Every year when the rains come, most motorcyclists shake their fists at the pregnant skies and the attendant filth and uncertainty – of weather and by extension of traction – that surely follow. But it neednâ€™t be so bad. Motorcycles and the Indian monsoons are not just about mucky clothes, gruelling riding and waiting for the skies to clear in September. The rains are a great time to figure out how well you ride a motorcycle in every sense of the phrase.
The first thing we need to do is prepare to get wet, or if you prefer, to not get wet. The first sense is mental and the second is physical. Mentally if youâ€™re dreading being wet then it only builds your sense of the monsoons being bad news. Cheer up, itâ€™s just water, you are unlikely to melt. On the other hand, check your raincoat thoroughly. You are looking for holes in your plastic rain suit or worn inner coatings and peeling tapes over the seams for nylon ones. All of these things happen to rain suits pretty often and personally I think of them as annual consumables. Gloves for the rains are a bit of an issue.
Most imported waterproofs come with heavy insulation because European rains are accompanied by cold weather. Which makes for sweaty riding. The Joe Rocket Ballistic, especially the older model, has some of the lightest insulation and is my go to glove. Similarly waterproof boots are hard to come by but army boots are my solution to the problem since proper waterproof motorcycle boots tend to be expensive and warm as well.
Then we come to the motorcycle. Check the tread depth. The deeper the tread, the better the tyre is going to move standing water and give you grip. If your tyres are nearing the end of their service lives, replacing them just before the monsoons makes a lot of sense. Also check the rubber seals around your fuel filler cap, a common place where water enters the fuel system. Further check all exposed lubrication – lube your chain. The lube will work as a rust deterrent as well as keep the chain in good nick.
Remember to avoid riding altogether if possible for the first few showers entirely – it is just too slippery to be fun. If you cannot avoid it, go extremely slowly, be gentle with your throttle, braking and steering inputs. The rain basically washing up all the embedded oil and grime, makes for an extremely slippery cocktail that only the first few showers wash away. Wear all the protective gear you have for these rides without fail because the chances of you falling are quite high.
Once the rains have begun, the fun can begin. Roads are slippery but this is also the time to work on your sense-wise connect with the motorcycle. Learn how low traction feels through your bum, through your feet and through your hands. Practice opening the throttle smoothly but quickly so that you modulate the acceleration in response to the grip youâ€™re feeling. Remember to use more rear brake than normal – itâ€™s easier to deal with a rear wheel slide than with a front wheel lock-up. Aim to come out the other side of the wet season a better, smoother rider. Think of it as your annual motorcycle skill boot camp and have fun.