Rain. You can’t get away from it. This is western New York. Roll out the driveway in the morning sun and two hours into the ride … small craft warnings are up and the sky is black. Damn, man, rain! No getting away from it. If you ride, sooner or later you will ride wet!
Actually, I don’t mind the rain. It gives you another perspective of being on the road, and why else are we out there but to experience the road. It will also hone your riding skills, if you pay attention. It pays to be prepared though and the following are some things to bear in mind:
Rain Gear: I am of the school of thought that you ride a motorcycle like a pro, which means protective gear. If you wear shorts and sneakers, you are asking for the trouble headed your way. Packing rain gear only makes sense though and there are a couple different types; each has its trade off.
The urethane/PVC/plastic route will keep the rain off you, but it may turn you into a mobile sauna, as there is no “breathing” to this material. It’s good for sudden downpours and brief rides, but you will not appreciate these for long rides. Touch these to your pipes and you’ll quickly learn all about cleaning a black crispy resin off your chrome. On the plus side, these are cheap suits.
The better choice is breathable/wicking material. This will keep the rain off and allow your perspiration to wick away from you as you ride. This is much more comfortable for extended rides. The negative is these are much more expensive. But like I stated earlier, if you ride, you will ride in rain and this just makes sense as an investment in your enjoyment of the road.
Visibility: We all know that we are basically invisible to many “cagers” (people driving “in” their vehicles). In the rain, this is doubly or triply true! People’s perspective closes in on them in the rain. Their windows are obscured with the rain, wipers have closed their vision down, peripheral vision is nonexistent. Now, put a motorcycle out there with them and, if you aren’t doing all you can to be seen, you could become a statistic. So make it a point to be seen!
Most rain suits have reflective material — the more the better. In daylight, put your headlight on high beam, if the rain is really pounding consider running with your four ways on. But more than anything, you need to be aware of what is going on around you! No one should be more concerned about your welfare then you. So ride like it!
Traction: Two wheels demand constant attention to the road conditions — things you never even consider in a car.
In the rain, painted lines are very slick. Watch your lean angle when changing lanes and do not hit the center stripes as you round a curve. Crosswalk paint is slick when you put your boot down, so pay attention at lights and stop signs. Manhole covers, steel deck bridges — also both slick when wet.
Early in the rain event, the road is very slick, what with the exhaust, oils and fluids that leak from vehicles plus the loose debris from tire wear and road grit. This makes the early part of the rain very hazardous. Take the first chance to grab a cup of coffee, or sit under a bridge for a minute, as you put on your rain gear and give the rain a chance to wash much of the detritus away.
Just like in your car, your bike can rise up on top of the film of water on the road and will hydroplane. You need to keep good rubber on your scooter or you are gonna go for “road rash slide.” Your bike is lighter and will rise up quickly if you are riding too fast. Your tread needs to be able to shed the water and get to the pavement. If you ride too fast, you may end up with a “tank slapping” fall down. That’s when your bars are swinging wildly back and forth. You will feel it first if your rear gets “squirrely.” If you feel that, slow down!
Brake Gently and Early: Look ahead of you and slow down way before you get to the turn or curve. It is better to lightly accelerate through a turn than to brake in a turn.
The rule in the rain is slow down, see and be seen! Now throw your leg over your “scooter” and put those fists in the wind.