Fall is a beautiful season, but for riders, it means the start of cold, wet weather, and a lot more hazards that can make the road a slippery, dangerous mess. Check out these 7 common wet weather hazards and how to avoid them, so you can keep the “fall” out of Fall!
Fall is a beautiful time of year. But for motorcycle riders, fall can also be a real downer (and we’re not just talking about your mood.) Because with fall comes the onset of wet, cold weather, and that means a lot more slippery hazards that can put a nasty end to one of your last rides of the season if you’re not prepared!
This is the last thing you want to happen when wet weather comes around and roads become slippery! Check out the 7 most common wet weather hazards, so you’ll be prepared for them.
We don’t want that to happen to you, so we put together this list of the seven most common wet-weather hazards you’ll encounter on your rides this season, along with some great tips on how to avoid them. Check them out and share them with your friends!
What Riders Hate About Wet Weather
You know that rain itself is already hazardous to motorcycle riders. Wet roads mean a reduction in all-important traction, and with only a few square inches of your tires’ contact patch keeping you upright, you need all of that you can get. But rain reduces a lot more than just traction. It also reduces visibility – not just for you, but for other drivers – and being seen on a motorcycle is already a challenge, even in great weather.
It also makes riding a lot more uncomfortable; being pelted by rain that feels like BBs, desperately trying to wipe off a drenched visor, and slowly feeling your butt get soaked and cold are all part of the territory here. When you’re not comfortable, it’s harder to pay attention to your riding, so it’s easier for bad things to happen.
Let’s face it – riding in the rain is a drag. But that’s the obvious part. What’s not so obvious are the other hazards wet weather can bring about – even long after it’s stopped raining.
The Top Seven Wet Weather Hazards for Motorcycles
Autumn leaves are beautiful, but wet leaves are slippery and can be very dangerous on a motorcycle!
Colorful leaves certainly make for some beautiful fall scenery. But wet leaves also make some incredibly slick road surfaces that can be a death trap for motorcyclists.
Leaves are so dangerous because they become very slick when wet, and can gather on the ground in a very unpredictable way. Worst part is, leaves can soak up water and stay stuck to the roadway long after rain has passed, creating a “virtual puddle” that can be even more slippery than water itself.
2) Automotive Fluids (Oil, Diesel Fuel, Antifreeze, etc.)
Roads are covered with fluids, especially where cars stop often (like at intersections.) Light rains make these surfaces even more slippery than they already are!
There are a lot of leaky cars and trucks on the road, spilling fluids all over the place. Oil is the most common culprit, but other fluids like diesel fuel, antifreeze, and automatic transmission fluid can all be extremely slick as well. Wet weather can make this problem worse – especially when rain first begins to fall – because water mixes with these fluids to make them even more slippery, until the rain has a chance to actually rinse them off the surface of the road.
The places you’ll find these fluids the most is at intersections, toll booths, or anywhere a high volume of vehicles are stopped. But remember, auto wrecks can cause a large amount of fluids to spill onto the road surface, so slippery fluid spots could lurk anywhere.
3) Dirt/Gravel Patches
The first rains of a season can break loose a lot of dirt, which can wash onto roadways as you see here. Dirt patches like this can be treacherous for riders, especially if they’re not expecting them.
Most often found in mountainous country, rainfall often erodes hillsides and can rinse a lot of dirt or gravel onto the road surface. Depending on the volume of water a rain brings, this can create huge patches of runoff in the middle of the roadway that can really catch you off-guard when going through a corner! These can last for weeks after a storm, especially on roads that are not well-travelled.
4) Steel Plates
This is not a corner you want to be rounding too fast on two wheels – especially when wet!
Steel plates are a common short-term fix for roadways that are under construction, but they make for an awful riding surface for motorcyclists because they are uneven, wobble around, and make a god-awful sound when riding over them. But worst of all, they are more slippery than asphalt, even when dry. Add some water into the mix, and riding on metal can be downright terrifying!
Some other common culprits that create similar problems are rails, ramps, steel grates, and even manhole covers.
5) Painted Lines
Painted lines aren’t even paint – they’re usually plastic, and they can be very slippery when wet.
The painted lines that mark our roadways are often not paint at all, but extremely durable thermoplastic or polymer compounds. This is great because it lasts a long time, but not so great for riders because it creates a very slick surface. Add some water on top of a layer of plastic, and you can imagine what happens to your traction – especially when going through a corner.
6) Tar Snakes
Tar snakes are unnerving for riders, even in dry weather. Be extra cautious around them when its wet out, as they can cause you to break traction more easily.
“Tar snakes” is a term used to describe those nasty-looking uneven black lines created when sealant is applied to cracks on the road to prevent expansion. This is meant to be a short-term solution in between re-paving (though the government definitely stretches the whole “short term solution” concept in some places.)
Riders hate tar snakes because they create a very uneven road surface that is unnerving to ride over, even in dry weather. Add some water, and they’re just as bad as painted lines – except you never know where they’ll be!
7) Black Ice
It may look like wet pavement, but that’s a film of ice – and it’s slippery!
“Black Ice” is simply a term for a thin layer of ice that freezes on a roadway, thin enough that you only see the asphalt underneath. This is very hazardous to riders for obvious reasons – ice is super-slick, but if you can’t see it, you can’t avoid it.
Remember, it does not have to be below freezing for ice to affect your ride; even in the middle of a sunny morning, a puddle frozen overnight can be hiding in the shade where the sun has not allowed it to evaporate.
How to Avoid These Seven Hazards
Now that you’re aware of all the slippery hazards that can put the “fall” into fall – even when it’s not raining – check out our tips on how to avoid them and keep the rubber side down.
- Reduce your speed. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget when carving corners on your favorite ride. Lower speed = more reaction time, and that’s what you need the most when assessing and reacting to a hazard on the road.
- Slippery surfaces are best handled vertically. Leaned over is when you’re most likely to lose traction from any of these hazards. If you see one, don’t panic; just slow down, and get your bike as upright as possible. You can get through some very slippery surfaces in a straight line.
- Be smooth on the throttle and brakes. Sudden increases or decreases in acceleration can easily break traction on a slippery surface. Smooth on the gas and brakes retains as much traction as possible.
- Avoid riding when rain first starts. Built up debris and residue tends to be most slippery when the road surface first gets wet, but hasn’t had a chance to be washed off by the rain.
- Avoid the center of the roads, especially at intersections. The center of the road is where slippery fluid residue tends to gather most.
- Stay away from the right side of the road. Road surfaces are domed to allow water and debris to wash off toward the sides, which is exactly what you want to avoid on your bike.
- Keep your boots off slippery surfaces too! Remember, you don’t just want to keep your tires off slippery areas; you can easily slip when putting a foot down on a greasy manhole cover or painted line and dump your bike!
- And of course, wear proper riding gear! You can follow every riding safety tip in the world, but only riding gear will help you if you actually do go down. Priority goes to a full-face helmet and armored gloves, followed by sturdy riding boots, an armored jacket, and riding pants.
Now that the weather is starting to turn, what hazards do you find on rides where you live – and how do you avoid them?