just some thoughts from my ride in the rain last night.
first off, i don't consider myself a great rider but a fairly competent street rider who has some advanced rider training and track day experience (note - not racing experience). one of the things i pride myself on with my riding is making the effort to be aware of the riding conditons (weather, traffic, etc) AND questioning how that info will affect my control of the machine.
so last night the rain, wet streets and my limited visibility - both of what i can see and how well other road users can see me - were in my head as i started out. one of the first things i wanted to check was traction of the front end, so before i got onto any main streets with appreciable traffic i tested the traction of the front end at low speed via some controlled hard stops (gradual squeezing of the brake lever) and then via a few sudden ham fist-full grabbing of the front brakes just to see what the front end was going to do and to get an idea of where my traction limit was. being satisfied with the results i set off.
on the main route home i also did a few more harder stops just to keep sense of where my traction limit was. it wasn't until i got to my last left turn where i had a bit of an oh-crap moment coming up to a stop sign on a slight downhill. everywhere else the same amount of braking hadn't caused me any issues, but at this one location the front end locked up and the wheel start to wash-out of slip sideways. one thing i noticed with being on the cruiser is that the body positioning made it easier to stomp a foot down for a bit of support/balance, but whether it made a difference at all is hard to say. but the key thing, is that due to my previous attempts at purposely locking up the front end and knowing when the bike would react and more importantly how the bike would feel i immediately let off the brake to let the bike straighten itself out before going for the brake again. i was on-off the brake three times before i finally came to a stop, about a bike length past where i should have stopped. this practice and familiarity (both at the start of this ride and at other times as well) with hard stops/momentarily locking up the front end at low speed is what helped to keep me from panicking and going down in a heap.
the interesting thing is that everywhere else i'd ridden that night i had no issues. so in this particular spot something was different, contaminants on the road maybe. this moring i found myself in the same spot in the cage and decided to do a little test and voila! that same small section of pavement had the cage locking up the tires as well. as to the cause i don't think it really matters all that much. what's important is that i was ready as i had adjusted my riding style for the conditions and was prepared for the likelihood of the tires locking up because of a little bit of practice at low speed before hand. i think if i had not done these two things chances are i'd be nursing some road rash this morning.
so my message in all of this?
1. be aware of the riding conditions and really think about how you need adjust your control of the machine to meet the those conditions
2. get a feel/sense for the bikes traction limits in the current conditions by doing some low speed brake grabs before you get going in a safe environment
3. pratice #2 on regular basis so you're never left surprised if you're suddenly faced with an unexpected lock-up and can react to it if necessary