Motorcycle Riding on Wet Roads

Some enjoy it whilst many avoid it at all costs. Wet weather riding can make the most experienced of riders cautious for obvious reasons – slippery roads and reduced braking distances.

With a little planning, concentration and riding skill refinement however, there shouldn’t be too much to worry about. Wet riding skills should be developed as the UK has a tendency to rain and catch us out frequently.

Previously we covered advice for motorcycle riding in the rain which has its own challenges. During and after rain, we are of course left with wet roads to deal with.

Wet roads present various hazards to most vehicles, the motorcycle being one vehicle having the most. Let’s take a look at some top tips to make your riding a safer and less anxious experience.

Forward Planning and Anticipation

This is the single most important skill for any rider for keeping safe. Forward planning and anticipation skills will allow you to predict many events well before they occur. Let’s look at typical hazards where forward planning will aid you.

Motorcycle Riding on Wet Roads
Slippery wet roads hazardous for motorcyclists

Forward Planning

Forward planning involves looking well ahead and planning your route well in advance. All of the hazardous items listed below are best avoided in the wet. If you cannot avoid them, go over them straight as possible, no heavy banking, braking or accelerating. Slippery things for two wheels include:

  • Drain / manhole covers
  • Painted road markings and lines
  • Tar Banding – See below
  • Mud
  • Gravel
  • Fallen leaves
  • Diesel spillage – See below

What is Tar Banding?

Tar banding is where edges of roads join each other (can sometimes be seen in the centre of the road) or where roadworks join together patched tarmac areas, or tar banding can be used to fill out cracks in the road. The hot liquid tar cools leaving a smooth shiny surface. Tar banding can occur anywhere on the road and is relatively slippery during dry conditions and extremely slippery during wet conditions.

Particularly hazardous for motorcycles, tar banding can occur on bends and traffic systems such as roundabouts or areas where braking is typically applied such as an approaching junction. Areas of tar banding should be avoided, especially during wet conditions. If this is unavoidable, attempt to gently reduce speed before reaching the hazardous area, particularly before cornering.

Diesel Spillage

Diesel is extremely slippery especially on a wet road. Typical areas where diesel spillage occurs are of course fuel filling stations. Other hazardous areas can include where a vehicle is manoeuvering round bends such as roundabouts. It can be difficult to locate diesel spillages on a wet road. Extra shiny road surface areas can be an indication. Light reflecting off diesel can produce a rainbow effect, being another indicating factor.


Anticipation allows you to prepare and potentially predict a situation in the road ahead. Look not only at your immediate surroundings, but well ahead. Examples of this can include:

  • A pedestrian crossing with people waiting to cross
  • A pedestrian approaching a zebra crossing
  • Traffic lights that have been on green for some time
  • A cyclist on a left side road entering your road
  • A large vehicle signalling may require more road space

Stopping Distances

Another important riding skill is stopping distances in any weather condition. This equates to thinking distance plus braking distance. Wet roads in particular require at least double the braking distance than that of dry roads. Allow yourself plenty of time to slow down.

You’ll also need to not only ride for yourself, but for other drivers too. Frequent mirror checks is important and If a vehicle is traveling too closely behind you, you’ll also need to allow for their stopping distance. For this, further increase your stopping distance from the vehicle in front which will allow for your stopping distance, plus extra for the vehicle to slow down behind you.

Try Not to Tense Up

If you’re pushing the motorcycle a little too hard for the conditions, you’ll often get a warning twitch. Riding a motorcycle on wet roads may increase the nerves, but if you’re riding all tense and rigid, you may find it difficult to feel any warning signals the bike is giving you. In the event of a warning twitch, ease off the throttle but do not apply brakes.

Standing Water

Standing water is a motorcyclists nightmare. Hitting standing water too fast means your tyres will lose the ability to displace water effectively and a layer of water will form between your tyres and the road surface. Known as aquaplaning, this occurrence will leave you with very little control over your motorcycle. If you do find yourself in this situation, as tempting as it may be, do not apply the brakes as this is likely to cause even greater loss of control. Instead release the throttle, keep the bike as straight and upright as possible and allow the machine to naturally slow down to regain control.

An indication of standing water can be an extra shiny road surface. It may well just be an extra shiny road surface, but it could also be standing water or diesel spillage. In any event, it’s best to be safe so ease off the throttle. Worn tyres will significantly increase the risk of aquaplaning.

Braking and Accelerating

Unlike modern cars, many modern motorcycles still do not come fitted with anti-lock braking systems (ABS). ABS is only activated when the system detects one or more wheels is about to lock and so prevents this. A locked, skidding wheel on a motorcycle, particularly the front will almost result in an accident in the wet. To avoid this, plan and anticipate the road ahead and start smoothly and progressively braking in good time. Use 50 / 50 even brake pressure on the front and rear and as you slow down ease off front brake and use rear only.

Similarly to braking, apply the throttle smoothly. Smoothly accelerate out of bends and feel for any reactions and twitches that the bike may be warning you to ease off. Be extra cautious whilst riding on wet roads after a long spell of dry weather. Initially, roads are more slippery as they gain a build up of oils and other debris.