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Hydroplaning Avoidance
Tire air pressure

By: James R. Davis

In the article titled Hydroplaning Issues the phenomena was discussed in some detail. It seems to me that a tip is in order that tells how one might avoid experiencing hydroplaning.

If you know that you are going to be riding in the rain you might consider adding 3 to 5 psi of pressure in your tires. Note, I am not suggesting that you inflate them in excess of the maximum pressure specified on the tire sidewalls.

The reasoning behind this suggestion is simple:

  • Increasing the tire pressure makes its contact patch smaller. In other words, it increases the weight per square inch of the contact patch so that it takes more 'uplift' by water to cause hydroplaning.

  • Just as increasing pressure makes the contact patch smaller, it also tends to spread out the tread grooves which, in turn, makes it easier to slough water away from the contact patch.

Perhaps it is obvious, but to hydroplane you need a certain minimum depth of water under your tires and, thus, to the extent that you can reduce that depth you can reduce the odds of hydroplaning. How might you do that? By driving closer to the center of the lane than you normally do. Why? Because normal vehicle traffic actually cuts a trough into the pavement where the wheels ride. Those troughs are essentially where we motorcyclists normally track our rides. Obviously water depths are higher in these troughs.

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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