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Wet Road Riding


aslcbr600
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I have no problems riding in the rain, it doesn't scare me it just makes me become that much better of a rider. One thing I have really been thinking about is braking in wet conditions at highway speeds or even faster for track riding. I haven't ridden hard in the rain just casual commuting so I will go off this example of my experience that leads me to the question.

 

When going down the highway and it's raining, not crazy hard but hard enough where you have to tuck in and keep your face shield as clear as possible. I add an extra gap between myself and the vehicle in front of me however in the back of my mind I am thinking "what happens if the car in front of me starts to break hard"? From what I read on how to ride in the rain on the streets is your best bet is to follow the tire marks the car in front of you is leaving because that tends to be the dryer spot on the road and less chance of oils being in those spots forcing you to lose grip.

 

So let's say you are in an emergency braking situation or even just have to brake hard and the roads are this wet, what exactly do you do to keep yourself from getting too squirly and losing control? I would expect some rear tire movement but is there a trick to it?

 

Now let's put it in the track perspective, I would assume you would chose an earlier braking marker then you would on dry pavement but is there anything more to it then just adding more distance before the turn? What if you found yourself entering a corner a little too hot for comfort in the rain?

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I have no problems riding in the rain, it doesn't scare me it just makes me become that much better of a rider. One thing I have really been thinking about is braking in wet conditions at highway speeds or even faster for track riding. I haven't ridden hard in the rain just casual commuting so I will go off this example of my experience that leads me to the question.

 

When going down the highway and it's raining, not crazy hard but hard enough where you have to tuck in and keep your face shield as clear as possible. I add an extra gap between myself and the vehicle in front of me however in the back of my mind I am thinking "what happens if the car in front of me starts to break hard"? From what I read on how to ride in the rain on the streets is your best bet is to follow the tire marks the car in front of you is leaving because that tends to be the dryer spot on the road and less chance of oils being in those spots forcing you to lose grip.

 

So let's say you are in an emergency braking situation or even just have to brake hard and the roads are this wet, what exactly do you do to keep yourself from getting too squirly and losing control? I would expect some rear tire movement but is there a trick to it?

 

Now let's put it in the track perspective, I would assume you would chose an earlier braking marker then you would on dry pavement but is there anything more to it then just adding more distance before the turn? What if you found yourself entering a corner a little too hot for comfort in the rain?

 

 

would you be using racing wets on the track or normal tyres?

 

Bullet

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A good rain tyre, like the sport touring oriented Michelins, will stop within 10% in the wet compared to dry. As long as the bike is upright and you know what you're doing.

 

The problem with wet riding, on the road, at least, is usually not about absolute grip - which is good enough for how the majority rides even in dry conditions - but the suddenness it is lost if you overstep the available traction and how hard it is to get the wheels turning again compared to dry conditions. Also, there are so much that can be hidden by the water that can catch you out. Diesel spills, sand spills, wet leaves - lots of stuff that can throw you on your head very quickly if you're unlucky. Although I have scraped pegs in soaking conditions (on old style bikes, not race reps) it's not something I'd consider today.

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I practice emergency braking on my sportbike a lot on my local rural roads with no traffic. I try to do it in varied conditions and have use different tires so I get a better feel for whats going to happen. The only major difference that I've noticed between braking in the dry compared to the wet is how suddenly the front tire locks. On a hot day and a clean surface on my bike the front tire is just about impossible to lock so the rear tire simply comes off the ground which rules out the front tire locking in this scenario. However on a cold day (lower than 50 degrees F) or when its wet (lets assume 70 degrees outside for wet conditions) the front tire will almost always lock when maximum braking is reached. In the cold, dry conditions the handlebars start to twist one way or the other and get a vague feeling to them but it happens slow enough that its easy to figure out and adjust to with brake pressure in time. In comparison, on a wet day the front tire loses grip with less than half of the warning it gives you in the dry and its much more sensitive to sudden or jerky inputs compared to dry conditions. The braking distance between the two conditions really isn't all that different but its MUCH more difficult to get it right in the wet so your margin for error is smaller. Usually that smaller margin for error makes your braking distance much longer since you need to be careful with brake pressure and its impossible to get a real feel for the conditions until you run out of grip (by then its to late). If its cold and wet than you should leave plenty of space between the car in front and yourself :). All of this braking was done with the front brake only. The rear tire gets so light that it simply locks and provides almost no reduction in your stopping distance. If it were REALLY slick for road conditions, in dirt, or on a cruiser / dual sport than the rear brake would be handy.

