“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Riding a motorcycle in the rain takes more than a shrug of the shoulders and the acceptance to ‘let it rain.” Comfort and enjoyment go down (WAY down) and the risk skyrockets.
As riders, there are a few things we can do to rider safer, smarter, and be sheltered from the elements.
Let’s look at the first of these. What does it mean to rider safer? We are always (I hope!) safe riders. Here are five easy to remember tips for being a safer rider when you need to ‘let it rain.”
- The road is most dangerous when the rain first starts. That’s when the oil, grease and dirt normally on the road makes for one slick, dangerous surface. Slow down a bit, you’re not likely to get any wetter.
- Speaking of slowing down, when you need to brake, apply more back brake than front. It’s easier to control a skid from the rear tire than the front; and you’ll be less likely to overbrake in the first place.
- Give yourself more space between you and vehicles in front of you. Don’t race to keep pace with them, ride at your own (safe) speed.
- Speed and brake control will only be as good as the tires you’re rolling on. There are two factors to consider when choosing tires that handle well in wet weather – tread rubber (compound) and tread pattern. We have a great resource available for you on this topic.
- Water on the road – you simply ride over/through it. Until you can’t. What if that small puddle up ahead is more than a small puddle – it’s a foot-deep pothole the county hasn’t filled in yet.
Playing the “what if” game is the smart way to ride in any weather condition. What if that truck in the right lane hits a huge puddle and you find yourself in a waterfall of water? What if the car in front of you slows down because they can’t see through their windshield? What if that lightening up ahead is heading towards you, not away?
Sometimes we just don’t have a choice. A few weeks ago I got thoroughly soaked on my ride home from work. But last year, while riding the Three Twisted Sisters in the hill country of Texas, I could have made a smarter choice than getting drenched.
A mile into the ride it started raining. Instead of turning around (smart riding), we pulled over, donned our rain gear, and pushed on. Bad idea. I’m not sure if different rain gear would have mattered in this particular situation, but it’s something worth considering.
When it comes to keeping yourself sheltered against the elements, we need to look at head to toe options, starting with the helmet.
Let’s not get into the helmet/no helmet debate. Through my years of riding I’ve followed both choices, and have found it better (for me) to wear one when it’s raining. I regularly use a Skid Lid, but with the amount of rain we’ve had in Texas lately, I’m leaning toward the purchase of a full face helmet such as the Bell Qualifier Full Face Helmet.
Longer distance riders often choose gear that provides better waterproofing, and is durable. Compactness is a consideration for packing, but it is not usually at the top of the list.
Ideally, you want a rain suit that is going to keep you dry during heavy rains lasting a few hours. Even local riders have the chance of getting stuck on the road waiting for an accident ahead of them to get cleared.
Second, the rain suit should make you MORE visible. Dark colors might be cooler to wear, but when it’s raining my concern (after staying dry) is to be SEEN by drivers who seem to have a hard time seeing us in the first place, let alone when visibility is diminished. Stand out with bright colors such as yellow, orange or lime green. Safe colors. Smart choices.
Finally, choose a rain suit that’s going to last. There’s no sense saving a few dollars today just to buy new gear a year from now. Rain suits have been known to melt from engine and exhaust heat, and fall apart from repeated use. A great option are the two-piece rain suits by Nelson-Rigg.
Don’t overlook the importance of keeping your hands and feet dry. Wet hands get cold, and your grip on your controls becomes less certain. As for the feet, few things about riding in the rain bother me more than walking around in waterlogged boots.
When the skies open up, I switch from my leather riding gloves to a reliable pair of waterproof gloves. Admittedly I still wear my normal leather boots, change socks and suffer the consequences. But after my most recent experience I’m exploring other options, such as TCX Heritage Waterproof Boots and water resistant boots offered by Milwaukee Motorcycle Clothing Co.
Let It Rain!
As crazy as it sounds to some, for a little over three years my motorcycle has been my sole means of transportation. That’s my choice, one I don’t regret. So when it rains, my only choice is to let it rain. And I’m good with that.
I also choose to ride safer, smarter, and have started to think more about doing a better job to shelter myself.
Let’s hear your story about letting it rain.