Buying a motorcycle, and consequently coming to enjoy the freedom of being able to get around easily and navigate your way through heavy traffic, gives a great feeling of power. You can simply power past lines of cars, vans and trucks – taking care to stay a safe distance from them at all times of course – and get yourself to the front of any line of traffic in little to no time.
But when the weather turns bad, you need a good deal of extra common sense to enable you to cope with the conditions, and to allow you to anticipate how other drivers might also modify their behavior for the weather.
If you’re a seasoned biker, all the preparations you need to take before heading out onto the road – especially to ensure that you’re adequately protected in bad weather – are probably second nature. But what might not come to mind so easily is that, no matter how well prepared you are, the gap in safety provision between a motorbike and most other vehicles on the road becomes starkly apparent when the rain, or even worse weather, takes hold.
As global warming plays a great influence in our weather, meaning that we should now expect what used to be considered ‘freak’ weather conditions to become much more common, having all the gear to hand for getting onto your bike in the rain, sleet and snow is now essential, rather than, as it once way, merely desirable.
What’s even more important, we now regularly see bike races regularly taking place during wet weather and worse, but it can be easy to forget that the drivers taking part in them have built up years of experience in driving in those conditions. Even more apposite, when they’re competing on a track, everyone is heading in the same direction – at least unless an accident suddenly befalls them – so it’s much easier to see where any immediately risks are coming from.
In the wet on the roads, though, there are many factors which make biking much less fun. Not least is the fact that your vision will be impaired by the rain on your visor, and you may need to stop regularly to clear it off. This is just one reason why, for even the shortest journey, you should extend the amount of time you expect it to take. It’s simply no good setting off at your usual time, and hoping for the best.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, many bikers love two-wheeled transport precisely because it exposes them to certain risks which motorists can be immune to, and there is an argument that, by encountering and coming to appreciate these risks, you become a better rider and driver all round.
But there is a clear difference between being out in bad weather conditions out of necessity and enduring them, and knowing that you’re in complete control of your bike, so you can be confident that you’re doing everything you can to minimize the risks to both yourself and other road users.
So while the advice would be far from to suggest that motorcyclists simply get off and stay off the road in poor weather, rather, you should respect your bike, the conditions and other road users by slowing down, avoiding icy or untreated roads where possible, and taking cover if conditions become so bad that your riding is no longer enjoyable. After all, we meet plenty of grumpy motorists – there’s no point in adding a few unhappy bikers into the mix too.
This guest post was contributed by Lesley Sampson, a freelance blogger who writes extensively about bike riding, especially with regard to safety especially the smidsy campaign.