 

Other things that I noticed while practicing with my bikes maximum braking capability is that how you hold onto the motorcycle has a pretty large effect on how it behaves. From 60mph I found that holding onto the bike with your legs instead of putting your weight on the handlebars under braking is worth about 20 feet in braking distance! It keeps the rear tire on the ground under harder braking, the bike stays more stable, and you have more accurate feel and control of brake pressure.

 

P.S. I wouldn't count on staying in the cars tire tracks. There probably is more grip there but the bike will move around a lot under heavy braking which will put you outside of those tire marks. Not to mention you'll start your braking with more traction in the tire track and suddenly lose that extra grip when you move outside of it! It would be good to take advantage of any extra grip you can find but it wouldn't be a good idea to rely on something that isn't exactly guaranteed.

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For an "emergency braking" type situation on the road, I think one important technique thing is to make sure that you actually do "hard braking" rather than "panic braking".

 

Practicing that with a friend is really helpful I think. Get them to stand at a certain spot, and ride towards them at whatever speed you want to practice at/feel comfortable with. Then get your friend to raise their hand, when you see them raise their hand, you try to stop as fast as possible. The trick is that they will raise their hand randomly, so you can't anticipate it. They can also watch your eye level to make sure that you keep your eyes up on the horizon, as well as looking at how your suspension compresses to watch for a smooth braking action, or advise you if the braking action is jerky.

 

Just one note about braking in the wet, or even an emergency brake in dry conditions - if the bike starts to move around, I'd say that you've overcooked it. Much harder to maintain control of the bike with the rear end moving around. Fine on the track when you have heaps of run off area etc., but I wouldn't want to be practicing that for street use.

 

Riding on a wet track, I just ride very cautiously. Much slower than in the dry, and with much larger safety margins. I think that's it really, riding to the conditions. If I came into a corner too wet on the track, I would just focus on being smooth and not tensing up. You can get away with a surprising amount if you stay smooth...

 

For racing I think the same things would apply. For example if you saw the last WSBK round from Russia, you would have seen how much slower everyone went in the wet, even going way off line just to try and find their way around and find some better traction. So I think the broad answer is - just ride to the conditions.

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Practicing that with a friend is really helpful I think. Get them to stand at a certain spot, and ride towards them at whatever speed you want to practice at/feel comfortable with. Then get your friend to raise their hand, when you see them raise their hand, you try to stop as fast as possible. The trick is that they will raise their hand randomly, so you can't anticipate it. They can also watch your eye level to make sure that you keep your eyes up on the horizon, as well as looking at how your suspension compresses to watch for a smooth braking action, or advise you if the braking action is jerky.

Get the braking technique right first, then start playing around with the random signal. You want to have technique drilled so hard into you, that once you do get surprised, you do the right thing.

 

I've thrown my street bike down the track due to bad braking (not looking into the corner and overbraking while leaned ever so slightly), but I have also locked the front over a steel sewer lid on the street and saved my bacon. Heck, I locked the front three times in a row and saved it, demonstrating braking manoeuvres on a borrowed ST1100 (oops).

 

The difference between those incidents were a couple of years with a lot of practising correct braking techniques and instructing other riders.

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Good points khp. But I think that everyone knows how to practice braking, the real question is how to practice emergency braking. It's all fine when you know what to expect and brake when you want to, I'd say that everyone can do it pretty well. But the real test is whether you can maintain that high standard of braking when you weren't even planning to brake in the first place...

