Many motorcycle riders choose to ride their machine no matter what, even if it’s raining and snowing outside. Though this is a practice that can be executed safely, there are still some major safety complications that can rise from such conditions if the rider is unaware.
Water can be a very dangerous element on the road for a motorcycle if a motorcyclist doesn’t know how to handle it. Many riders are under the misconception that their ride is not prone to hydroplaning because it only has two wheels and is much lighter than a car. This is indeed a myth.
So, can a motorcycle hydroplane? A motorcycle is just as susceptible to hydroplaning as any other vehicle would be. The consequences of a motorcycle hydroplaning are much more severe than most vehicles. Motorcycle tire treads were designed to repel water, but the repelling of the water becomes much less effective at higher speeds on wet roads.
Hydroplaning is something you don’t ever want to encounter, especially on a motorcycle. It can leave you in a panic which may lead to the wrong actions of handling it. It’s important to know what to do ahead of time to keep you safe on wet roads.
How A Motorcycle Hydroplanes
Whether you choose to ride your motorcycle in a storm or you get caught in a one, riding on wet roads is inevitable for most seasoned riders. It’s a scary situation, but if you know how to handle it you can always arrive home safely.
Hydroplaning (also known as aquaplaning) is a phenomenon when a layer of water remains between the road and the tire. This leads to loss of traction between the road and the tire which ultimately results in loss of control.
All the functions of a motorcycle that have to do with controlling and directing the motorcycle all depend on the friction between the road and the two tires. Motorcycle tire treads are designed to channel water that comes between it and the road to keep that needed friction and control the bike needs. If a motorcycle and it’s tires encounter more water than it can dissipate, hydroplaning occurs.
Though the engineering of motorcycle tires and treads continue to improve over time, they’re still far from perfect and will never guarantee 100% traction in every weather condition.
There is also wear and tear to consider on motorcycle tires as well; not everyone changes their tires as often as they should which results in less effective, much smoother tires that hardly provide much protection at all. Hydroplaning also depends a lot on the depth of the standing water and the motorcycle’s ability to handle it.
The first ten to twenty minutes of a rain storm is the most dangerous time for any vehicle to be on the road as their risk of hydroplaning increases. The water mixes with the residual oil that was left on the road. Not only are you are at risk of hydroplaning, but the water is also extra slippery because of the oil. That’s a bad mixture to be in.
The faster you go on a motorcycle during a storm, the higher your risk of hydroplaning. Specifically, your chances of hydroplaning greatly increase as speeds higher than 35 miles per hour. Essentially, the faster the tire rolls, the less time the water has to get out of the way from underneath it.
How To Prevent Hydroplaning
Being prepared mentally and physically is the single most important component to keeping you safe on wet roads while riding your motorcycle. Know beforehand how to handle riding on water and your chances of safety will greatly increase.
Luckily there are a number of simple factors you can adopt that will prevent hydroplaning. The first one to consider is to simply not ride on wet roads at all. Some motorcyclists don’t mind riding in storms while others absolutely hate it because of the safety issues. Riding on wet roads is also dangerous for a lot of other reasons including lightning (click here to see our article about riding in a lightning storm).
Before riding, make sure your tire pressure is at the correct PSI. Too low or too high of a PSI on a motorcycle tire can greatly increase your chances of hydroplaning on wet roads.
Sometimes though, you unexpectedly get caught in a storm against your will. In a case like this it’s best to stop riding and wait for the storm to pass. This can pose a few problems though because even when a storm passes, the water is still there and may take a day or two to dry up. Most of us don’t have that kind of time.
If you are in a situation where your only option is to keep riding in the storm, there are still a few safety precautions you can take to prevent hydroplaning. First and foremost, you will need to reduce your speed, preferably to something below 35 miles per hour. If you’re on a busy road with crazy drivers speedily passing you, attempt to use back roads to avoid them.
If you’re on a multi-lane highway or freeway, stay either on the far right or the far left lane. This way you will only have to worry about being aware of one lane of other drivers next to you.
Ride on the driest spot on the road. Most roads will have grooves in them with one side of the lane having more water than the other. Stay on the side with the least amount of puddles.
If possible, avoid riding through large puddles. Large puddles could be hiding something much more dangerous such as large holes. And a lot of times, all it takes is a large puddle to start the process of hydroplaning on a motorcycle.If you must ride through a puddle, proceed with caution and slow down as much as possible.
What To Do If Your Motorcycle Is Hydroplaning
Knowing how to handle a hydroplaning situation before it happens will leave you more confident with your riding abilities. There is an art to handling hydroplaning, so it’s important you know exactly what to do.
You’ll easily be able to tell if you’re hydroplaning because your back tire will seem a little “loose” or moving a bit from side to side. The steering may also seem a little too loose. You may have an overall feeling of loss of control of your motorcycle or feel a little uneasy.
A lot of riders panic when they start hydroplaning. That panic may include increasing speed, slamming on the brakes, or wobbling and steering out of control.
The first thing you need to remember when you find yourself hydroplaning is to not panic. It’s certainly easier said than done, trust me I’ve been there. A panicked disposition will do nothing for you, so calm down and know you are still in control. Do not attempt to speed or use your brakes if possible as that will only make you lose control even more.
Simply let off the throttle and coast through any hydroplaning situation. Any steering you have to do should be done very gently and slight; avoid swerving or turning hard if possible. Drive in as straight of a line as you can.
If you must brake, avoid pressing on the brake hard. Instead, lightly hold the brakes and let go repeatedly until the motorcycle is again able to gain traction and control on the motorcycle.
Why Hydroplaning Is Worse On A Motorcycle
Though the aerodynamics of a motorcycle make it lighter, hydroplaning on a motorcycle in a lot of ways is much worse than hydroplaning in any other type of vehicle.
Most other vehicles have four tires, so that is more tires to hydroplane but it’s also more chances for the vehicle to regain traction on the road. Four tires also means the vehicle is wider and less likely to flip.
The same slide that four wheeled vehicles experiences is the same slide motorcycles experience. Because motorcycles only have two wheels, a slide like this will most likely tip the motorcycle and cause the rider to fall.
Falling on an open road while it’s raining with already somewhat distracted drivers in a storm is a recipe for disaster. Other drivers around you may not see you or your motorcycle which can result in further injury.
Is it OK for a motorcycle to get wet? Most motorcycles were designed to get wet. It is OK for it to be rained on whether in the driveway or while you’re riding it. However, excessive exposure to water can eventually cause damage to your motorcycle. Click here to see my article for more information.
Are you at fault if you cause an accident while hydroplaning? You are considered at fault if you hydroplane can cause damage to someone else and their property. Though most people assume hydroplaning is “an act of nature,” it is something that can be avoided with the right safety precautions.