quite level, while wearing a full face helmet and gloves, unlike me, who explored it back in college on an asphalt road with gravel sprinkled on it. :slight_smile: Scooters have a pretty low center of gravity and can go down unexpectedly quickly. On a nice flat surface, you can lock up your front wheel and keep it in control if you are careful, but add a slight side-grade or lean and you’ll be on your face in no time.

Don’t know much about motorcycles, but as a cyclist I can only warn you: watch out for manhole covers when it’s wet out. I hit one just yesterday when I was maneuvering around some pedestrians who’d wandered into the street, and even at low speed the tire just slid like it was on ice.

Also, stay away from painted lines on the road especially those wide ones at stop lights. When wet, they are as slick as greased monkey snot; we’re talking ZERO traction here. Don’t ask how I know.

This goes for any part of you or your bike. Don’t put your feet on the things, even when dry really, or stop on them with your tires. Some places have added grip to them, but I still wouldn’t trust it. Also watch out for bricks that get a coating of clay on them which is also nice and slippery.

Motorcycle tires will slip in the rain, just like cars will. You do have to take it a bit easier, but there’s a lot more traction then one thinks. That doesn’t mean go out and drag knees, but watch the pros race in the rain and see how far over they get, hell watch them on a dry track and watch the tires slide.

Also if you’re riding in cooler weather it takes longer for the tires to warm up, which makes them slip easier as well. I can confirm that manhole covers are slippery in the rain, especially on hard tires.

This is important! I still remember the first time I tried to stop from highway speeds on cold tires. shudder

Large directional arrows in the middle of the lane right in front of a stoplight at a busy intersection are the DOT’s way of saying there are too many people on the planet.

I’ve also forgotten another important thing to remember, though maybe not for a scooter. Use both brakes in the rain. On wet surfaces the rear brake helps to stabilize the bike and keep it from sliding. I tend to forget this as I use a lot of front brake when stopping normally and in the rain have to remind myself to use both.

Shouldn’t you always be using your rear brake more? I remember when my dad helped me build my first bike, he said you should put the rear brake lever on your dominant hand’s side, so that it got more pressure, lest you go over your handlebars.

Front brakes supply the majority of your stopping power, like 70-80%.

This. Plus, locking your rear brake is much easier, and more dangerous, than locking your front brake. It’s pretty hard to get a motorcycle to endoe (sp? it’s short for end-over-end). The danger from locking the rear brake is high-siding. That’s when you lock the rear brake, and it begins to slide out from under you. If you keep it locked, you’ll probably low-side (i.e. the rider falls on the “low” or inside of the bike). If you get, say, 30 degrees from the direction of your momentum, and you release the rear brake, it will suddenly grab traction. The wheels will be going 30 degrees in one direction, while the center of gravity keeps going straight. Since the CG is always above where the wheels make contact, it will violently throw the rider and the bike over the wheels, towards the outside of the turn, on the high side of the bike.

This is ok advice for kids, who tend to lack moderation, especially when they need to stop quick, and whose bikes have short wheelbases, but it’s true that on a motorcycle or a bike, the best way to stop fast is to use a lot of front brake. I did not realize this until I was in my teens and doing experiments going down an enormous hill and stopping as fast as I could at the bottom and I realized that I was hardly touching the rear brake but it was locking up frequently, because often, the rear wheel was actually just barely skimming the ground due to the massive weight shift forward. In these cases, the front brake was doing 99.44% of the stopping and I was stopping pretty damn quick. Of course, I then practiced this and eventually mastered the foolish high speed mountain bike stoppie*, failing and ending up on my head a couple of times.

*not the balancing way-up-high kind of stoppie; the kind where you are simply using your deceleration to hold your back wheel up for a while. There may be seperate terms for the two.

While we’re listing danger zones, stay out of the area between the tire grooves when coming to stoplights/stopsigns. That’s where all the fluids are that have been leaking from vehicles stopped there through the years. Slippery when dry, mofo when wet.

Thanks for all the replies. I never thought about the issue of warming up the tires. This will be especially important as winter continues. I’m already aware of the painted lines hazards. I read an article that says its easier to avoid them if you look at the space between them, as you often end up going where you are looking and if you look at the lines you’ll end up on them.

If it feels a bit scary and you feel apprehensive on wet roads: GOOD. Never get confident. Your apprehension is warranted and a great built-in survival tool.

Gawd, no! If you lock the front the chances are you will be off the bike and on your arse before you can say ‘Blimey! Where did that crow come from?’. This applies even if you’re upright on a fairly level road surface.

If you’re braking while cranked over, then you’ve fucked up and any hard braking will leave you on the deck. It is possible to lightly feather the rear brake to stabilize a big tourer or somesuch though, and feathering the rear makes things easier in general for low speed wibbling (ooer, missus).

It’s a good idea to obtain the muscle memory to release the front brake if the wheel locks, esp. if your bike hasn’t got ABS. That muscle memory saved me a couple of times.

The bars can be slightly easier to turn when the ground is wet. I would not expect this to be very noticeable though unless your front tire is underinflated.

When was the last time you saw or heard of a motorcycle endoing? When was the last time you heard or saw a motorcycle high-side? High-siding is a much more common accident. When was the last time you locked up your front brake? When was the last time you locked up your rear brake?