How to Ride a Motorcycle in Rainy, Icy, and Wet Weather Conditions

Tackle cold weather motorcycle riding with these tips

Rainy Weather Motorcycle Riding
Riding in the rain. Getty Images

Whether you're a novice rider or a thrillseeking pro, motorcycling is risky business-- this we know. But add the element of cold, rainy, or even icy and snowy conditions, and riding can get downright treacherous. 

How to handle the road when it turns cold, slippery, and unforgiving? Here are a few tips to get you through the winter riding months.

Protect Your Core

Being cold on a motorcycle is the first way your defenses can drop and make you vulnerable to needless mistakes when you're riding at speed.

Are your hands numb or your legs shivering? Riding under less-than-prime conditions can easily open the door to potentially dangerous errors, which is why you should dress for the ride by wearing appropriate layers and donning gear such as base layers, balaclavas, and glove liners. Heated moto equipment, from grips and seats to vests and jackets, can also tax the bike's battery, so keep an eye on the voltmeter to make sure you're not robbing your bike of engine starting power. Get the full scoop on staying warm with these 5 Ways to Beat the Cold on a Bike.

Clear Your Vision and Pad Your Bubble

Scan the road carefully when the going gets wet because hidden pools of water can mean sudden losses of traction. Note your visor-- is its tint obscuring the subtleties of road surfaces? Is condensation blocking the view altogether? Keeping your lid properly ventilated and/or clear by using products like Rain-X is a start.

Maintaining a bubble of space around you during warm weather riding is a given; after all, who wants to be caught off guard by shifting traffic or inattentive drivers? The need for that safety bubble becomes exponentially more important when cold tire temperatures, iffy visibility, and slippery surfaces come into play.

Remember that your bike's ability to stop, corner, and accelerate gets cut down under inclement conditions, and you'll be likelier to respond to the unexpected if you've carved a bigger bubble of space for yourself.

Fast Brain, Slow Hands

Ignore the tendency to jerk the handlebar grab a whole bunch of brakes. Because slippery conditions make it easy to spin the rear tire and lockup the brakes (especially at the front wheel), it's best to operate all controls-- throttle, clutch, and both sets of brakes-- with a slow, steady hand. Remember that jerking any of these controls can lead to embarrassing wheel lock and an unintentional non-stationary horizontal movement. Take it easy on the throttle and brakes, and they'll take it easy on you.

Remember the Rubber

On top of the obvious reductions in mechanical grip due to wet conditions, your tires won't perform at their peak when temperatures drop. But even if your tires get up to temperature, be aware that your bike will be likelier to lose control due to weight transfer which can affect the contact patch significantly enough to unload a tire and trigger it losing grip with the road. Manage your bike's weight transfer gently, and it will stand a better chance of keeping in contact with the surface below.

Also, be sure to check tire pressure, which can drop due cooling temperatures and affect traction levels due to underinflation.

Know When to Say When

There's a certain pleasure to riding a motorcycle through winter conditions, but there's also something to be said for knowing when to call it quits. Evaluate the conditions and check the weather forecast: Is there rain or snow ahead and you're not equipped for the shifting weather, make an alternate plan and be ready to head back home. If conditions are getting too thick to ride through, don't forget you can always park and catch an Uber home. Also remember that roadside assistance and towing is often available with an AAA or AMA membership