 

I have done the "hand up" drill with a mate who was going for his bike license. Helped him a lot. I have also done that at a training day, I thought I knew how to brake and that I was doing everything just fine. But having someone stand in front (well, in front but offset to the side obviously) and tell me that I was actually dropping my head was a big help. If I had just kept practicing by myself I probably wouldn't have even noticed that.

 

The "hand up" drill is also how new riders are tested when going for their license. It makes sense to me, because on the road (or track) you often have to brake on demand, you can't wait until you're all setup right and prepared for it.

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Emergency braking: Practice, practice, practice. Here's what I do : If you don't have a a helper as mentioned, pick a spot up ahead and see if maximum braking will get you stopped before you get to that spot. Ignore the rear brake. It will just lock up on you and get you sideways in more ways than one. . How do you achieve maximum braking? Practice, practice, practice. Always 'cover' your front brake with 2 fingers. Be aware that if you slam the brakes on, you may lock up your front, and you will be on your ear in no time. Instead, gradually apply increasing pressure. This allows for weight transfer to 'plant' the front tire for maximum adhesion and THEN you can really get on the brakes harder. It's kind of a fluid motion. Here's another shameless BMW plug: These days, all BMW's come with ABS, some of them even have power boosters. My K 1200 GT will stop so hard it feels like running into a wall, withou any risk of locking up the wheels. In race mode the S 1000 RR will brake hard enough to chirp the front tire!

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Yea I stopped using the rear brake, just seems pointless to use it once you get the grasp of just using the front brake. I have been working on the flow of it but I catch myself braking too hard too early when I could have carried that speed further. Just takes practice but now I have to learn on a different bike.

 

Just got rid of the 06 600RR and looking at a track prepped 07 675.

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Emergency braking: Practice, practice, practice. Here's what I do : If you don't have a a helper as mentioned, pick a spot up ahead and see if maximum braking will get you stopped before you get to that spot. Ignore the rear brake. It will just lock up on you and get you sideways in more ways than one. . How do you achieve maximum braking? Practice, practice, practice. Always 'cover' your front brake with 2 fingers. Be aware that if you slam the brakes on, you may lock up your front, and you will be on your ear in no time. Instead, gradually apply increasing pressure. This allows for weight transfer to 'plant' the front tire for maximum adhesion and THEN you can really get on the brakes harder. It's kind of a fluid motion. Here's another shameless BMW plug: These days, all BMW's come with ABS, some of them even have power boosters. My K 1200 GT will stop so hard it feels like running into a wall, without any risk of locking up the wheels. In race mode the S 1000 RR will brake hard enough to chirp the front tire!

 

 

All good advice but I think how many fingers you put on the brake lever is personal preference, and a pretty important detail that is overlooked! Personally I think the more fingers you comfortably get on the brake lever the better off you are. I used 2 fingers on the brake lever for a long time and it felt great with the huge amounts of braking power that sportbikes have, however, after I was getting better at reaching the limits of my bikes braking potential I noticed using 2 fingers on the lever was forcing me to get tense on the handlebars under heavy braking. You only have two fingers squeezing the lever to naturally it feels like you're squeezing much harder compared to 3 or 4 fingers. While braking with 2 fingers every time the front tire started to lock the handlebars would turn left because of the pressure I put on the right grip. The tense grip also made it MUCH more difficult to "feel" the amount of traction and to modulate the brake lever with the correct pressure. After that I started using 3 fingers and eventually went to using all 4 fingers on the brake lever. It lets me stay more relaxed / neutral on the handlebars and drastically improved how accurately I can apply brake pressure. I have a pretty light physical build so it could be very easy for someone with more muscle to be perfectly comfortable braking with less fingers.

 

As for wet pavement braking on track compared to street, I'd think it would be about the same. You just have a lot more space to work with on the track. I wouldn't recommend trail braking either!

