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Wet and wild on two wheels

Wet and wild on two wheels

Conch Tiglao

Rain got you down? You still can head out in the rain on your motorcycle. All it takes is the proper gear, the proper skills and the proper braking technique

The thing with riding in the Philippines is that good riding weather–when the temperature’s cool enough that wearing full gear isn’t a problem, and the roads are bone dry–happens only during Christmas season up till February. March, if we’re lucky. Riding in the rain can be fun, though (there is a saying, after all, that “If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride at all.”) But it can also be dangerous. Reduced visibility, slippery road conditions, decreased traction–not exactly the ideal combination for a safe journey. Motorcyclists must exercise heightened caution, adapt to the challenging environment, and ensure they have proper gear to minimize the risks associated with navigating wet roads.Conch Tiglao

But this doesn’t mean that your beloved bike should turn into a garage queen come rainy season. While it is strongly advised not to ride in torrential rain, there are many precautions you can take if you do catch yourself in a sudden downpour while on two wheels, or if you need to head out in the rain.

“The most dangerous part of riding is when the rain is just beginning to drop on the road,” says Mel Aquino, trail and adventure rider extraordinaire and champ, and owner and coach, Mel Aquino Yamaha Offroad Training Camp (MAYOTC) in Antipolo. “Dust mixed with water can turn into mud easily and make the road slippery. Your bike’s tires have less traction when riding, even in just a light downpour.

He observes most riders start to speed up when it starts to drizzle–and this can be dangerous. To be safe, he recommends slowing down, keeping a safe distance from other vehicles and braking carefully.

Speaking of braking, this is where having ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) helps, because it prevents a motorcycle’s brakes from locking up and skidding when roads are slippery. “It also aids riders when they need to slow down, while controlling the steering of the motorcycle,” adds Mel. “While this feature is already equipped in most motorcycles from scooters, to enduro, sports and adventure bikes, ABS can also be deactivated in some models for off-road use or circuit racing. Bikes that have ‘rain mode,’ on the other hand, can manage the RPM of the motorcycle and the abrupt torque transfer from the engine to the tires in slippery sections.”

But what to do if your bike does not have ABS or all these modern trimmings? Mel advises that the best thing to do is to get to know your motorcycle controls, especially your brakes.

“A motorcycle has three brakes (front, rear and engine brakes.) During rainy conditions, always use the engine brake by downshifting to a lower gear,” he explains. “Apply the rear brake to gradually slow down the motorcycle. Then apply the front brake as smoothly as possible to make a sudden stop but don’t use four fingers when squeezing the front brake lever. Excessive pressure might lock the front tire, causing the front tire to skid. When depressing the front brake lever (especially on motorcycles without ABS), use just one or two fingers.”

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He also recommends taking a motorcycle training course, because this will also improve riders’ abilities and skills, giving them a better understanding of how to properly use the brakes in any given situation and how to be safer on the road.

Last, but not the least, proper gear is essential at all times (refer to our piece on motorcycle gear in this section). When it comes to rain gear, Mel strongly advices against ponchos. “These will drag air–you become like a parachute,” he says. “The ends of the poncho can also catch on your bike’s sprockets and chains. I’ve seen lots of riders get into accidents because of their ponchos.” He recommends to invest in two-piece rain gear (a pair of waterproof pants and a jacket) instead.

So, no need to let rainy days get you down. You can still navigate the rainy season on a motorcycle by balancing the thrill of the ride and making sure you know how to handle the potential hazards brought by wet roads.