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That's a good point, maybe I will have to try 3 fingers and see how that differs from using 2......I used to use 4 and then felt that I didn't have control of the throttle the way I wanted to and with 2 fingers I do feel like I am putting more weight on the bars but that's just casual riding. If I am on a more spirited ride I use the proper body technique of squeezing the tank with my legs to avoid unwanted forward weight on the bars while braking.

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So what about wet racing applications? What would change in a wet race vs a dry race?

 

 

Sorry about the delay in this.

 

 

So, the biggest difference is of course the tyres are different, and have a different compound to deal with the rain (they're very soft), and get warm even in the rain.

 

The applilcation of the brakes is more gradual, but still very hard braking in the rain is definitely possible. I generally use exactly the same braking markers when racing in the dry as the rain, though of course you approach the turns a litle slower in terminal velocity. Trail braking, all other usual braking techniques are still available, but the margins for error and feel are definitely reduced.

 

If you want to see some video of it in the rain, let me know, I'll post some up.

 

 

Bullet

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So what about wet racing applications? What would change in a wet race vs a dry race?

 

 

Sorry about the delay in this.

 

 

So, the biggest difference is of course the tyres are different, and have a different compound to deal with the rain (they're very soft), and get warm even in the rain.

 

The applilcation of the brakes is more gradual, but still very hard braking in the rain is definitely possible. I generally use exactly the same braking markers when racing in the dry as the rain, though of course you approach the turns a litle slower in terminal velocity. Trail braking, all other usual braking techniques are still available, but the margins for error and feel are definitely reduced.

 

If you want to see some video of it in the rain, let me know, I'll post some up.

 

 

Bullet

 

 

 

X2 I would also like to see some videos also!

 

 

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Did I just hear a choppy throttle at 4:26? lol jk, so from what I can tell from the video you kept your RPM's pretty low (although your on a twin motor) less aggressive throttle while leaned over but still rolling on the throttle. When you hit the "S" I noticed it was smooth, not a real hard side to side flick but not lazy either.

 

Pretty much seems to me when it's wet just be a little more on the conservative side with throttle and make sure your steering and movements are smooth and more progressive vs quick aggressive movements you would perform on a nice dry track.

 

Thanks for posting the video!

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Haha, yeah, didn't quite get that 100% right. The bike in the hairpins is in 1st gear, (it's got a racing gearbox and 1st is tall), and the bike has nearly 200bhp and 100lb ft of torque, so has to be respected, also the throttle is quick action.

As discussed earlier, technique is entirely the same, it's all just smoother. Even when it's dry, you shouldn't have to make the bike feel like it's trying to throw you off at every turn. Sure you can be a little more positive, turn quicker etc, but it's much the same.

Glad it helped.

Bullet

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Haha, yeah, didn't quite get that 100% right. The bike in the hairpins is in 1st gear, (it's got a racing gearbox and 1st is tall), and the bike has nearly 200bhp and 100lb ft of torque, so has to be respected, also the throttle is quick action.

As discussed earlier, technique is entirely the same, it's all just smoother. Even when it's dry, you shouldn't have to make the bike feel like it's trying to throw you off at every turn. Sure you can be a little more positive, turn quicker etc, but it's much the same.

Glad it helped.

Bullet

 

 

 

A racing gearbox eh? So the trans gear ratios are different is what you are saying correct?

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Racing boxes will place the gears much tighter together, making the steps between gears smaller. Street bikes typically have low first gears for easy starts and tall top gears for relaxed cruising. Racing bikes only get away from a standstill once, so they have a tall first gear and smaller changes rpm when shifting to the next gear.

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Racing boxes will place the gears much tighter together, making the steps between gears smaller. Street bikes typically have low first gears for easy starts and tall top gears for relaxed cruising. Racing bikes only get away from a standstill once, so they have a tall first gear and smaller changes rpm when shifting to the next gear.

 

 

 

Makes sense, thanks!

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